4 February 2022

How to keep your fruit and vegetables fresh for longer

Minimise your food waste with these simple tips.

Sick of your spinach wilting and carrots going limp before you’ve had a chance to use them?

Love Food, Hate Waste New Zealand is a national campaign, started in 2016, to help New Zealanders reduce their food waste. Back in 2017, they teamed up with University of Otago Master of Science student Francesca Goodman-Smith and Associate Professor Dr Miranda Mirosa to reveal the best ways to reduce food waste.

Here are their tips on how to correctly store fruit and veg.

Vegetables

Broccoli

Keep broccoli in a ziplock bag in the fridge if you’re going to use it within a couple of days. If you need it to last longer, sprinkle the head with water, wrap in paper towels and store in an airtight container or bag.

Tip: Instead of a ziplock bag, reuse containers, old glass jars or even an empty bread bag with a bag clip – it just needs to be airtight.

Carrots

Store carrots in an airtight container lined with a paper towel or dry reusable cloth to stop them going limp. This absorbs excess moisture that develops when carrots are sitting in storage and extends their life up to ten times!

Celery

If you have a whole celery, wrap the root end in a paper towel or cloth and place in a bag. Squeeze out the excess air and store in the fridge.

If you have chopped celery, store it in an airtight container lined with a paper towel.

If you don’t have a container or bag large enough, you can wrap the entire stem with tinfoil instead. Make sure there is no exposed surface.

Cucumbers

There’s not much difference between a cucumber being stored in the fridge or at room temperature. Make sure to keep the plastic wrapping on the cucumber as it protects the soft skin and prevents dehydration.

Eggplants/aubergines

Store them somewhere cool, but not the fridge. Refrigerating them can affect the flavour and lead to browning.

Kumara

Should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the fridge.

Leafy greens

Store leafy greens in an airtight container or bag in the fridge. This will stop them going slimy, and they’ll last twice as long.

Lettuce

Wrapping your lettuce in a paper towel, cloth, or tea towel and placing it in an airtight container or bag will result in it lasting up to four times longer.

Tip: Limp lettuce leaves can be revived by soaking them in cold water for up to 20 minutes in the fridge.

Pumpkin

The best way to store cut pumpkin is to wrap it tightly in cling wrap, beeswax wrap or a bag and place it in the fridge. It doesn’t matter if you leave the seeds in or take them out.

You can find plastic-free, home compostable alternatives to cling wrap in most eco stores, but don’t chuck out what you’ve already got at home. LFHW say: “It’s better to use what you already have rather than buying more single use stuff. Even if it claims to be eco-friendly, it’s still single use”.

Potatoes and onions

Potatoes and onions should not be stored in the fridge. Keep them in a cupboard – separately, as they cause each other to sprout.

Sweetcorn

Refrigerate sweetcorn in its husk to keep it fresh for longer.

Fruit

Apples

Apples last eight times longer in the fridge than in the fruit bowl.

Tip: Keep apples separate from vegetables in your fridge – the ethylene released from vegetables can ripen them.

Avocado

Store avocados at room temperature to ripen. Once ripe, move them to the fridge.

The most effective way to store a cut avocado is to leave the stone in, wrap it tightly with cling wrap or beeswax wrap, and keep it in the fridge. Popping it in an airtight container works well too.

Tip: If you need your avocado to ripen faster, keep it next to bananas.

Bananas

Bananas should be kept out of the fridge and stored separately from other fruit. When ripe, they produce ethylene gas, which ripens other fruit.

If you want to slow the ripening process down, pop the bananas in a ziplock bag or container in the fridge to control the ethylene gas and delay them getting overripe.

Lemons and limes

Store lemons and limes in your fruit bowl if you’re planning on using them within a week. If you want to keep them longer, stash them loose in the fridge.

Cut lemons can be stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag in the fridge.

If you have your own tree, you may want to freeze your excess citrus so they don’t go off. You can freeze them whole or juice them and freeze the juice.

Oranges

Keep stored loose in fridge.

Stone fruit

If your stone fruit is ripe, store them in the fridge to make them last longer. If they need to ripen, keep them at room temperature.

Tomatoes

Should NOT be kept in the fridge as it affects their texture and flavour. Store them at room temperature.

Bonus tips

  • The key to making your produce last is controlling the air exposure and moisture levels.

  • Most fruit and veggies are better left unwashed while in storage. Residual moisture can cause them to rot prematurely. Wait to wash fruit and veg until you’re about to use them.

  • If possible, try to separate fruit and veggies in the fridge, as they can speed up each other’s ripening process.

  • Reuse ziplock bags, containers and glass jars. If the produce is too big, use whatever bags you have on hand. Ask yourself if you can reuse any plastic packaging before binning it.

  • The compostable fruit and vegetable bags provided by supermarkets degrade quickly so are less suitable for airtight storage than reusing a plastic bag.

  • You can switch out a single-use paper towel for a dry reusable cloth or tea towel. If it starts getting too damp, replace it with a dry one to extend the life of your produce further.

  • Experiment with what works best for you based on the containers and storage options you have. If things start to wither prematurely or some brown spots put you off that avocado, consider freezing them. When you have enough, chuck them in a smoothie. LFHW say it’ll still taste good, and you’ll forget it looked a bit sad beforehand.

Member comments

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R A G.
06 Feb 2022
Mouldy lemons

Twice recently I have bought imported lemons which were chilled when I chose them. Within 2 days they all grew mould. I complained to my supermarket but as there was no response I have resorted to buying homegrown lemons from people in my suburb. Residents with an excess are glad to sell their lemons for a few dollars.

Lois A.
06 Feb 2022
courgettes

how should these be stored please.

Frank - Consumer staff
09 Feb 2022
Re: courgettes

Hi Lois,

Courgettes keep quite well in the fridge. Store them in a plastic or paper bag in the crisper drawer. You can also freeze courgettes by chopping or grating them and storing in a ziplock bag in the freezer. If grated, it will be watery when it thaws, so just squeeze out the excess liquid before using.

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

Barbara S.
05 Feb 2022
Storing celery in the fridge

You can store a long head of celery for a long time, in two bread bags or similar at each end and securing the middle with a loose rubber band. Also works for silver beet.

Renate S.
05 Feb 2022
How to store avocados

We had avocado trees in the past and still have again a young one. They take years to carry fruit. Avocados should NEVER be stored in the fridge. Instead, wrap them as a whole in one single layer of newspaper and keep them in a bowl in a corner away from sun (but NOT like potatos). I wrap them like a candy, twisting the ends. In newspaper they mature slowly and even. THAT IS THE TRICK! You can gently pinch the narrow side, and when it starts softening just a little bit, but still hard, go and eat them ASAP. You don't want them to ripen till soft, the taste is not as good. They are better and more aromatic when they are a bit too hard then too soft. Once cut open and scooped out, eat them soon and avoid storing them. If you really have to keep half an avo in the fridge, then leave the pit in that half avo, and wrap the whole thing tight in Glad Wrap. Enjoy!

lynda S.
05 Feb 2022
2nd tip - to keep Bananas from ripening too fast

(I only like firm bananas, even a bit under-ripe). I separate the bananas gently, then wrap the end of each one (where you separate them) tightly in gladwrap (stops the gases escaping). They sure don't ripen as fast then

lynda S.
05 Feb 2022
My tips...

I cut my celery to the size I want, then wrap it tightly in tinfoil and put in vege copartment of fridge. Provided it's re-wrapped tightly again after you take some out, it will stay crisp & last for weeks like this! Best tip I got ever, especially as I live on my own so never use a lot at once,