Nutrition Articles

How to Keep Fruits and Veggies Fresh

Proper Storage Prevents Spoilage, Saving You Hundreds

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Eating more fruits and vegetables is a requirement for every healthy eater. But when you buy more fresh produce, do you end up throwing away more than you eat? You're not alone.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average American family of four throws out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy--amounting to $1,365 to $2,275 annually.

Storing fresh produce is a little more complicated than you might think. If you want to prevent spoilage, certain foods shouldn't be stored together at all, while others that we commonly keep in the fridge should actually be left on the countertop. To keep your produce optimally fresh (and cut down on food waste), use this handy guide.

Countertop Storage Tips
There’s nothing as inviting as a big bowl of crisp apples on the kitchen counter. To keep those apples crisp and all countertop-stored produce fresh, store them out of direct sunlight, either directly on the countertop, in an uncovered bowl, or inside a perforated plastic bag.

Refrigerator Storage Tips
For produce that is best stored in the refrigerator, remember the following guidelines.
  • Keep produce in perforated plastic bags in the produce drawer of the refrigerator. (To perforate bags, punch holes in the bag with a sharp object, spacing them about as far apart as the holes you see in supermarket apple bags.)
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate, in different drawers, because ethylene can build up in the fridge, causing spoilage.
  • When storing herbs (and interestingly, asparagus, too), snip off the ends, store upright in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase) and cover with a plastic bag.
What to Store Where: A Handy Chart
Be sure to "Pin" this chart and color-coded key:

*More about Ethylene: Fruits and vegetables give off an odorless, harmless and tasteless gas called ethylene after they're picked. All fruits and vegetables produce it, but some foods produce it in greater quantities. When ethylene-producing foods are kept in close proximity with ethylene-sensitive foods, especially in a confined space (like a bag or drawer), the gas will speed up the ripening process of the other produce. Use this to your advantage if you want to speed up the ripening process of an unripe fruit, for example, by putting an apple in a bag with an unripe avocado. But if you want your already-ripe foods to last longer, remember to keep them away from ethylene-producing foods, as designated in the chart above.


Food is expensive, and most people can't afford to waste it. Print off this handy chart to keep in your kitchen so you can refer to it after every shopping trip. Then you'll be able to follow-through with your good intentions to eat your 5-9 servings a day, instead of letting all of that healthy food go to waste.
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About The Author

Stepfanie Romine Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.

Member Comments

  • A trick my friend taught me when we signed up or our CSA is that lettuce keeps better if you wrap it in a paper towel before putting it in a plastic bag in the fridge. - 8/16/2014 5:31:40 PM
  • For FROGGE1323 If you right-click on the chart, there should be an option to save it to your desktop. Then you can add the saved file to an app like Adobe Reader or Good Reader using iTunes. - 2/14/2014 8:49:07 PM
  • FROGGE1323
    Any tips on how to download this chart to my iPad? I tried the Message Board but couldn't find the place to leave this question. Esther - 1/21/2014 1:21:06 PM
  • BEERAB
    FINALLY a guide that makes sense! I can easily follow this vs. the ones that spend an hour explaining how my drawers work. I'm a scientist and the articles left me confused! haha! This is straightforward and makes perfect sense :) Then again I felt silly when I realized that tomatoes and cucumbers are put in the store at room temp, so why am I sticking them in the fridge? *doh!* - 12/31/2013 9:43:24 PM
  • Any tips on how to download this chart to my phone? - 12/14/2013 9:03:12 AM
  • Any tips on how to download this chart to my phone? - 12/14/2013 8:57:38 AM
  • I think the chart is a great and useful guide...just use your own commonsense and if you havent used a "counter" item in a couple days. then put it in the fridge !!! BTW thanks for the printing tip, worked like a charm!! - 10/28/2013 7:59:42 AM
  • MSROSE9
    I also have used the vinegar water wash for veggies and fruit , really works - 10/20/2013 10:15:28 AM
  • LJDAVID
    In regard to berries, i just learned this year to wash ALL berries in 1part white vinegar and 9 parts cold water, then rinse in clear water. I haven't had a bad berry all Summer! It really works! - 10/19/2013 11:44:27 AM
  • KENACKR
    Anne007,

    Many times like charts are inserted into articles as images. Try this approach: hover your mouse over the chart, right click the mouse and a list of actions should pop up. Choose "Open in new window" while you are still over the chart. That should pop up a new window with only the chart in it.

    The chart, in the new window, should show as larger than it was in the old window. At least it should be the only item in the window. Print that image for a suitable page that you can hang or tape anywhere you please!

    Ken - 10/19/2013 10:06:53 AM
  • Once again I wonder about the sensibilities and knowledge of the people who write these articles. Who in the world except someone with a commercial sized kitchen has the counter space to store fruits and vegetables as described, or even has refrigerators with more than a single produce drawer? Get real please. Your credibility is at stake. - 10/19/2013 8:59:20 AM
  • BIVIJI
    Very informative.thank you. - 10/16/2013 5:36:12 PM
  • This is good info. I have a tendency not to use up the produce that purchase and I hate that so I want to try to do better about using it. Storage is apparently key. - 9/28/2013 8:43:14 AM
  • I now know why most all of my fruit rots within a few days. Great tips! - 9/10/2013 9:37:25 AM
  • Most of the produce I buy comes in bags of frozen veggies (so no waste). but over the last few year I've invested in plastic air tight containers and they have saved me a ton of money. I keep each container with only it's own kind. Everything lasts much longer that way. Two of my staples...celery and carrots...I keep separately in tall plastic air tight containers that are classified as pasta boxes. Lasts for 2 weeks and stay like fresh bought - 3/12/2013 3:08:10 PM