I will be the first to admit that I love grocery shopping. I love browsing the produce aisles to see what looks fresh and coming home with my Meijer bags filled with new ingredients to cook with. I aim to go grocery shopping once every three weeks or so, depending on what else I’ve got going on. While that may seem like a large span of time in between shopping trips, I’m not (always) eating quick-cook ramen and peanut butter sandwiches. I have learned a few tricks to extend the life of produce so that I can continuously eat well from shopping trip to shopping trip.
The secret to extend the life of produce? Prep your food when you get home from the store. Before I share my exact process for prepping produce, I want to share the supplies I use. In an attempt to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, I am trying to transition away from using single use sandwich bags. Instead, I’ve been using plastic tupperware containers and reusing the hard plastic containers of some things I already buy like shredded cheeses and even take out containers. I also of course use a sharp, chef’s knife and a cutting board. I’ve found some great deals on bamboo, stain-resistant cutting boards at Wal-Mart for under $10. Depending on how much I am trying to wash at one time, I use a colander to help out, but I typically just hold the produce in my hands under the running water. Shop some of my favorites here:
Okay, now onto how I go about prepping my veggies for maximum usage. Before you pick up a knife to cut any item, think about how you use each item. Do you eat carrots as sticks because they make for a quick snack? Do you toss in a handful of spinach into soup for added flavor? Once you have a general game plan for each item, then we can get to chopping.
(More on the blog: Hacks for Living a Healthier Lifestyle)
The overall goal is to prep each item and properly store it in a tupperware container so the item inside is ready to be used at all times. I’m going to go through my most commonly used items and how I’ve found works best to store them. If you are curious to know how to store particular items, let me know in the comments or tweet me and I’ll add it to this list!
Herbs Take the bunch of herbs while it’s still rubber banded together and cut off as much of the stems as possible. Undo the rubber band that’s holding them all together and pick out any leaves that already looks like it’s on the way out. It’s true what they say, one rotten apple (or suspicious looking parsley leaf) ruins the bunch. Once you’ve weeded out the bad eggs, place the rest of the bunch of herbs in a tupperware container and place a dry paper towel on top before you place the lid. The paper towel will absorb any moisture that develops rather than it collecting amongst the leaves which will help extend the life of your herbs.
Lettuce Cut about two inches off the bottom of the head of lettuce and just take off the very tops of the bunch. Chop up the rest of the head into bite sized pieces and toss them into a colander. Run the lettuce under cool water and give the colander a good shake after you turn off the water. Line the bottom of the container with a dry paper towel and lay the freshly washed lettuce over top. Place another dry paper towel over the top of the lettuce before you place the top.
Spinach Spinach must be washed in a weird way so as not to water-log it. Fill up a huge bowl about halfway up with cold water. Separate the spinach stems from the leaves and place the leaves in the bowl of water. Let it soak for about 10 minutes, giving it a good mix with your hands every 2 minutes or so. This allows the dirt that can get trapped in spinach leaves to fall to the bottom of the bowl rather than end up in your food as an interesting, gritty texture. After about 10 minutes, pull the spinach out of the bowl – DO NOT dump the water out into a colander with the spinach still in it – dumps all of the dirt back onto the spinach. I give it a good pat down with a paper towel and then store it like I store lettuce.
Kale The biggest difference in the process of storing kale and lettuce is how the leafy part is obtained. VERY CAREFULLY hold a leaf of kale up by the bottom of a stem and very carefully run your knife in between where the leaf and stem meet. Once I do that for the entire bunch of kale, I give the leaves a rough chop and wash and store like lettuce.
Celery Cut about three inches off of the bottom and about an inch from the top of the bunch of celery. Dampen a paper towel and run it along the inside and outside of each individual stalk to pick up any dirt. I cut my celery stalks in half and then store them in tupperware containers. Since one bunch of celery (What do you call a collection of celery? A giant stalk?) is actually a lot of celery, it usually fills up 2-3 sandwich tupperware containers.
Green Onions Like with everything else, I check to see if there are any bad greens or whites of the onion and immediately dispose of those. Then I chop each onion in half, typically where the whites of the onion meet the leafier greens and store in a container.
Like I mentioned earlier, if there is some produce item that you want to store more effectively, let me know! I will do some research, maybe some real life experimentation and get back to you with my findings.
What produce item do you always have on hand?