This is my tale of how I made the subject of this blog a reality in our home.
For years, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t get to many my fresh veggies before they spoiled. This was disappointing to me not only because I was wasting food, but because it was not cheap in the first place. The pain of wasted food becomes much acuter once you enter into adulthood and have to start paying for your own.
Part of the problem, admittedly, was that I didn’t plan my meals. I didn’t have a strategy for how to incorporate my produce into my daily eating.
Another part was that they just don’t last that long in the first place.
Thirdly, I relegated them to the crisper drawer at the bottom of the fridge. They were bought, deposited and promptly forgotten.
This was a three-point formula of inevitable waste.
Here is an example of what not to do:
I am pleased to report that my discontent at the status quo chipped away at me persistently enough to activate my search for a solution.
Concurrently, my husband Mike had, on more than one occasion, mentioned how amazing the veggie fridge at Panda Express looked, with bin after bin of fresh veggies chopped and ready for action.
It all came together for me when I heard a podcast that suggested that putting veggies in glass or plastic bins not only extended their life but also, placing them on the high shelves of the fridge keeps them top of mind. If they are top of mind, they are less likely to get lost in the mess of the crisper drawer until they are brown and mushy.
I eased into it by starting with cilantro — the one that seems to go downhill the quickest. Placing it in a glass bin remarkably extended its shelf life. That made me extremely happy because wilted cilantro is a real shame.
Gradually I eased into doing other veggies too. I haven’t transferred ALL of them to the top, but it is getting mighty close.
Overcoming the challenges
I’ll be the first to admit that reorganizing was difficult.
First of all, using the bin system meant washing the veggies before putting them in containers. That created a wrinkle in my “system” of cramming in a trip to the grocery store either late at night or with barely enough time to put things away before I had to head out the door for something else. In either case, I was too tired or too rushed to wash and dry the veggies in the same block of time in which I unloaded my groceries.
So they were often doomed to obscurity in the crisper drawer.
A few things that helped
To minimize problem one above, I made a determination to start planning meals a week or two out. That way I had a much better idea of what I would need, and could buy accordingly to minimize waste.
Secondly, I had a realization. If I didn’t have time to wash and dry the veggies for storage immediately after shopping, I could always do it later. For some reason, I had a mental block that suggested I had to do it all at once or not at all. Giving myself the permission to do it later, even sometimes the next day, was a breakthrough for me, small though it might seem.
Sometimes examining the voices in your head that tell you why you “can’t” do something need to be critically analyzed to see if they are actually true.
I took this breakthrough and applied it.
My fridge won’t ever be quite like Panda Express, obviously. But it is satisfying to open it and see this:
That sure is pretty if you ask me.
Even better, however, is our veggie waste has plummetted dramatically, and our actual consumption of them has increased. Win-win-win. Not to mention that this method does indeed keep them fresh longer. At least double the lifetime of hanging out in the bag in a drawer.
If that wasn’t enough, the psychology of it, that I learned from the podcast, is that your eyes (or your kid’s eyes) are most likely to gravitate toward whatever is on the top shelf. So if less healthy snacks get demoted lower, the theory goes, they won’t get eaten as much. And if you’re hardcore enough to pre-chop all your produce, they are even easier to grab for a healthy snack. If you’re into that.
Since this habit has made a positive impact on how we rock the vegetables in our house and is saving us money, I wanted to pass it along to you, the reader. Do with it what you will.
Does this seem crazy? Do you do something similar or aspire to? Your thoughts are welcome, as always.