When you’re unpacking your groceries, don’t just throw your berries and spinach in the fridge. How and where you store your produce matters. It also determines how long the food will last and can help preserve quality, taste, and freshness.
Plus, some items can influence others’ shelf life based on proximity—so you don’t want to keep two items that don’t go well together in the same drawer.
Here are a few common mistakes you’re probably making when it comes to storing your fruits and vegetables—but don’t worry, you’re definitely not the only one.
Not Wrapping Greens in a Towel
If you’ve used the greens and they’ve become wet, you don’t want to store them without something to dry them out. “Whether you’re storing a big salad you prepped for the week or just putting salad greens back in the fridge after opening the package, you’re hurting shelf life if you don’t put a paper towel in the container,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.
That towel’s important—it’ll absorb excess moisture to keep greens crisp and prevent wilting. So, always be sure to include one after washing or cooking with the greens, before returning them to the fridge.
Discarding Avocado Pits
Sure, you could totally devour a whole avocado because they’re delicious, but it’s more common to only eat a portion at a time for proper portion control.
“When you’re using just a portion of an avocado, you never want to discard the pit and put the rest in a container. Keeping the pit in the half that you store prevents excess oxidation, or spoilage,” she says.
You can take it a step further and squeeze lemon or lime juice on the surface of the rest of the avocado, too, which will help it stay fresher longer, she adds. No one likes a browned bowl of guac, right?
Washing Berries Before Eating Them
If you’re planning on eating some fresh berries and yogurt right after your grocery trip, it makes sense to wash them ASAP, eat your meal, and then pop them in the fridge. But if you’re not planning on eating them yet, don’t wash them and put them in the fridge right away.
“Never wash berries before placing them in the refrigerator. It may seem like you’re saving yourself time, but you’re wasting money since berries are delicate and will spoil more quickly after being washed as they hold the excess moisture,” she says.
And, make sure they’re dry, too. You can towel them off to get rid of extra moisture.
Hiding Your Produce
If your carrot sticks and apples are hiding in the back of the fridge behind a gallon of milk and tub of spaghetti and meatballs, you’re going to miss that window in eating them.
“A major mistake, for both produce consumption and food waste reasons, is storing your produce out of sight,” she says. “When you open the refrigerator, you’ll be more likely to remember the produce you have on hand and be inspired to cook with it if it’s closer to eye level versus in a drawer on the bottom,” she adds. So, keep things like fresh fruit, greens, and foods that go bad quickly in your line of vision.
Not Storing Garlic and Onions Alone
You don’t want to throw garlic and onion in a drawer with your other veggies and fruit, and they should be in proper containers to prevent contamination of other foods.
“Garlic and onions should be stored in sealed containers vs. being put away in plastic wrap. The strong scent can absolutely pass on to other foods, including fruit,” she says. They emit gas, which is harmless to us, but not so great for other foods and can expedite their spoilage and alter the flavor.
Not Storing Apples Properly
Apples are more complicated than you think—so if you’re storing them in the fridge, listen up. “Apples keep best in the crisper drawer, not touching one another,” she says. If they touch, it enables softening in some spots on the apples’ skin. Soft spots then increase the tendency to spoil, and the apple will become rotten if not eaten in time.
“If you’ll eat then within a week it shouldn’t be a problem, but if longer, you can wrap them individually in paper towels to prevent softening,” she says. And, not only can they not touch one another, but they shouldn’t be around other foods that emit gas, like onion and garlic, as well as potatoes, which can change the taste of the apples.
If you have cut apples, add lemon juice to prevent browning—this will keep them fresher longer.