Here's how to use fresh produce as wisely as possible.

By Annie Black
April 09, 2020
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Just over a month ago, grocery trips could involve leisurely strolls through the market or the quick on-the-way-home-from-work stop for a pint of ice cream. Nowadays, a trip to the grocery store is anxiety-inducing. Coronavirus has altered nearly every aspect of our lives.

While it’s important to remain socially distant as much as possible, eating is an inevitable need, and with most restaurants closed, a lot of us are resorting to the kitchen. Sure, we could all survive on rice and beans and completely hunker down, but it’s important to maintain a healthy diet despite all the chaos surrounding us. That means eating fruits and vegetables regularly. When it comes to fresh produce, combined with the need to save money and stay home, we should be trying to limit our grocery trips as much as we can. That means we need to use our fresh produce as wisely as possible.

Here are eight tips to help make your produce last during the pandemic:

Strategize before you go to the grocery store

They say “Don’t go to the grocery store hungry,” but personally, I believe that last part should be “without a list.” If you make a loose meal plan for the week before you go on your weekly trip, you’ll feel better about purchasing only the ingredients you need without wasting money on inevitable grocery store distractions. When it comes to produce, try to think in advance. If you’re practicing social distancing and grocery shopping only once or twice a week, you need to figure out what fresh produce will last until your next trip. This brings us to the next point:

Learn about the fruits and vegetables you’d like to buy

Let’s face it—a lot of us don’t know a whole lot about the produce we’re consuming. Every fruit and veggie is different, and if you know more about each type, you can stretch the time between your grocery trips. When making your grocery list, keep in mind the meals you’ll be eating later in the week. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables last at least 1-2 weeks if not more, so you can certainly continue to get your nutrients in at the end of your grocery haul. Taking a bit of time to learn which fruits and vegetables last the longest will de-stress your home life during those times when you feel like you have nothing to make.

Buy whole, cut later

In the time of Coronavirus, I must stress that we remain home as much as we can. Once again, going to the grocery store is fine, but it’s important to limit the trips whenever possible. One way we can do that is buying whole fruits and vegetables rather than pre-cut. Whole produce lasts much longer than the pre-cut option, and on top of that, it’s often cheaper. It doesn’t hurt to practice your dicing and slicing skills, either.

Have an emergency solution for leftover produce

How many times have you thrown away produce? It’s an unfortunate reality for surely everyone—we’ve all been guilty of food waste. While unemployment is on the rise and the economic future ahead is extremely unpredictable, it’s important to be conscientious about food waste for our bank accounts. If you’re creative, you can find a solution for just about every leftover fruit or vegetable you may have. Banana bread is a great way to get rid of mushy bananas, and practically any crunchy veggie can be quickly pickled for salad toppings or sandwiches. Cut up fruit that’s about to go bad and throw it in the freezer-—one day you really might be in the mood for a smoothie.

Remember to buy long-lasting produce

Root vegetables, alliums, and squash are good places to start when learning to limit your grocery trips. Of course you’re allowed to buy your bananas and your berries for snacking within a couple days after buying, but make some room on your list for long-lasting produce that you can eat up 10-14 days after you bring them home. It’s possible to maintain a healthy diet while also practicing social distancing.

Skip on organic (for now)

While superior to conventional produce in many ways, organic produce will never last as long as conventional produce will. It’s simply science—completely natural fruits and vegetables will deteriorate at a faster rate than those which are altered. If you’re worried about consuming the pesticides and a regular rinse won’t do, buy or make special veggie wash on your next grocery trip.

Don’t panic buy

Going to the grocery store feels apocalyptic right now. Scenes displayed on social media look straight out of a horror film. No matter how dire the circumstances may feel, the reality is that grocery stores have yet to completely run out of food. Stores are working hard to restock as much as they can to keep things moving at a hopefully normal rate. Whatever you do, don’t panic buy. You don’t need that gigantic sack of potatoes. You don’t need to start a collection of onions in your pantry. The majority of those avocadoes you’re thinking of buying are most certainly going to go bad. Continue going to the grocery store at a regular rate, and buy your usual amount of groceries to prevent food waste.

Consider a box service

If your grocery store is having problems with restocking or if you’re really trying to stay home as much as possible, now’s a good time to give a monthly produce subscription service a go. Services like Misfits Market and Farmbox Direct offer organic fruits and veggies that are a little too funny looking for the grocery store straight to your doorstep. You get to stay home, and that produce doesn't go to waste, so it's a win-win.