How to Store Produce Without Plastic

Taking reusable, cloth bags to the store is a wonderful way to avoid sending plastic to the landfill. But what about when you get all that delicious food home? How do you keep it from spoiling without plastic?

Today, we’re tackling zero waste food storage – something I’ve been learning a lot about this summer!

I have a tendency to get a little “overzealous” at the farmer’s market (I mean, how can you resist all that organic goodness?!), leaving me to track down lots of tricky ways to keep my produce from going bad before I can use it all.

So far, I’ve been able to store all of our fruit and vegetables without any plastics. In fact, most of my produce is staying crisp and fresh for weeks!

How do I do it? Let’s dig in!

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Storing Vegetables Without Plastic

How to store produce without plastic

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are known for their propensity to wilt or brown quickly. To keep your greens from spoiling too soon, first remove any tight bands or ties, then rinse and dry fully (these should not stay wet!) before wrapping loosely in a dry tea towel and placing uncrowded in the fridge.

Kale, a hardier green, will stay crisp and full when placed in a cup of water like a bouquet in the fridge.

Main Types: Arugula, cabbage, dandelion greens, mustard greens, watercress, spinach, lettuce

Bulb Vegetables

Bulb vegetables should always be stored in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation (a.k.a. a cellar or cool pantry). I’ve found success storing my bulb vegetables together with my tubers in a thick paper bag or wicker basket, then in my basement closet. A dark corner of the kitchen pantry should work too!

Main Types: Shallots, scallions, onions

Tubers

You should store your tubers just like your bulb vegetables (see above), in a cool, dark location that has good air flow. What you’re trying to avoid is your potatoes getting too much sun and greening or growing “eyes.” That’s no good!

Main Types: Sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes 

Fruit Vegetables

Yes, fruit vegetables – it’s a thing. Think colorful, fleshy vegetables with soft insides! Veggies like this have a greater tendency than others to mold, thanks to their high moisture content. Only wash these vegetables right before you’re ready to eat them, as wetness will decrease your storage time.

I recommend placing these vegetables loose in the crisper if it’ll be a while before you use them. However, they can also be left on the counter for a few days without spoiling.

Main Types: Bell peppers, cucumber, zucchini, okra, squash, eggplant

Inflorescents & Mushrooms

Inflorescent vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower should be put in an open container or wrapped with a damp towel then placed in the fridge. However, they will likely have the best flavor if used the day of!

Mushrooms, on the other hand, should be stored in a paper bag in the fridge (I’ve recently transitioned to a paperless kitchen – so I’ve been using cloth produce bags instead). Bonus tip: if they dry out before you use them, you can reconstitute with water. They’ll perk right up!

Main Types: Artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms of all types

Root Vegetables

Beets, carrots, and the like, tend to wilt before they mold. No one wants a soggy carrot! To store properly, cut the tops off (leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture away from the root, making them lose firmness) and then place in an open container with a moist towel on top, or dunk in cold water every few days to rehydrate. 

Main Types: Beets, carrots, radish, turnips, rutabaga 


Store Fruit Without Plastic

How to store produce without plastic

Stone Fruits

Stone fruit (a.k.a. fruit with a soft skin and pit inside) usually come with the summer heat. Apricots, plums, peaches, and avocado should be kept in a brown paper bag on the counter until ripe, then placed in the fridge when at their peak. Eat quickly afterwards!

Cherries and grapes on the other hand should be stored in an airtight container without any moisture. You don’t want these to mold on you! 

Main Types: Avocado, plum, apricot, peach, cherrie, mango, grapes

Soft Fleshy Fruits

Berries (often called fleshy fruits) are extremely fragile. When storing, do not stack them high but lay them out in a single layer if possible. Doing this will keep your berries from getting mushy or being crushed during storage. Eat soon after buying!

Main Types: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits should always be stored in a cool place with good airflow (never in a container). They will stay steadily ripe for a while on the counter, as their protective outer rind keeps them from going bad too quickly.

Use lemons often in your cooking? Make sure they never go in the fridge! This will help the lemons retain their strong, rich flavor. 

Main Types: Oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruit 

Pommes

Apples can be stored on a cool counter or shelf for up to two weeks. For longer storage, place them in an open cardboard box in the fridge so they stay crisp. Pears, on the other hand, should be ripened in a paper bag on the counter, then put in the fridge at their peak. Don’t let these go too long!

Main Types: Apples, pears, quince 

Melons

Melons should be stored uncut on the counter and out of the sun. Once cut, simply put the slices in a container with a dry tea towel. This will soak up any leaking moisture and prevent the melon from getting too soggy. Eat quickly after cutting! 

Main Types: Watermelon, casaba, honeydew, cantaloupe 


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Find out how to store produce without plastic - and extend the life of your fruit & vegetables!

19 thoughts on “How to Store Produce Without Plastic

    • Lauren says:

      Pineapple can be stored in a reusable container (say, a mason jar) for up to one week because of its naturally high moisture content 🙂

    • Lauren says:

      Hey there! Pineapple has enough moisture content of its own that it can be stored in a mason jar or other container for up to one week.

    • Lauren says:

      Girl, everyone does. You’re in good company! Either way, you’re taking steps in the right direction, which is all any of us can ask for. Glad to have you as a reader!

    • Lauren says:

      Ginger root can be stored loose in a dry environment, kind of like a potato. I’d keep minced ginger in a small glass container in the fridge. It’ll keep for a while!

  1. Mary says:

    Thanks! This is Realy helpful, i’m Beg to be plastic free and I’m glad to know some AWESOME tips on how to store my fruitS and veggies while keeping them fresher for longer without plastic. Now i’m going to go cut the tops of my carrots off!

  2. sOMIN says:

    Omg this WAS SO HELPFUL!! i’M ALWAYS CONFUSED ON WHERE/HOW TO STORE MY GROCERIES AND I CAN NOW USE THIS AS A REFERENCE. AND IT’S ECO FRIENDLY TOO! 🙂

    • Lauren says:

      You are so welcome! It can be super confusing if you don’t have a comprehensive list for each item right in front of you. Glad it was helpful!

  3. Caroline from greeneatalia says:

    SUper helpful, thank you! I’ve been purchasing my produce without plastic for over a year and couldn’t figure out how to make them last. now I can save money by eating all my food and not putting it into the compost, yay!

  4. Stacy says:

    I’ve Heard you need to seperate bananas, wrap thr top in plastic and store on counter. What else can i use instead of plastic wrap? Would mini beeswax wraps work maybe?

  5. Christa says:

    This is so helpful! It’s interesting to me how different some of these storage methods are from others I’ve read. I’m going to try these. Thank you for sharing!

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