Fresh fruits and vegetables will naturally ripen and wilt over time. Here are some suggestions for extending their shelf life to prevent food waste and save money
Main Factors to Mitigate
- Time: Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t last forever. Only buy the amount you can realistically consume in 1-2 weeks. Depending on the produce, there are a few ways to freeze them to enjoy later – Unfortunately lettuce is one produce item that does not freeze well. You’ll have to consume what you bought
- Moisture: The #1 enemy of fresh produce is moisture, especially leafy greens like lettuce and kale
Prep the lettuce
You bought the lettuce with the intention of consuming it, but life gets busy. It’s a hassle to prep… you’re starving and it’s easier just to grab something from the salad bar or order takeout. Take the time to prep the lettuce. The head of lettuce in your fridge is going bad because you still have to wash and chop it before you can even do anything with it. The pre-bagged salad section is a huge market because it saves people time and makes it easier to put together a salad. It is often more expensive and the salad not as fresh as when you buy the whole head of lettuce. Take some time over the weekend or later in the evening when you’re not rushed to prewash and chop the salad so its ready to use anytime during the week. When I prep lettuce, I’ll wash, chop and dry completely before storing them. You don’t need salad spinner, if you don’t have space or budget for one. Simply using a colander with kitchen towel will suffice.
Whether you bought head of lettuce or pre-bagged salad, the next step is to reduce moisture as much as possible. Reusable cotton produce bags are your friends. I’ve found that the cotton fibers absorb some moisture and the lettuce stays fresh for much longer. It’s both eco-friendly and economical all at the same time. Did you use the kitchen towel to dry the lettuce? If there’s space you can add that to the produce bag to continue absorbing moisture throughout the week. You can then toss them into the wash when you’ve finished the lettuce.
Silica gel packets are used to keep packaged foods fresh and dry, so use them to keep your produce as fresh as possible. Whenever I find one in food packaging, I’ll toss them into my crisper drawer. (I also have them in the brown sugar to prevent clumping, so I always have fluffy sugar when I want to make chocolate chip cookies). This will reduce absorb some of the condensation from the produce.
At the end of the day, lettuce won’t last forever. I hope these solutions will help them stay fresh long enough for you to enjoy.