We have all experienced that extremely guilty feeling related to searching through the fridge and finding a dead and decaying tomato or a bag of rubbery carrots. Removing them and putting them in the trash... is pretty painful.
There is a chain of events that lead to the tragic produce death. (1) You buy loads of fresh food because you want to eat (or want to start eating) right. (2) You get home and put it all away. (3) A few days go by and you've only used a few things.... and the lettuce is starting to look a little sad. (4) A few more days and a few salads later you notice the smell.... though you've used most of the lettuce, 1 of the 3 tomatoes and 1/2 a pepper you bought- the remaining items have gone off. (5) You feel sad. (6) You throw away the corpses. (7) Next time you shop, you either do the same thing over again and waste more food... or you decide to not buy fresh produce.
Yes, I realize that maybe you've wised up for the second time around and you buy only what you know you can eat. For the sake of this article, lets pretend that's not the case.
How can we avoid wasting food?
There are a few ways to approach the produce predicament.
(+) If you're someone who doesn't create their grocery list in strict accordance with your pre-planned weekly meals, choosing a few produce staples to keep in the house will be key. Pick a few things that you know you'll definitely eat or be able to realistically incorporate into your week.
(+) Know the life of your produce! Celery is pretty hearty and can last a few weeks, however lemons aren't so lucky. Knowing how ripe it is when you buy it, how to store it, and how long it can last will really help.
(+) Buy frozen! I keep a huge stock of frozen fruits for smoothies and yogurt. I have loads of frozen veggies, too. If something you bought fresh is about to go off, freeze it! I do that with onions all.the.time! I use them often enough that as soon as I buy them, I slice them into 2 or 3 different sizes (minced, diced, and sometimes thin strings) and put them straight into the freezer.
(+) When I was in Korea, I bought produce several times per week. I lived and worked near markets, so it was convenient to run out when I specifically needed something. It also staggered when things would go off. If you can, try to buy produce as you need it-- it is a little more time consuming, but you'll be sure to use it.
(+) Peeking into your fridge every once in a while to check the status of your fresh food will save you a lot of heartache. This morning I noticed I had a sad looking banana... I acted fast, chopped that sucker up, and froze it. Day... saved.
Things I always have on-hand:
romaine lettuce - bell peppers - tomatoes - onion - carrots - avocado - bananas - apples
Those are items I know I'll either use during the week or they last long enough that I can buy them and don't need to think about them for a little while. Except for bananas.... I eat those at a concerning rate.