Consumer Reports: Longer life for fruits and vegetables

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The average American family wastes $1,500 dollars worth of food a year, according to the Department of Agriculture. (WPVI)

We throw away an awful lot of food. The average American family wastes $1,500 dollars worth of food a year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Much of the food we end up throwing out is produce.

We know eating our fruits and veggies is good for us. But more than half the produce we buy ends up in the garbage.

So to find the best way to keep food fresh and stop the waste, Consumer Reports did some testing.

It tried seven containers, including the Oxo Good Grips Greensaver for $20 dollars and the Rubbermaid Fresh Works, also $20 dollars.

They were filled with raspberries, strawberries, baby leafy greens, and head lettuce. Testers also stored samples in their original clamshell containers.

They were left in a refrigerator and checked regularly.

The greens in the Oxo Good Grips held up well. And the strawberries in the Rubbermaid looked better than the others. But is it worth buying special containers?

"Overall, we found that none of the containers kept produce much fresher than the original clamshells," said Bernie Deitrick from Consumer Reports.

However, Consumer Reports says your refrigerator itself can make a difference. Produce that's stored in a dual-evaporative refrigerator - one that chills the freezer and refrigerator sections separately - lasts longer.

But any refrigerator can do a better job if you store foods in the right place.

"The best move is to store fruits and vegetables in low and high humidity bins in the refrigerator when you bring them home," said Consumer Reports Nutritionist, Ellen Klosz.

For instance, broccoli and leafy greens should go in a high-humidity drawer. The low-humidity drawer is best for most fruits.

And some produce should never go into the refrigerator. Tomatoes do best stem side down on the counter. Keep potatoes and onions separate, because gases from the onions will cause the potatoes to sprout.

Bread will last longer if you keep it in the freezer, not the refrigerator. Take out what you need as you go along. It just takes a few minutes to thaw.
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