Produce can be the most expensive and simultaneously the most perishable part of your weekly grocery shopping. For this reason (as well as for general health reasons) it’s important to consume all fresh produce before it begins to turn bad. But daily life doesn’t always neatly coincide with the shelf life of that head of lettuce or those organic apples from the prior week's shopping list.

When this happens, use these handy tips to keep your fresh produce fresh longer!

A word about ethylene 

Ethylene is a colorless, odorless gas. As many fruits and vegetables ripen, they emit ethylene. This is what causes banana peels to develop dark spots and formerly crisp lettuce leaves to wilt and rot. So anything you can do to inhibit the impact of ethylene will also increase the healthy life of your fresh produce.

1. Store fruits and vegetables separately from one another

Because some types of produce give off more ethylene more quickly and in greater quantities, this can influence the freshness of neighboring produce. For best results, store fruits, which tend to ripen faster, away from vegetables.

2. Store unrefrigerated produce in a darker place

Sunlight speeds up the ripening process. So if you don't plan to refrigerate certain produce such as apples or bananas, be sure to place them on the counter, in an uncovered bowl, or in a shady area. You can also put them in a plastic bag with a few holes cut in it.

3. Store herbs separately from other produce

The best way to store herbs for maximum shelf life is to snip off the stem ends (like you would for fresh cut flowers) and immediately plunge them into cool water. Then cover with a plastic bag. You can also use one of the newer herb-specific storage containers that has a built-in area for water at the base.

4. Store only certain types of produce together in a bin or bowl

Some produce produces a lot of ethylene. Some produce produces less ethylene. And some produce is just sensitive to ethylene. Of course, that can get confusing quickly, so here’s a handy list of the highest ethylene producers, which should be sequestered away from other produce:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Figs
  • Honeydew melon
  • Pears
  • Plums

5. Eat according to estimated expiration date

If you know the raspberries you just bought have a shorter shelf life than the grapefruits, be sure to eat the raspberries first. This is one of the easiest tips to cut down on waste and ensure you get the most nutrition from your fresh produce.

6. Use an ethylene inhibitor

There are several products on the market now that inhibit or absorb ethylene production. Here’s a list of the most popular products, along with estimated prices and shelf life.

  • Bluapple: Bluapple is as it sounds—a round, apple-shaped, blue container with a replaceable ethylene absorbent center. You can get a pack of two with a year's supply of refills for less than $25 on Amazon. Each refill lasts for three months.
  • E.G.G: The "Ethylene Gas Guardian" functions like Bluapple by absorbing ethylene. Instead of a blue apple, you get a blue egg. Plus, the E.G.G. is cheaper than Bluapple—you can get two containers with a year of refills from the company website for $14 dollars.
  • ExtraLife: ExtraLife isn’t an egg or an apple but a green disk about three inches across that’s activated when you remove the seal on the bottom. Each disk lasts for three months. You can get two disks for around $10 on Amazon.
  • Evert-Fresh: Evert-Fresh bags come in medium, large and extra large sizes. You can reuse each bag up to 10 times before discarding. The bags mimic grocery store produce bags to extend freshness. You can get 12 medium bags on Amazon for around $8 dollars.
  • Peak Fresh: Peak Fresh is similar in concept and design to Evert-Fresh bags. The bags are 12" X 16" and can be reused for up to two months before discarding. The bags are also washable. You can get a package of 10 bags on Amazon for around $7 dollars.

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