During my health coaching career, I once spoke to a spirited, feisty, self-aware 80-something. She was great to talk to, and she had a conundrum that I’m guessing a lot of you might also have: she kept buying fruits and veggies, but then they’d go bad in the bottom drawer without ever having seen the light of day.
A Common Problem
She knew she should be eating this stuff—she really wanted to eat it, so she’d dutifully make her grocery list, go to the store, buy the grapes, the lettuce, the colorful bell peppers, then put them in the vegetable crisper when she got home. Which is where they stayed until she opened the drawer and realized they had passed by and were now in a better place.
As you can imagine, she wanted to know how to avoid buying all sorts of produce and then wasting it, and how to make fruits and veggies the star of the dinner plate. Here’s what I told her.
- Buy things you actually like. It’s nice to try new vegetables and fruits, but if you keep throwing stuff away, you’re better off buying things you know you want to eat.
- Buy it for the right reasons. Instead of getting stuck in the “but I’m supposed to eat vegetables even though I don’t like them” mindset, buy them because you think they could be good. Remember those roasted carrots they served that you thought were so delectable? Try making those at home instead of buying a bunch of zucchini squash that you know you don’t even like.
- Buy it frozen. You know what’s great about frozen veggies? You have so, so much more time to eat them. The industry has upped the frozen veggie game in the 20 years since I was a picky teenager, and much of it is easy to steam right in the bag and comes with seasonings to make it extra delicious.
- Speaking of the freezer, if you realize you haven’t eaten something and it’s going to go bad soon, put it in the freezer! Berries and most fruits freeze beautifully, and things like chopped up onions and bell peppers are great for quick dinners.
- Buy it already prepared. It’s true that washed and chopped produce will not last as long in your fridge—but if having to wash and chop the pineapple (or carrots or onions or lettuce) is what’s keeping you from eating it, then by all means, buy it so it’s ready to eat!!! And after you buy that gorgeous fruit tray…
- …Put it where you can see it. That vegetable drawer is great for making veggies last longer, but if they’re lasting longer just so you can throw them away, well, that’s not really worth it. Instead of hiding away those juicy berries or crisp celery and carrot sticks, put them right where you can see them every single time you open the fridge.
- Keep a list of what you have available. I have a white dry erase board right on my fridge, and sometimes I jot down what’s lurking in the vegetable drawers so I don’t forget. If you want to make sure you prepare that eggplant or asparagus, write it down so you can see it!
- Try adding veggies to the meals you already eat (even frozen and prepackaged ones). My client had a tendency to eat the same things over and over—a container of yogurt for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, a frozen meal for dinner. Because of this, produce didn’t necessarily enter her mind, even though it was in her fridge. In order to overcome this, you don’t have to change up your entire routine, just try adding to what you already eat. Instead of just a container of yogurt, have a cup of berries, too. A plain sandwich might do well with the addition of baby carrots and cherry tomatoes on the side. And even a frozen meal can benefit—try buying a bag of pre-made salad and serving yourself a portion alongside what you’re already eating.
Make it easier on yourself. Don’t buy a ton of produce because you “should.” Buy a reasonable amount of fruits and veggies that you actually think you can finish, and then pat yourself on the back when you follow through.