We all know the problems with single-use plastic. Each plastic bag you use will outlive you for centuries, with plastic taking up to 1,000 years to decompose and even then, it breaks down into microplastics.
But every time you buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, they are usually stuffed into a plastic bag or shrink-wrapped.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of food waste; you want your veggies to last as long as possible and to be able to use them up so that they don't end up in the bin.
According to WRAP, we squander up to 40% of the food we produce in the UK, with households accounting for 70% of this wastage. Food waste is not only a waste of money, but it also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and fills landfills.
Buying fruit and vegetables without plastic packaging, and learning to store different kinds of foods optimally, can really make a difference to the environment.
In this blog, we will talk about storing your veggies without plastic, cutting food waste and plastic use all in one go.
Best Way To Store Vegetables
Most of us shop for several days' worth of fresh produce at once, and you want them to stay fresh for as long as possible.
But did you know that different types of vegetables need to be stored differently to stay fresh? Leafy greens like lettuce don’t react well to being handled the same way as root vegetables like carrots or potatoes. This means that there is no single best way to store them all.
Storage times are also affected by actions like washing or peeling your vegetables, which may increase or decrease their life and freshness. The length of time that different vegetables last depends on how they are stored.
Keep Salads In The Crisper Drawer
Quick to wilt and rot, leafy greens can keep fresh for nearly a week when stored correctly—and the best way to do that doesn’t involve a single plastic bag.
The key to keeping leafy greens like salad leaves and spinach fresh in the fridge is to keep them in the crisper drawer and away from any moisture.
Excess moisture causes green vegetables to rot faster in the fridge, so it’s best to keep them unwashed until ready to use them.
To get the longest life out of your leafy greens, remove and discard any brown or slimy leaves as soon as you get them home, and then store the rest in a zip-top bag or another airtight container.
You can make any bagged salad last longer by transferring the leaves to a bowl or storage container, placing a couple of sheets of paper towel on top and tightly wrapping the whole thing with a wax wrap to exclude as much air as possible before storing in the fridge.
Keeping your greens away from air and moisture helps them stay crisp and prevents the leaves from wilting in the fridge.
Lettuce is an exception to the rule, as it needs moisture to remain fresh for as long as possible. Lettuce benefits from air circulation, so storing it in a sealed container or the crisper drawer won’t maximise its life. Keeping your lettuce in the crisper drawer isn't bad for it; it just won't last as long as it would if it had a moist environment.
So to store lettuce, use the same technique restaurants use to keep their lettuce crisp and fresh - wash it, spin it dry, and then store it in a perforated container (like a colander) in the fridge.
Some Vegetables Can Be Stored At Room Temperature
Not all fruit and vegetables need to be kept chilled in the fridge; produce like carrots, parsnips and other root vegetables, and tubers like sweet potatoes and swedes can be happily stored at room temperature.
These veggies stay fresh longest in a cool, dry, or room-temperature location, but be sure to keep them away from moisture, heat, and light.
Other vegetables happy at this room temperature, away from direct sunlight, are onions, garlic, shallots, and any type of squash.
A surprising veg that prefers room temperature is cucumber. Cucumbers are sensitive to the cold, and exposure to temperatures below 10C can damage their flavour and texture. This veggie is one of the few on the list that will last longer if you keep it at room temperature.
A kitchen cupboard would work well, as long as it’s not right next to your oven.
The ideal temperature for your root vegetables is between 10 and 21°C. Of course, we rarely practice meticulous climate control in our homes, so these types of vegetables will generally last longer in the cooler weather.
You must store them in a dark place because if these veggies are exposed to light, they think they're outside and will start to sprout.
One last thing to note is that although you should store your onions and your potatoes at room temperature, don't store them next to each other. Potatoes sprout faster if they are stored near onions.
To make fruit and veg last longer, don’t store them together. Many fruits, such as bananas, avocados, and peaches, produce ethylene gas, which acts like a ripening hormone and can speed up other produce's ripening and ageing process.
Some fruits, like avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples and pears, will continue to ripen if left out on a countertop. In contrast, fruits such as grapes, citrus and berries deteriorate if left out and need to be refrigerated.
You can leave stone fruit, such as nectarines, peaches, and mangos, to ripen in a fruit bowl and then move them to the fridge when they’re soft enough to eat, as this will help them last longer.
Citrus fruits don't continue to ripen after being picked, so it’s essential to buy them already ripe. You can store them at room temperature and away from direct sunlight or in the refrigerator. They'll last for a few days to a week at room temp and up to several weeks in the fridge.
Once you've cut fruit, it will rapidly soften and go bad even in a cold fridge, so don’t cut fruit until you’re ready to eat it.
Store all types of berries in a paper bag and only wash them when you're ready to consume them. Allow extra space for the berries because they are delicate. They spoil rapidly when they're squashed up against each other. Avoid stacking too many and, if possible, spread them out on a single layer. They'll last 1-2 days at room temperature, and in the fridge, they'll last 3-4 days. Wash carefully with cold water, towel dry, and store in an airtight container if you prefer to freeze them.
Tomatoes need to be treated as a fruit. For the best-tasting tomatoes, store them at room temperature away from direct sunlight. This will help them ripen evenly. Once ripe, they can be placed in the fridge.
Brassicas, also called cruciferous vegetables, are the family of vegetables that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens and kale.
Store broccoli and cauliflower either loose or in a cloth produce bag, preferably in the crisper draw. The bag will keep the drawer free from the debris that tends to drop off these veggies.
Cabbage and Brussels sprouts prefer to be refrigerated in sealed containers, protected from moisture.
Kale, mustard greens, collard greens, chard, and other hardy green veggies are best kept inside a loosely closed bag or sealed glass container, uncrowded and completely dry.
Keeping Herbs Fresh Without Plastic
When herbs are kept in water, they stay fresh significantly longer. You could just put them in the fridge submerged in a bowl, but that's impractical, and every bump or knock could result in spills. Instead, you could invest in a herb saver, which can extend the life of your herb packs by up to three weeks, eliminating the need to discard any more yellowing bunches.
Anything We’ve Missed?
Mushrooms should be refrigerated in a paper bag.
Sweetcorn should be stored in its husks in the fridge till ready to use.
Asparagus should also be stored in the fridge. When you first buy them, trim about an inch off the bottom, and then you can keep them moist by wrapping them with a damp paper towel or storing the stalks upright in a bowl or glass of cold water.
Aubergine, celery, peppers, peas, artichokes and courgettes will last up to a week in the fridge, just stored without any wrappings.
How To Shop For Fruits and Vegetables Without Using A Plastic Bag
With more awareness than ever before about the effects of single-use plastic on the environment, there are many more plastic-free shopping and storage items to choose from. When you choose to buy loose fruit and vegetables and bring them home in reusable produce bags, you significantly contribute to reducing plastic use.
Cloth Produce Bags
Because they are so effective, reusable organic cotton bags have become a popular plastic alternative for shopping and storing produce and other food produce. These low-cost bags are handy to keep in your grocery totes or handbag for quick access, and they're also great for keeping food fresh without the use of plastic.
Our durable, unbleached organic cotton produce bags will last you a lifetime rather than a single shopping trip. They are designed to take your fruit, veggies, or bakery items home from the supermarket or farmer’s market; these reusable bags can be placed straight into your fridge. If that’s not convenient enough, the natural fibres are breathable, meaning your produce will stay fresher for longer.
Each bag has a colourful label featuring the tare weight, also known as the weight of the produce bag, meaning you can easily calculate the weight of your goods at the checkout of any supermarket or bulk food store.
Cloth Mesh Produce Bags
Like the organic cotton bag, this mesh bag features large woven perforated holes for breathability. Again, these are a terrific way to get leafy greens from the shop to your fridge, but they aren't advised for long-term preservation. Harder produce, on the other hand, can be preserved in these.
Our mesh bags are also made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, with a polyester label. Like our cloth produce bags, they are biodegradable, plastic-free as well as being vegan & cruelty-free. They come in recyclable, eco-friendly kraft packaging too.
Wild & Stone's mission is to create stylish, easy to adopt and usable alternatives to common plastic products around the home. We source all our products sustainably, from raw material to final delivery. Shop our wide range today.