How do I make a refrigerator more veggie-friendly?
January 25, 2020 1:22 PM   Subscribe

What it says in the title. Refrigerators seem to be intended primarily for storing packaged food, cartons of milk and cans of soda. We're eating (and trying to eat) more bulky green leafy things these days.

Stuff like kale, squashes, cabbage takes up a lot of awkward space. The two little slide-out drawers for veggies and fruit are fine for a head of cauliflower and a few tomatoes, but that's about it. And if you're not paying attention to whats in there they can quickly become de-facto compost bins. I've seen some general guides to organizing your fridge better (one on Serious Eats I think) or keeping it clean, (and we've got some of those long skinny organizer bins from the Container Store which help for some things) but what I'm looking for is specific to are changes or objects that will make my fridge better serve my needs and aspirations to eat more vegetables.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
We use a greensaver for salad greens and keep fresh herbs in a glass of water, will often put stuff like radishes in bowl after trimming the tops which get slimy. I've got a bunch of mesh bags I use for produce.
posted by leslies at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

The bottom shelf of our fridge is often the Big FLuffy Greens shelf. They're fine in a bag for a couple days, and the point is to eat them in a couple days, so. (Very back of that shelf holds things we don't need to touch often -- airtight seeds, stratified seeds germinating, lard...)

it probably helps the household diet that greens physically displace processed food even before they displace it in our eating habits.
posted by clew at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2020

Best answer: There are a couple things here. First is simply to pay attention to the veggie drawers. I'm not sure what good they do in scientific terms, but it's a lot of space and it's important to keep them from turning into lettuce swamps. Set your phone to shout VEGGIES every couple of days so you remember to maintain that space.

Beyond big-picture stuff, I've had pretty good luck cutting lettuce right when I get it and storing it in a big ziplock like it's a big salad kit. For dividing up shelves, I don't know how sanitary it would be, but I'd use short wicker-type baskets that they probably sell at Pier 1/Cost Plus. If that's a bad idea, Container store mini-colanders or something else porous and inert (Daiso if you have one).
posted by rhizome at 1:52 PM on January 25, 2020

I use a lot of bins and a one or two helper shelves - you can put one along the right or left side of your bottom shelf and reclaim some storage space above large veg to stack smaller things.

There's also a bunch of stuff I store at room temp, a lot of them in one of these. If it's in the part of the produce department that gets the rain showers, I will keep it in the drawers or on the counter if I'm going to use it within 4ish days if I think it can take it. Whole cabbage, winter and summer squash, tomatoes, root veg, cucumbers especially if they weren't stored cold at the store (my Aldi doesn't), cauliflower, eggplants for a couple days, green beans, peppers, onions, avocadoes until they're ripe. There are lists around the internet of what you can and can't generally store out of the fridge, but keep in mind this also depends a lot on where you live, where the items came from, and how they were handled before you got them.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:03 PM on January 25, 2020

These Produce Savers really work well and help make things stackable too. I also found this article about crisper drawer humidity very useful.
posted by advicepig at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Seconding the water glasses tip for anything with stems! We store cilantro, kale, and spinach in mason jars with water and it makes a big difference. They keep for weeks.
posted by jnrs at 2:45 PM on January 25, 2020

Best answer: -peeling and chopping carrots and storing them in water
-ditto celery, cucumber, peppers
-specifically cucumber and lemons store well with just their cut faces in a shallow bowl of water
-scallions can be kept stored in water in the fridge as if they were cut flowers; they'll even regrow if you don't use them quickly
-leftover olive/yogurt/sour cream etc containers are good places to store half an onion or such and they won't object to being stored with some cut up peppers
-a lot of vegetables benefit from a well-wrung cloth on top of them to preserve moisture (lettuce, for example)
-basil can sit on the counter like cut flowers
-mushrooms store best in paper bags, as do brussells sprouts (for some reason)

Don't neglect tupperware, leftover plastics, etc. as storage...they hold in moisture and keep the whole fridge from smelling like onion etc and they spare you using a plastic bag

That's all I got.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:17 PM on January 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

We removed some of our fridge drawers entirely so that we can have more shelves for vegetable containers, which keep vegetables fresher and are easier to access. (In our fridge, taking the drawers out leaves shelves behind.)
posted by Lirp at 3:50 PM on January 25, 2020

Whole squash does not need to be refrigerated. For greens, just steam them down and store them in reusable containers.
posted by ananci at 3:59 PM on January 25, 2020

This oxo herb saver works really well compared to what we used to do (parsley or cilantro in a plastic bag, becomes slimy mush in 4 days). I've had flat-leaf parsley keep for a week or two.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 4:42 PM on January 25, 2020

All the suggestions here are wonderful - thanks!

The one thing that we started doing that has eliminated Too Far Gone food in our refrigerator is a magnetic write on/wipe off board and a Sharpie. Every Wednesday Mr K and I wipe the board clean, pull out the perishable stuff, write the oldest and/or least likely to last another week at the top of the list. There are no actual rules, but we now rarely exclaim "Oh Icky!" and shove once lovely produce in the compost.

(We do it on Wednesday becaused that's the day we get a delivery of local produce. I think it works better if it's the same day every week)
posted by kestralwing at 5:35 PM on January 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

I asked a similar question 2 years ago and what we ended up doing is changing our shopping habits. I now do the grocery shopping twice a week. A larger shopping on the weekend and a small one on Wednesday for milk and whatever else we are short on. I usually don't buy vegetables on Wednesdays and we just finish off what easily perishable vegetables we have by the next weekend.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:36 PM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Many of your examples don't need refrigeration. Tomatoes keep their texture better at room temperature. Squash will last weeks if not months at room temperature. Cabbage is easily good for a week.

But to answer your question: I wash and cut all my vegetables when I get home. That saves me the trouble of storing the inedible bits, and usually reduces awkwardly shaped stuff down to neat, stackable plastic containers.

The industry standard for such containers is Cambro. They cost a few dollars each, stack and nest, and come in a variety of sizes from 2L to 32L. I have a bunch of 2L and 6L containers. Because they are square, they are way more space-efficient than the round yogurt tubs I was reusing before.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:28 PM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I find a couple bunches of greens (or bags, if the pre-cut stuff) fit just fine on the shorter shelves of my fridge. I'd probably suggest an extra shelf or two, if your shelves as-is are too tall. No harm in leaving stuff out of the "veggie drawer" - just notice if a part of your fridge tends to freeze things, because that will turn lettuce to slime much faster than decomposition does. If you do have a freezing problem, consider adjusting your fridge temperature.
posted by Lady Li at 1:18 AM on January 26, 2020

Sideways approach: wash, cut, and cook all your vegetables right after shopping. Recommended (and demonstrated) by Tamar Adler in her cookbook, An Everlasting Meal, you start with the densest and longest-cooking vegetable (beets, winter squash, root vegetables) then work your way through softer vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and summer squash, down to leafy greens. Then, you are storing the cooked (or washed and prepped) vegetables, not their fresh, bulky selves. Bonus: they are ready to eat or ready as ingredients in quicker meals. While I don't do this method with all vegetables every week, I have successfully employed it and both crammed more vegetables into the fridge and eaten more vegetables. Works fine in conjunction with many of the suggestions for fresh vegetable storage others have shared.

There are also some neat tips in The Nimble Cook by Ronna Welsh that I recently read and am interested in trying, like buying head lettuce, cutting it into wedges, washing, then storing rolled in paper towels.
posted by carrioncomfort at 4:06 AM on January 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I keep fresh herbs upright in a mason jar with water in the jar. It's basically like putting flowers in a vase with water. the herbs stay fresh longer and the presentation makes you want to use them.
posted by caveatz at 8:19 AM on January 27, 2020

« Older Editing Mp4s (Filter:Clueless)   |   What to do with a button box Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.