Everyone feels a bit guilty tossing rotting fruit or vegetables into the garbage can or compost bin, but with a bit of planning, you can reduce your waste and get more out of your produce.

The first is planning out a week’s worth of meals, shopping with a list and preparing for proper storage. The second is following the farm-to-table rule by buying as much as you can locally and in-season. Here are some of our favourite tips to store fruits and vegetables and help you cut down on that waste. 

Start with the right tools

  • Salad spinner
  • Glass or airtight plastic containers
  • Mason jars
  • Ziploc or recyclable freezer bags
  • Handheld citrus press
  • Ice cube trays

Asparagus

When you get home from the grocery store, snip the bottoms off the asparagus spears and stand them up in a Mason jar with a bit of water in the fridge.

Avocados

Here’s a trick for selecting an avocado at the store. If the brown nubby stem pops off easily, you know you’ve got the ripest avocado.

They'll ripen on the counter, but if you're not eating them right away, touch them. When they have that perfect soft feeling, put them in the fridge to slow the ripening right down. You can speed up ripening by storing them in a paper or plastic bag on the counter. If they're rock hard in the store, take a pass.

Bananas

Store bananas on the counter. To freeze them for smoothies, peel them, cut them in chunks and put in a freezer bag. 

Click here for some great smoothie recipes.

Berries

Berries can go moldy quickly. As soon as you get home give them a bath in a bowl of water with a little splash of white vinegar to kill any mold spores that are starting to form.

Pat them dry and store in an airtight container with a small piece of paper towel on the bottom to soak up any moisture.

Celery

Tin foil is great for keeping celery crispy. Take the leaves off right away, but keep the clump intact. Wrap the whole clump in tin foil and store in the fridge crisper drawer.

When you need a few stalks, rip them off, give them a quick rinse and cut them up.

Cilantro and parsley

Wash these recipe staples when you get home and dry them in a salad spinner. Pack them in a Ziploc or recyclable freezer bag with a sheet of paper towel, seal and put it in the crisper drawer.

Other fresh herbs

The general rule with herbs such as rosemary, chives and basil is being aware of where you bought them.

If they’re found in a refrigerated section, store them in the fridge. If you’ve picked up a bag of fresh herbs that were in the open air in a store or market, keep it at room temperature. Basil, in particular, doesn't like to be cold. Herbs bought at room temperature that have little root balls should be treated almost like fresh flowers...keep the roots wet to maintain freshness.

Garlic

To prevent garlic from sprouting or getting moldy, store in a paper bag or little burlap sack in a cool, dry place with air circulation.

Leafy greens

Wash lettuce and kale right away, dry in a salad spinner and pat with a paper towel. Put it in a recyclable bag or chopped up in a big bowl with a sheet of paper towel and store in the fridge. Cut the root balls off swiss chard and kale before storing them. Spinach tends to stay fresh longer if bought or stored in a tub with vents rather than keeping it in a plastic bag.

Lemons and limes

Citrus fruits last a long time in the crisper. If they start to go bad cut them in half, put in the press and squeeze the juice out. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze to use later in drinks. Keep slices in an airtight container in the fridge.

Mangos, nectarines and peaches

For fruit that’s supposed to be juicy when ripe like peaches, nectarines and mangos, smell them before you buy them. If the smell hints at the flavour, they're going to be good.

This is probably not allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but remember this tip for future. 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms tend to shrivel if stored in a paper bag, so put them unwashed in a vented plastic tub and only wash before you use them.

Onions and potatoes

Onions should be stored the same way as garlic, and they can be together. However, don’t store onions near potatoes because onions emit ethylene gas that can make potatoes sprout and rot faster.

A few preparatory steps that take just a few minutes after you get home from the grocery store will ensure that your fresh produce ends up on your plate rather than in the compost bin.