Farmers markets and produce aisles are bursting with lush, gorgeous fruit and vegetables that inspire you to swoop up armloads with the intention of making marvelous meals from them all.
Some experts estimate that nearly 40% of the food supply is wasted each day in America, whether it’s left unharvested in the field or wilts in your produce drawers.
It doesn’t have to be this way, at least not in your kitchen. The practical solution to food waste is to shop, cook and store food smarter. If you have a hodgepodge of inefficient storage containers that do next to nothing to extend the freshness and appeal of produce, leftovers or dry pantry staples, help is here.
We know that many prefer glass for food storage. But plastic is a reality for many of us. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite tools and supplies for preserving food freshness and using every last bit.
Create a seal
The Good Grips Pop Containers by OXO helps organize your pantry while fending off moisture, pantry pests and anonymity. Easily stackable, the transparent containers reveal their contents at a glance. Push the lid’s big pop-up button to create an airtight seal. Push it again — and not just because it’s fun — and the button pops up to serve as a handle. From $7.99 to $22.99. oxo.com
Keep ’em separated
Tempting as it may be to treat all produce alike, parsley and strawberries have needs as different as those of cats and fish. A few ounces of water in the base of the OXO Good Grips Herb Keeper ($11.99 and up) helps basil, cilantro, parsley and even asparagus stay hydrated and fresh. An inner basket keeps them tidy and away from rot-inducing moisture. The OXO Good Grips Greensaver collection ($14.99 and up) helps minimize the ethylene gas that can accelerate ripening and spoilage: An adjustable vent regulates humidity to keep produce crisp and prevent wilting, and an interior colander aids air circulation. oxo.com
Go with the flow
Rubbermaid’s transparent FreshWorks containers regulate spoilage-speeding oxygen and carbon dioxide through the lid’s built-in vent and a filter that never needs replacing. A perforated tray elevates produce to keep air flow consistent and produce away from moisture. The containers with FreshVent technology range up to 11 cups, and are microwave and dishwasher safe. Starting at $9.99. rubbermaid.com/en-US/fresh-works
Yes, it works
Don’t be scared by the “as seen on TV” badge on the package. The green-tinted food storage bags work by “absorbing and removing” the ethylene gases that cause normal deterioration. Washable and reusable, the bags take up only as much space as their contents. Tip: Make sure produce is dry before placing inside the bags and fold the top of the bags to vent moisture and loosely seal out air. Cost: $7.50 for a 20-bag package. amazon.com
Count on a classic
Ball’s amber glass jars block nearly all damaging UV light, helping prolong freshness of herbs and spices and also prevent oxidation of fats and oils in nuts, losses of nutrients, production of off flavors in dairy products and discoloration of meat. The vintage-style jars come in 16-, 32- and 64-ounce sizes. From $8.99 for a set of four pint jars to $10.99 for two half-gallon jars. bedbathandbeyond.com
Push your cut fruit, vegetables or even a muffin into the soft silicone covers that gently seal around cut food to prevent exposure to air and spoilage. These Farberware Food Huggers are reusable and freezer- and microwave-safe. Set of four, $9.99, amazon.com
You can extend the freshness of food by removing most of the air from a sealed container, creating a storage environment that inhibits growth of mold, yeast, bacteria and also limits damage from oxidation. Though it’s not a substitute for refrigeration, freezing or canning, vacuum sealers can significantly slow deteriorating food quality. Newer models feature all sorts of customization options, including precut bags and rolls that are safe for sous vide and microwave cooking. FoodSaver FM5460 2-in-1 Food Preservation System, $207. foodsaver.com
Keep it spicy
Chef’n designed a stackable tray to freeze fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro. The flexible lids push partially into the individual cups to condense herbs and remove air. Plop the recipe-size cube directly into soups and stews. It’s top-rack dishwasher safe too. $14.99, chefn.com
Put your fridge to work
Is this what the future looks like? European appliance manufacturer Beko has added multiple features to a refrigerator-freezer to help keep food stay fresh: The Active Fresh Blue Light continues the photosynthesis process to prolong storage life, while an Ion Guard neutralizes bacteria and viruses. $2,499, beko.us
Why lazy is better for fresh produce
If you think it’s wise to wash your fresh produce before you store it, relax. That rinse may create more problems than it solves, according to Trevor Suslow, a fruit and vegetable quality and safety expert at UC Davis. Better to remove produce from its original packaging and stash it in containers and bags designed to optimize freshness.
Counterintuitive? Perhaps. Suslow explains:
“Any time you take a produce item and you get it wet, even with refrigeration, microorganisms that respond to the presence of water may get activated.” Even minor wounds that don’t affect quality can nevertheless create tiny openings throughout harvesting, handling, shipping and storage.
Add water to those openings, and spoilage microbes can work faster than on dry produce, he said.