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Fresh produce insiders: share your tips for storage and shelf life

Sometimes I need a reminder to listen to my own advice. As I, and many other consumers, learn to navigate a different way of buying groceries, it’s helpful to remember the insider tips I know from my nearly 15 years in the fresh produce industry.

I had a chat with Amanda Keefer, Managing Director of Orlando-based Produce for Kids for the organization’s Healthy Families Project Podcast recently, talking about how to shop to maximize fresh produce shelf life, and prevent food waste.

This is all in an effort to help reassure consumers that yes, you can buy lots of fresh produce and not worry about it going bad between trips to the store. Even with the COVID-19 crisis restrictions starting to ease back in many states, retailers tell me they’re still seeing fewer trips and bigger baskets.

During my chat with Amanda, I focused on a few key points for consumers to remember:

  • Fresh produce is absolutely safe, and the best way to clean it is 10 seconds under cool running water. Save the soap for your hands after you get home from the store.
  • Buy for now, and buy for later. To put it in simple terms, eat things like berries and tender greens early in the week and citrus and beets later in the week.
  • To refrigerate or not? It’s an age-old debate for many fresh produce items. I suggest following this advice from the University of California-Davis.
  • Many produce items don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to shelf life. Yes, potatoes are hardy, but so are many other items like pears and mangos and even romaine lettuce have great shelf life when treated properly.
  • My Rockstar tip for always having ripe avocados on-hand: buy them green and hard, allow to ripen and store them in the crisper drawer. Ever since I learned that from an avocado insider, my crisper drawer is like the shrine of perpetual avocados!

It’s always a pleasure to share tips with Amanda. Have a listen and let me know what I need to add to my list.

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.