Routt County CSU Extension: Is too much produce a good thing?
Some call it “crisper remorse” — that guilty feeling you get when you have to throw away spoiled produce. It’s frustrating to realize the produce you have purchased at the farmers market or received from your CSA share has taken on a life of its own in the back of your refrigerator.
This time of year, it’s great when fresh produce is readily available, but it is also tempting to overbuy. It has been estimated that 40 percent of food is wasted, which can cost a family of four almost $600 in its annual food budget. There must be a better way to manage produce that reduces the waste and increases the amount of healthy food you and your family are consuming.
The Cornell Food and Brand Lab determined the biggest part of food waste is caused by buying too much food. Discovering your precious produce covered in fuzzy mold is discouraging. Don’t let these twinges of guilt stop you from purchasing fresh produce. Instead, develop strategies for buying, storing and using your fruits and vegetables to help tame your produce problems.
Before you go shopping, take a quick inventory of what fruits and vegetables you already have. Consider the week ahead, and determine how many breakfast, lunch and dinner meals you will be preparing. There is significant nutrient loss to fresh produce if it lingers in your refrigerator produce bin for one week or more. To preserve the nutritional benefits of eating fresh, don’t buy produce unless you have a plan for consuming it within one week.
When putting away your produce, make it easy to find and consume. Clean out your produce bins each week so you can be assured of the freshness of your fruits and vegetables. While you put away your groceries, take a few minutes to cut the cantaloupe or wash the cherries so family members can easily eat them.
Just as consumption of carrots increased by 33 percent when snack-sized baby carrots were introduced, easy access to prepared fruits and vegetables encourages consumption. Use attractive baskets and bowls to showcase your produce while it ripens. Tomatoes, avocados, peaches, pears and plums can be stored on cool countertops, which will remind family members that they are ready to be eaten.
Across time, you will need to become creative with the weeks remaining produce. For dense vegetables — such as carrots, beets and sweet potatoes — roast them. Just peel and dice them, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast them at 450 degrees. Roasted vegetables make a great addition to a tossed salad. Excess fruit can be cut it up and frozen for smoothies. Freezer jams are another easy way to use leftover fruits.
If you realize you have too much produce, whether from a trip to the farm stand or from your own garden, consider donating the excess to our food pantry. LiftUp has a new facility with refrigeration to store perishable donations, so they won’t go to waste.
Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. For more information, call 970-879-0825, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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