These Are the Best Ways to Keep Vegetables From Rotting in Your Refrigerator

When you have fresh vegetables in your fridge — whether you grew them in your garden, picked them up at the farmers market, or bought them at the grocery store — you want to do your best to keep them fresh as long as possible. Unfortunately, we’ve all had the experience of seeing vegetables rot in the refrigerator. But if you know what to do, you can minimize your chances of watching your produce waste away.

Read on to check out our best tips to keep your vegetables from rotting in the fridge.

1. Plan your week

A woman consulting a list in a grocery store

A woman consulting a list in a grocery store | iStock

Keeping your vegetables from rotting is a process that starts before you even get to the store. Quartz recommends that you plan out your week before you show up at the grocery store or the farmers market. Try to be realistic about how much you’re going to cook what you’re actually going to eat. Doing some form of menu planning can not only curb waste, but can also help you feel less anxious when you go to cook dinner each day.

Next: Don’t try tons of new things all at once. 

2. Don’t go crazy with new items

Produce section at Whole Foods

Produce section at Whole Foods | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Many people who love cooking — or just love food — enjoy trying new things. But if you want to avoid waste, moderation is key. Quartz reports that you’re more likely to waste ingredients that you’ve never used before. When you want to try a new vegetable or a new herb, find a recipe that will make it easy to experiment. And try to limit yourself by sticking to one experiment per week.

Next: Try changing this about the way you buy produce. 

3. Buy produce more often

Customers shop for produce.

Customers shop for produce. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Today reports that it may also be useful to change how often you stock up on produce. If you go to the grocery store twice a week — the national average — then why are you stopping by the produce section only once per week? Plan your produce purchases around the meals you plan to prepare over the next three days (instead of the entire week). That way, you’ll avoid over-buying and will find it easier to purchase the things you’ll actually use.

Next: Take the time to do this when you shop for vegetables. 

4. Pick the right produce

Women comparing produce

Women comparing produce | nd3000/iStock/Getty Images

When you actually get to the grocery store or the farmers market, you’ll need to take your time to pick the right produce. Bon Appétit reports that if you bring home a wilted bunch of kale, there’s no amount of proper storage or expert preparation that can save it. Allow yourself the time you need to take a close look at all the vegetables you buy, and you’ll end up with purchases that last a lot longer in your refrigerator.

Next: Quit making this mistake with your refrigerator. 

5. Stop using your fridge the wrong way

Fresh fruit and vegetables in the fridge

Fresh fruit and vegetables in the fridge | Barbara Helgason/Getty Images

Quartz reports that you should also start using your refrigerator properly in order to make your vegetables last as long as possible. The crisper drawers stay at a higher humidity than the rest of the fridge, so they keep greens fresher. Quartz recommends establishing two different crispers. Use one for things that wilt — greens, herbs, carrots, and peas — and put it on the highest setting. And use the other for things that rot — firm veggies like zucchini and peppers, as well as fruit — set on low, or even left slightly open to reduce the humidity.

Next: Measure this to make sure the settings are correct. 

6. Ensure that your fridge is set at the right temperature

Woman looking in the fridge

Woman looking in the fridge | iStock.com/dima_sidelnikov

Similarly, you need to make sure that your refrigerator is maintaining the proper temperature if you want to maximize the shelf life of your vegetables. Today reports that the only way to be sure is to use a refrigerator thermometer. The temperature should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. And while you’re at it, make sure that your freezer is set at zero degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Next: Go for these vegetables if you have to make your purchases last. 

7. If you need to stock up, go for root vegetables

Root vegetables

Root vegetables | iStock

If you need things to last for a week or two in your refrigerator, then it pays to buy the right vegetables. Go for carrots, beets, daikon, and turnips, and buy them as fresh as possible. Bon Appétit recommends stashing root vegetables like carrots in sealed plastic bags in your fridge. And if you want to cook with sweet potatoes — or gourds like squash or pumpkin — they’ll last for a few weeks without refrigeration. Just store them in a cool, dark place and don’t forget about them!

Next: Remember this when you choose greens. 

8. Choose sturdy greens

fresh green kale

Bunch of kale | jenifoto/iStock/Getty Images

When looking for greens that will last in the refrigerator, you should choose sturdy varieties, according to Bon Appétit. Lettuce is fragile. But kale or collards can stay fresh for about a week if you store it properly. To do that, remove the rubber band to stop it from compressing the leaves. Leave the plastic bag untied so that the produce can breathe. Or, for bitter chicories like radicchio and endive, keep them tightly wrapped in plastic to help them stay fresh.

Next: Do this one thing before you put any vegetables in your cart. 

9. Shake everything off

Senior customer and worker discussing vegetables in supermarket

Senior customer and worker discussing vegetables | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Today shares another useful tip that can help you avoid having your vegetables rot in your refrigerator. Before you buy those vegetables at the grocery store, shake them off! Stores mist their veggies to keep them looking fresh. But all that extra water will make the vegetables spoil more quickly, especially if you just put them in the refrigerator in the plastic bag from the store. You can also look for vegetables that haven’t been misted as heavily. Or, you can ask a store employee to get you produce that isn’t on display from the back.

Next: Don’t do this until you get ready to cook something. 

10. Don’t wash anything until you’re about to cook

Woman washing vegetables

Woman washing vegetables | Sladic/iStock/Getty Images

Quartz also recommends that you don’t wash any of your vegetables until you’re about to begin cooking. The extra moisure can lead to spoilage. But you should still remove the tops from carrots, beets, and radishes. By storing them separately, you stop the greens from pulling out the roots’ moisture, according to Bon Appétit. And in the case of carrots and beets, you can use the tops in salads, soups, or even as a side instead of throwing them away, like most people do.

Next: Do this with herbs, not just vegetables. 

11. Store herbs properly

Herb leaf and flower bunches of thyme

Herbs Hanging and Drying | iStock.com/marilyna

Bon Appétit notes that you’ll also need to treat herbs with care if you want them to stay fresh in the refrigerator. Most herbs are pretty delicate. But the publication characterizes rosemary and thyme as “the sturdiest of the bunch.” To store all herbs properly, roll them in a slightly damp paper towel, then place the bundle in a resealable plastic bag. When you want to cook with them, remove and wash just what you need to keep the rest of the bunch fresh.

Next: Add this to each drawer in your refrigerator. 

12. Put a paper towel in the bottom of each produce drawer

Paper towels

Paper towels | Paylessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Today recommends that you control the moisture in the refrigerator drawers you use for vegetables by placing a highly absorbent paper towel in the bottom. The paper towel will help absorb excess moisture and help your produce last longer. (And it can also help you keep the drawers cleaner.) Just remember to replace the paper towel each week in order to keep things fresh.

Next: Remember this when you organize the fridge. 

13. Don’t overstuff your refrigerator

Full fridge with fruit and veggies

Full fridge with fruit and veggies | Anna_Om/iStock/Getty Images

It’s a great feeling to stock up at the grocery store and know that you have everything you need to prepare meals for your family. But you need to make sure that you don’t overstuff your refrigerator if you want to keep your food fresh. Today reports that overstuffing the crisper drawers or the refrigerator as a whole will hinder air circulation. And it’s good air circulation that ensures that cold air moves around and keeps food fresh.

Next: Learn to watch out for this. 

14. Pay attention to ripeness

Senior man holding vegetables, close-up

Senior man holding veg etables, close-up| RL Productions/Getty Images

You may find it easier to use vegetables before they rot if you pay attention to their ripeness. Quartz notes that you can buy produce that still needs to ripen to eat later in the week (as long as you don’t forget about it in the refrigerator). Or, you can buy things that are already at the height of ripeness to use as soon as you get home. Plus, you should keep an eye on ripeness as produce sits in your refrigerator. And don’t be afraid to shuffle around your meal plans so that you use everything before it goes bad.

Next: Store these items separately from your vegetables. 

15. Separate fruits from other produce

Humidity Control Perlick fridge

Humidity Control Perlick fridge | Perlick

Another tip to keep in mind when you’re organizing vegetables in your refrigerator is to avoid storing other kinds of produce near quick-ripening fruit. Fruits like apples release ethylene gas when ripe, and that can prompt other kinds of produce to ripen — and spoil — too. Try to separate those fruits from your vegetables in order to keep everything fresher for longer.

Read more: These Are the Surprising Foods You Should Never Refrigerate

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