The fridge, and food storage without plastic, was the most daunting aspect of zero waste for me. I had this hangup that my food couldn’t be fresh without plastic, especially greens. Even after I was making my own toothpaste, buying bulk in my own jars, and eschewing plastic produce bags, those big plastic clamshells of Costco spinach and mixed greens were still in my fridge, a glaring disjoint from the rest of my life picture.
check out all that plastic. Pre zero waste and 100% oblivious.
We used to do a huge $200+ Costco haul every Sunday morning. It was an absolute ritual for us. I had anxiety about giving it up. I thought I would miss out, I would spend more money, I wouldn’t be able to buy as much food. But I was wrong! We actually save money by not shopping at Costco and other chain stores and everything in our fridge is stored easily without single use plastic bags and containers. I actually find that I waste less (is it just me or do those clamshells of greens go bad SO fast?!?!) which is also better for the planet, and your budget.
Mostly what saves me the $$$ is by buying local and seasonal produce, and being flexible. For example, if something is a good price that week, like carrots, then I’ll buy a lot of those and make them many different ways- maybe even freezing carrot soup for later, too. Or buying RIPE and “imperfect” veggies- often these can be bought at a discount and might otherwise go to waste- spotty bananas, wonky looking kiwis, bruised berries. Also, I can’t say this enough, but cutting out the snack foods in favor of whole plant foods saves SO MUCH MONEY and is so much healthier.
Many of you have reached out asking for a storage “guide” to a plastic free fridge. Here’s how I store my produce. You can store in whatever you have available- personally, I already had a set of glass snaplock containers like these ones and a set of sealing Pyrex glass bowls like these, so thats what I use. I already had lots of mason jars from canning tomatoes every fall, so I use those too. You can find a plethora of glass jars and storage containers at thrift stores for hardly anything. Also essential are kitchen towels to wrap produce in, I used those forever, but now I invested in these Swag Bags (been using for about a year) and they’re super convenient and I adore them.
I prefer storing leftovers in mason jars as it makes it really easy to see, and thus, to eat. You can freeze in mason jars too- make sure they’re canning jars, and leave a good two inches of space, and make sure to cool to room or fridge temp before freezing.
To freeze excess or overripe fruit: cut up, if necessary, and place on a baking sheet or plate (you can line with a silicone mat or parchment for easy removal) and then, once frozen solid, transfer to jars. This a great, economical way to have your own frozen fruit. I go berry picking in the summer and stock up the freezer for winter. For bananas, I peel and freeze in an old large rubbermaid plastic storage container.
Also, I shop twice a week- I find that buying less at a time as opposed to one huge haul means less waste for us. Fresh food is just that, fresh! Don’t expect it to last forever, eat these beauties up for best nutrition, flavor and freshness.
plastic free produce storage:
apples: unwashed, loose in the fridge drawer.
artichokes: straight into the veg drawer.
asparagus: trim 1/4 inch off the bottom of the stems and place in a jar with an inch or so of water and place in the fridge. Add water as needed.
avocados: leave on the counter until ripe, then place in fridge to prolong life once they become soft. store cut halves cut side down in a snug glass snapback container or on a plate with something heavy on top to keep it pushed down and “sealed”.
bananas: out on the counter and away from other produce. I wipe them down with my vinegar/water all purpose spray to discourage fruit flies.
beets: remove the leaves and stems as they will continue to draw water and flavor from the beet if left on. Save the leaves to sauté later, they are delicious. Store all together or separately- usually I place the beets in a bowl and then place the leaves on top, then put the lid on. If your beets are small enough to fit, you can store in a mason jar. Or steam or pickle them before storing to use throughout the week. Heres a post I did all about beets!
bell pepper: straight into the veg drawer, loose. Leftover cut halves can be stored in a mason jar or other sealable container.
bread: store in a paper or cloth bag on the counter. For longer term storage, slice and freeze in a paper or cloth bag. Stale bread makes perfect breadcrumbs- break into pieces and bake if necessary to dry more completely, then pulse in a food processor. Store the crumbs in a jar in the fridge for a month.
broccoli: store either: wrapped in a damp kitchen towel, in a swag bag, or cut up and in mason jars or a container with a lid.
brussels sprouts: in a cloth bag in the veg drawer, or sometimes I trim and halve, then store in a jar or container for easy cooking in the week. If you buy on a stalk, they can live in the fridge for a long time on a shelf or in the drawer.
cabbage: can go straight into the veggie drawer, even after its been cut. or wrap in a damp towel.
carrots: store in water, in a big jar or bowl.
cauliflower: cut it up and store in jars or a container with a lid; or, put it into the drawer whole or wrap with a damp kitchen towel.
celery: store in a swag bag or wrapped in a damp towel, or trim off the bottom and store like carrots with water.
cherries: on the counter is best, for longer storage keep in a ventilated mesh bag or colander in the fridge shelf.
chiles: loose in the fridge in a ventilated bowl. Extras can be frozen or fermented into hot sauce.
cilantro: store in a damp towel or a swag bag.
citrus: if soft, store in fridge to reduce risk of molding. If hard, leave on counter. Store cut lemon/lime halves cut side down on a plate or in a mason jar.
cucumber: unwashed, in the veg drawer or in a damp towel or swag bag.
eggplant: if using in the next few days, the counter is fine. otherwise, straight into the veg drawer.
fennel: trim off the fronds and place either straight into the fridge drawer if you will use it in the next few days, or in a container or wrapped in a damp towel for longer storage.
garlic + onions: keep on the counter, in a breathable basket. fresh spring garlic goes in the fridge, loose. Cut onions can be stored in a jar in the fridge to prevent smell and lee them fresh without Saran Wrap.
fresh ginger + turmeric: loose in the veg or fruit drawer of the fridge.
grapes: unwashed, in a bowl or cloth bag on a fridge shelf.
green beans: in a cloth bag or wrapped in a damp kitchen towel or swag bag.
greens: I store these in a large Pyrex bowl with a lid, in my salad spinner, or in a swag bag. Sometimes I cut up kale for easy cooking during the week. You can always freeze, too, for smoothies if you end up with too many greens or wilty ones.
hardy herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, the like): keep very well in a mason jar.
kiwi: on the counter.
leeks: trim the tough tops, reserve for making stock (keep in the freezer). Then, either straight into the drawer or wrapped loosely with a damp kitchen towel.
melons: on the counter until ripe, then move to fridge as needed. Cut melons can be placed cut side down on a plate or covered with a wax wrap.
mushrooms: loose in a cloth bag on a fridge shelf.
parsley: trim 1/2 inch off the stems, remove any twist ties or rubber bands, and place in water in a jar like you would flowers. Store in the door of the fridge.
peaches, plums, nectarines: on the counter. to extend storage, refrigerate after ripe or cut and freeze/make jam if you have excess or overripe fruit.
peas: keep well in a mason jar or other sealed container.
persimmon: on the counter.
pineapple: on the counter till ripe, then cut and store in jars in the fridge; or, twist off the stem and place upside down on a plate in the fridge.
pomegranates: on the counter, or deseed and keep in a jar in the fridge for easy use.
potatoes + sweet potatoes: store in a ventilated container (like a basket) under the counter or in a dark, cool spot. Away from onions.
radishes: store in water in a mason jar for crispiest results.
strawberries: store in a mason jar or other sealable container. freeze bruised ones or make fresh chia jam.
squash (winter): store in a cool, dark place (I store it under the counter). Sometimes I peel and cube it and then store in a mason jar for easy cooking in the week.
tomatoes: on the counter.
zucchini: in a swag bag, wrapped in a damp cloth, or sometimes I leave them out on the counter if I’m using in the next day or two. Sometimes I spiralize them and store in containers or jars for a quick meal with sauce.