Forty percent of food is wasted in the U.S. and American households are throwing away an average of $125 worth of groceries each month because of spoilage, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
The produce drawer is where many healthy intentions go to die. Rotten, wilted, wasted fruits and vegetables add up to an estimated $1,500 in loss each year to a family of four.
“A head of lettuce, no root in the refrigerator, you might get a week out of it, after you cut it, maybe less,” said Ernest Graham, the Harvest Manager at Green City Growers.
Industry professionals said there are some common mistakes to avoid, and best practices to adopt if you want your food to stay fresher longer.
- Keep your produce between 34-35 degrees and store it in an ideal place in your fridge.
“Not at the top and not in the back where you see icicles and stuff like,” Graham said.
Farmer and Spice Kitchen & Bar Chef Ben Bebenroth said it’s important to avoid one of the most common mistakes people make with groceries.
- Don’t wait too long to put groceries into the refrigerator.
“Even in my own household it drives me crazy. There are bags of groceries in the back of the car, then they come in the house and they’re sitting on the counter, and then they’re just sitting on the counter. Every minute counts,” Bebenroth said.
He added moisture content is also important.
“If it’s a harvested product and there is a little water at the bottom of the bag, that is a breeding ground for bacteria. That’s what’s going to rot everything,” he said.
- Buying in season, and local will also help with the longevity of your produce.
“If you can shorten the distance between harvest and consumption you’re nutrient density of that product is amplified,” Bebenroth said.
- Wash lettuce only when it’s being eaten, not before your store it.
- Leave only the bottom of your Romaine lettuce exposed.
- Keep potatoes, onions and garlic in open air dark spaces.
“We keep them in the dark. If you have a pantry with a door that’s an ideal location to keep your roots,” said Bebenroth.
- Don’t wash mushrooms.
“When you’re washing them you’re not killing any of those germs, you’re just spreading them around and you’re feeding them moisture,” Bebenroth warned.
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