Increasing fruit and vegetable intake would be a beneficial diet modification for many people. However, it can be frustrating when these perishable items spoil and need to get thrown out. Prevent food waste and save money by using up leftover fruits and vegetables with the helpful tips below.
Surprise! I have a bonus article for you this week.
I recently came across a great piece on preventing household food waste that I wrote about five years ago. These tips are timeless, and I felt that they would be a great addition to the blog.
My household uses a large amount of fresh produce every week, and we very rarely let anything go to waste. I attribute my success to the tips below, many of which I have used for years. I hope that you also find them helpful.
Leftover Fruits and Vegetables: Use Them Don’t Lose Them
Are you trying to feed your family a healthy diet, but are sick of seeing good fruits and veggies go bad? If so, these suggestions should help to keep your pricey produce out of the trash can!
Use items with the shortest shelf-life first.
As covered in last Friday’s article, pre-cut fruits and certain types of berries will last a few days at most. Apples, pears, and oranges last for weeks. Use accordingly.
Microwave frozen vegetables for a quick side dish on hurried weeknights. Many fruits also freeze beautifully. Frozen bananas, pineapple, mango, and berries are all great in smoothies. Alternatively, use your frozen fruits in overnight oats recipes.
Grant easy access.
Certain fruits, such as apples and oranges, can be left on the counter. Cut fruits like melons into chunks, and thread them on to wooden skewers. Making these items grab-and-go means they are more likely to be consumed.
Think outside of the banana chip bag! Fruits such as watermelon and cantaloupe are delicious when dried, and drying helps them to keep longer. Vegetables such as bell pepper can be cut into strips, dehydrated, and used with dips in place of crackers.
Make an endless vegetable tray.
Are you making a soup that uses only a few stalks of celery or a couple of carrots? Cut the rest of the vegetables in the bag into sticks and add to a tray in the fridge.
Keep a few yogurt-based dips nearby for a healthy and easy snack. Just make sure that the tray gets emptied at least once per week so that the produce does not have a chance to spoil.
Eliminate excess moisture.
Open bags of salad lettuce upon bringing them home and place a paper towel in each bag. The towels will absorb moisture, keeping the greens fresh longer. Other damp vegetables, such as scallions, can be wrapped in paper towels for the same reason.
Hold a leftover soup night.
Make a big pot of soup to use an assortment of vegetables that have hit their peak quickly. Exercise good judgment as to which leftovers to include. Some zucchini, onions, pesto, or corn would probably work; a few heads of lettuce will probably not be a wise choice. We've invented some of our favorite soups this way.
Make a stir-fry.
Stir-fries are another way to use a variety of vegetables before they spoil. Just add a protein, such as chicken or tofu, and a sauce. When served over a whole grain, you have created a fast and healthy meal.
Have a meal plan in place.
Plan your weekly menu and only buy what you need. Meal planning is one of the best ways to ensure that there are no leftover fruits and vegetables that need to be used up.
Do you need additional help with meal planning? Here are two great resources:
- Budget Bytes The Budget Bytes website has easy, healthy meal ideas, all using inexpensive ingredients. Pick some recipes, add the ingredients to your grocery list, and you’ll be shopping smarter in no time.
- Leslie’s Supper Solution Does putting together a weekly meal plan seems too overwhelming? Head over to Leslie’s Supper Solution to get free dinner menus sent by email every week. A registered dietitian created this awesome service, so you know the meals will be balanced and nutrient-rich.
If you really can’t handle managing a larger amount of fresh produce, no worries. Choose the frozen and canned produce options. Not only do they tend to be less expensive, but they will also keep for a much longer time.
What’s your best tip for using up leftover fruits and vegetables? Did I cover it above? I would love it if you’d drop me a comment and let me know!