Buying Fresh Produce and Tips to Keep it Fresh!

Save money and stop being so wasteful with fruits and vegetables that are in season. Danielle is here today to share with you how she stopped wasting money on fresh produce and started eating healthier!

Fresh produce and how to keep it fresh from Fun Cheap or Free

Hey Freebs! I'm Danielle Billat and I'm so happy to be here with you today! I am the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist behind Enjoy Life. Eat Cake. I love everything about food; I love to eat it, study it, and prepare it. My goal is to take all my formal education in nutrition and translate it into tips and tricks to make eating healthy easy, enjoyable, and affordable.

There is nothing more frustrating when trying to eat healthy than opening the fridge and realizing you forgot about the lettuce you bought last week, which is now brown and soggy. I have done this so many times and wasted so much money throwing away fruits and vegetables that are in season! I finally decided to change my ways to make sure I used my fresh produce before it went bad.

Are you ready to learn my tips? Let's get to it!

After trial and error, I have come up with 6 tried and true tips which have helped me save money on fresh produce and use it up. These tips don't require expensive kitchen gadgets or hours of prep time, just a few minutes and a little planning.

BUY FRESH PRODUCE IN SEASON

All fresh produce has an optimal growing season. Buying your fruits and vegetables when they're in season not only improves the quality and taste, but they are also less expensive. Watch the prices to see when fruit goes on sale.

Here is a brief list of fruits and vegetables to buy all year long.

Spring

  • Pineapples
  • Oranges
  • Mangos
  • Strawberries
  • Bell Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Green Beans
  • Peas

Summer

  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini

Fall

  • Pears
  • Pomegranates
  • Pineapples
  • Pumpkins
  • Acorn Squash
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts

Winter

  • Clementines
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges
  • Kale
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Butternut Squash

If you'd like a more complete list for each season's fresh produce, you can find those here: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

PLAN MEALS AROUND FRESH PRODUCE THAT IS ON SALE

Set aside a certain time each week to plan out your meals. Try to plan lunches and dinners that can use the same vegetables or fruits in order to decrease waste and stay on budget. Pay attention to what fresh produce is in season and on sale. Just like most things, if you watch prices, you can find a good deal on produce.

Meal planning to use your fresh produce from Fun Cheap or Free

I usually look at my local grocery store ad before planning out my weekly menus. If bell peppers are on sale one week, I plan as many meals as possible to include bell peppers in different ways. For example, if you make tacos for dinner one night, use the leftover toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, and avocados to make a salad for lunch the next day.

Here is an example of a menu which uses up all my fresh produce in a week.

  • Monday: Taco Salad (Using carrots, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and avocados.)
  • Tuesday: Zucchini, Squash, and Tomato Pasta
  • Wednesday: Ham and Swiss Cheese Sliders with Green Salad
  • Thursday: Avocado Chicken Pizza
  • Friday: Roasted Vegetables with Chicken (Use all the leftover vegetables here – they all taste delicious roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.)

STORE FRESH PRODUCE PROPERLY

Different types of fruit and vegetables should be stored in different environments.

REFRIGERATOR

Apples will last longer when they're stored in the refrigerator. But you can also store them on the countertop if you don't like to eat them cold.

Nectarines, peaches and melons need to ripen at room temperature for a few days. Then store them in the refrigerator to last longer. Make sure that you cut the melons first before storing them in the fridge.

Lettuce should be washed and dried before storage. Put it in a plastic bag with a few paper towels in the refrigerator. This will soak up all of the moisture and keep it from going soggy and brown as quickly.

Berries need to be stored in their containers in the fridge. They can also be stored in vented containers like these.

COOL, DRY PLACE OR THE COUNTERTOP

Potatoes, garlic, and onions need to be stored in a well ventilated, cool, dry place.

Pineapples need to be turned upside down for a few days. This helps to sweeten the whole pineapple.

Avocados should be stored at room temperature until they're ripe. Once they are ripe, you can also put them in the fridge to last a few more days.

If you want to learn more about how to store a specific fruit or vegetable, check out this app through the USDA. It has the ideal storing condition and shelf life for many foods.

KEEP YOUR FRESH PRODUCE VISIBLE

If it is out of site and out of mind, it will be wasted. By placing your fresh produce in a visible location in your kitchen, you give yourself a daily reminder to eat your fruits and veggies. Place your fruit and vegetables that don’t need to be refrigerated in a bowl on the counter. Having fresh fruit on the counter makes it easy to grab as you leave for work or when you enter the kitchen to find a snack during the day.

Keep your fruits and vegetables visible so that you don't waste them - from Fun Cheap or Free

Spending 10-15 minutes after grocery shopping to prep pre-made vegetable bags is also a great way to make vegetables a more convenient snack. Don’t be afraid to eat your veggies with a little bit of ranch, too! Most vegetables are rich in different vitamins. These vitamins are better absorbed by your body when eaten with a little bit of fat. And it's a good excuse to eat a little fat, right?!

FREEZE FRESH PRODUCE

Freezing fruits and vegetables when they are in season is a great way to have fresh produce all year long. You can freeze most produce at home without any special equipment. Not only can you freeze it when it's fresh, but you can also freeze produce that is a little past its prime to use in smoothies. Bananas, peaches, strawberries, and pineapple can all be thrown in a freezer bag. They make a great smoothie, too! When freezing fruit that is a little past its prime, you will want to make sure it doesn't have any mold and you'll want to cut off the bruised parts before freezing.  

FLASH FREEZE YOUR PRODUCE

One of the easiest ways to freeze fruits and vegetables is by flash freezing them. This simply means that you individually freeze cut fruit and vegetables before placing them in a bag for long term storage in your freezer.

Flash Freeze Your Produce - From Fun Cheap or Free

Don't let individually freezing produce freak you out! Let me explain the steps so you can see how easy it really is.

Step 1: Wash and Dry

Make sure that you thoroughly wash your produce and then let it dry completely! If you don’t let it dry completely, ice chucks will form on the produce, decreasing its shelf-life in the freezer and also causing it to clump together with the other produce around it.

Step 2: Place on Cookie Sheet and Freeze

Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper and place the washed and dried fruit or vegetables in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze the produce until it is hard. It doesn’t have to be completely frozen, but just hard enough to prevent it from forming a large clump when you put it in the freezer bag.

Step 3: Place in a Freezer Bag

Once the fruit or vegetables are almost frozen, dump them into a freezer bag and store in the freezer until you want to use them.

This method works best for vegetables like broccoli, onions, bell peppers, and corn cut off the cob. It works best for fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, and grapes.

MY FAVORITE SMOOTHIE RECIPE

Here is my favorite smoothie recipe I like to use when my fresh fruit isn’t so fresh anymore. Pinterest is also full of yummy smoothie recipes using all different types of fruit and vegetables.

Easy Fruit Smoothie

Quick, simple and healthy smoothie to use up fruit and spinach!

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Frozen Strawberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 Handful Spinach, Fresh or Frozen
  • 1 Cup Milk

Instructions

  • Put the liquid in the blender first, followed by the spinach, and then the rest of the ingredients. Blend until it's at the preferred consistency. Enjoy!

BUY FROZEN OR CANNED PRODUCE

Buying frozen and canned produce is a great way to get inexpensive, healthy food in your diet. Did you know that produce loses very little nutritional value when it's frozen? Buying frozen produce is a great way to save money, especially if you want to buy a fruit or vegetable that is out of season. Buying stir-fry kits and mixed vegetables are a great way to always have an easy, healthy meal on hand.

Buy Frozen Produce from Fun Cheap or Free

When buying canned vegetables, try and select low-sodium options or vegetables that have been preserved by simply using water. When buying canned fruit, grab ones that are packed in water, 100% juice, or light syrup. Selecting these options lessens the amount of added sugar.

Alright, there you go! Are you ready to start saving money on fresh produce while making sure that it doesn't go to waste?

Tips for buying fresh produce and keep it fresh from Fun Cheap or Free

If you haven't already heard, Jordan talks about “Shelf Cooking” and how it helps save her money as she is planning and prepping meals. It's not only a great way to save money on your grocery bill, but it's always a great way to use up your fresh produce before it goes bad.

Check out ShelfCooking.com

Have you checked out ShelfCooking.com yet? Jordan's brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, nutritious and budget-friendly meals for your family without slaving away in the kitchen! Basically every parent's dream, right? Join the Shelf Cooking Community today!

Want more tips?

Comments

  1. AvatarConnie says

    How can I keep watermelon in the refrigerator for a few days (3-4 days) without it getting dry as the liquids leak out? How can I freeze watermelon?

    • AvatarJordan Page says

      Try only cutting how much you need at a time off of the watermelon and wrapping the rest of it with plastic wrap before putting it in the refrigerator. Freeze it by cutting it into slices/pieces and flash freezing on a cookie sheet before storing in in a freezer bag!

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