In today’s world, plastic is ubiquitous. From the containers our food comes in to the bags we use for storage, plastic plays a huge role in our daily lives. However, there is growing concern over the environmental impact of plastic pollution. An easy way to reduce plastic use is to stop storing vegetables in plastic bags or containers in the fridge.
But how do you store vegetables without plastic? There are many creative solutions for keeping veggies fresh in your fridge while avoiding excess plastic waste. Here are some frequently asked questions about plastic-free vegetable storage, and tips to keep your veggies crisp.
Why Should You Store Vegetables Without Plastic?
There are a few key reasons to avoid plastic when storing vegetables in the fridge:
- Plastic pollution – Plastic bags and containers contribute to the plastic pollution crisis. Reducing plastic use helps the environment.
- Chemical leaching – There are concerns that chemicals can leech out of plastics and contaminate food over time.
- Save money – Reusable storage solutions save money compared to constantly buying plastic bags or wraps.
- Longer freshness – Some research shows that proper storage without plastics can help extend vegetable freshness.
By foregoing plastics and using alternative storage solutions, you can reduce waste, avoid potential chemical contamination, save money, and keep your vegetables fresher longer.
What Are Some Concerns With Storing Vegetables in Plastic?
While using plastics to store vegetables in the refrigerator is very common, there are a few downsides to be aware of:
- Chemical leaching – There is some evidence that chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates can migrate from plastic containers and wraps into food, especially when the plastics are older or exposed to heat or acids.
- Condensation – Plastic bags and wraps can trap condensation inside with vegetables, making them spoil faster.
- Environmental impact – Plastic waste pollutes ecosystems and oceans and does not biodegrade.
- Expense – Buying plastic bags and wraps repeatedly is costly compared to reusing durable storage containers.
While more research is needed, being cautious and avoiding plastics when possible is a good idea. The possible risk of chemical contamination combined with the guaranteed environmental impact makes foregoing plastics the smarter choice.
What Are Some Good Plastic-Free Storage Options?
Thankfully, there are many great solutions for keeping veggies organized and fresh in the refrigerator without using plastics. Here are some of the top plastic-free vegetable storage ideas:
Glass Storage Containers
Glass storage containers are one of the best ways to store vegetables without plastic. Options include:
- Glass food storage containers with lids – Look for containers with airtight lids. Can be reused indefinitely.
- Glass Mason jars – Durable, reusable, create an airtight seal, easy to see contents. Come in a range of sizes.
- Glass food prep bowls – Shallow bowls with lids are perfect for storing greens or prepped veggies.
Glass is nonporous so it won’t absorb odors or chemicals. It’s also generally safe for high heat, so the containers are easy to sanitize in the dishwasher. Just be sure to get containers with BPA-free lids.
Stainless Steel Containers
Like glass, stainless steel is nonporous and won’t leach chemicals into food. Great options include:
- Stainless steel food containers – Look for airtight lids and food-grade stainless steel.
- Stainless steel bowls – Shallow bowls with lids work great for greens.
- Stainless steel bento-style boxes – Divided boxes help organize veggies.
Stainless steel containers are durable, lightweight, and conductive, so they can help keep contents cooler compared to glass. They are dishwasher safe for easy sanitizing.
Silicone Stretch Lids
Silicone stretch lids are flexible covers that fit onto bowls, jars, and more. They create a seal to contain food without any plastic wrapping. They come in sets with different sizes to fit diverse containers.
Reusable beeswax wraps act as a substitute for plastic wrap. The pliable, coated cotton covers form around food to contain it. Great for wrapping half an onion, covering a salad bowl, and more. Wash gently by hand and reuse.
Produce Storage Bags
Washable cotton and mesh produce bags allow you to store veggies while ditching plastic bags. Use them for items like mushrooms, berries, and greens. They come in a variety of sizes and materials like cotton muslin, nylon mesh, and hemp.
Vintage-style wooden crates can add charming storage in the fridge. Use larger crates to corral squash, root vegetables, apples, citrus, and other hardy produce. Smaller crates are great for onions and garlic.
Tips for Storing Specific Vegetables Without Plastic
Certain vegetables have particular needs when it comes to storage. Here are some tips for storing common veggies plastic-free:
- Wrap in beeswax wraps or cotton towels before placing in a container.
- Store in stainless steel or glass bowls lined with clean kitchen towels.
- Keep prepped greens in airtight glass jars with a bit of water.
- Use mesh produce bags for items like kale and lettuce heads.
Broccoli, Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts
- Place in open glass or stainless steel containers with lids.
- Prevent moisture buildup – pat dry before storing or line bin with towel.
- Mist with white vinegar and water solution before storing to preserve.
Carrots, Celery & Other Root Vegetables
- Stand upright in glass jars or stainless steel containers filled with water.
- Slice/peel before storing to prolong freshness.
- Wrap peeled carrots or cut celery in beeswax wraps.
Squash & Potatoes
- Keep whole squash and potatoes loose in open bins or bamboo baskets.
- Line bins with breathable cotton dish towels.
- Wrap cut squash in towel and store in glass or stainless containers.
Onions & Garlic
- Place whole bulbs or individually in mesh or cotton produce bags.
- Use small crates, baskets or stainless steel containers.
- Keep away from potatoes – the ethylene gas can cause sprouting.
Peppers & Eggplant
- Stand upright in glass jars or open containers.
- For sliced peppers and eggplant, wrap in towel then store in airtight glass container.
- PeppersStay crisper when stored alone versus with ethylene-producing fruits.
- Keep whole tomatoes stem-up in glass or stainless steel bins.
- Individually wrap cut tomatoes in towels/beeswax wraps.
- Or, store cut tomatoes in jars fully immersed in water.
- Use small breathable produce bags or food storage containers.
- Don’t wash until ready to eat – moisture speeds up spoilage.
- Lay berries in a single layer on a towel-lined container.
- For cut berries, store in airtight glass jar fully immersed in water.
Stone Fruits & Pomegranates
- Keep whole fruit loose in open bins or bowls lined with towels.
- Cut fruit can be stored in jars fully immersed in water.
- Water prevents cut fruit like peaches from browning due to oxidation.
- Pineapples, mangos, and melons do best loose in the fridge.
- Use breathable cotton or mesh produce bags if needed.
- Cut fruit can be stored in water-filled airtight jars.
Asparagus & Green Beans
- Stand bundled spears upright in jars filled with water.
- Wrap cut ends in damp paper towels before storing.
- Use open containers lined with towel for green beans.
- Place whole mushrooms in paper bags or reusable cotton mushroom bags.
- Do not wash until ready to use.
- Store sliced mushrooms between dry towels in airtight containers.
Additional Tips for Vegetables Without Plastic
Here are some other handy tips for storing veggies without plastic:
- Store ethylene-producing fruits like apples separately – they accelerate spoilage.
- Check veggies daily and remove any spoiled or moldy produce promptly.
- Wash containers regularly with hot water and soap.
- Use paper towel or cotton liners to absorb excess moisture.
- Arrange vegetables loosely rather than cramming produce.
- Keep vegetables in the high-humidity crisper drawer if possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which vegetables need refrigeration?
Most vegetables require refrigeration to maintain freshness and slow spoiling. Vegetables that must be kept chilled include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, berries, fresh herbs, and more. Some exceptions that can stay at room temp are tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, and winter squash.
How long do vegetables last in the fridge?
Properly stored and refrigerated, most vegetable types will last around 2-4 weeks before showing signs of spoiling like wilting, mold, or texture changes. Leafy greens may only last 5-7 days. Berries are more delicate and may only keep for 3-6 days. Winter squash and potatoes have a longer shelf life, often 2-3 months in the fridge.
What are the best fridge temperatures for vegetables?
Most vegetables do best when stored at temperatures of around 32°F to 40°F (0°C to 4°C). The ideal humidity level for the produce drawers in your fridge is around 90-95% relative humidity. This helps vegetables retain moisture and avoid drying out.
How can you extend vegetable shelf life?
A few tips to make vegetables last longer:
- Store at the right fridge temperature – between 32°-40°F.
- Use high-humidity drawer bins designed for produce.
- Do not overcrowd produce – keep loose.
- Avoid washing veggies until ready to eat.
- Rotate older vegetables to use first.
- Remove any spoiled, moldy, or damaged produce promptly.
Can you freeze vegetables without blanching?
Most vegetables need to be blanched before freezing to deactivate enzymes that cause spoilage and preserve texture, color, and flavor. A few exceptions are green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and asparagus – their low enzyme levels allow them to be frozen raw in air-tight containers. Blanching involves a quick boil, then ice bath shock.
Are dehydrated vegetables as nutritious as fresh?
Dehydrated vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions can make a convenient plastic-free fridge storage option, however, dehydration does lead to some vitamin and antioxidant loss. Brief exposure to heat during dehydration destroys heat-sensitive vitamin C and vitamin B6. However, dehydrated veggies retain a good amount of minerals, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin K.
Ditching plastic for vegetable storage takes a bit more forethought but offers big rewards for your health and the environment. Glass, stainless steel, and other reusable containers provide safer, chemical-free storage options that prevent waste. Following proper techniques for individual vegetables also helps maximize their shelf life.
With some clever ideas for wrapping, lining, and stacking, you can easily store all your vegetables without single-use plastics. Focus on maintaining ideal fridge temperatures and humidity. And don’t forget to eat them at their peak of freshness!