The 2 Rules That Help Me Organize My Crisper Drawers and Waste Less Food

published Oct 16, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: The Kitchn

While our individual health and wellness goals may all look a little different, there’s one thing most of us can agree on: It’s good to eat more plants. Of course — no secret here — the first step to eating more produce is to buy it.

But once you’ve selected and brought your veggies home, it’s easy to lose track of your crisper drawer’s motley crew of produce in varying stages of prep and age. Now, to be honest, I may be a bit extreme, but nothing grinds my corn more than a disorganized crisper! Not only do haphazardly (and improperly) stored veggies rot and wilt more quickly, but they also actually work against your goal to cook them.

Which brings me to my veggie storage system! Is it groundbreaking? Probably not. Is it rocket science? Definitely not. But by applying two “rules” to every piece of produce that I buy, I’m eating a lot more fresh veggies! Both steps are important, but it’s the second one that really keeps me on top of my produce game. Ready to learn my system? Here goes!

Credit: Kitchn Video

Rule 1: Clean and prep veggies before you store them.

Plenty of cooks have written about the benefits of prepping veggies in a big batch once a week. The reason behind this is obvious: You’re more likely to cook broccoli, for example, on a busy Wednesday night if you don’t have to first rinse it, chop it, and clean up the one billion pieces of broccoli “confetti” decorating your countertop. (Chopped produce does tend to go bad faster than whole produce, but the whole point is that this makes you more likely to eat it! Before it has the chance to rot!)

I like to batch-prep my veggies for simpler reasons: They take up less space in the refrigerator and are easier to organize in storage bags (more on that in a minute). Veggies come in countless shapes and sizes, and storing whole cucumbers, beets, cauliflower, and kale in your crisper can become a game of Tetris. But when you remove the stems, cores, and thick peels, then chop the veggies into small pieces, you level the playing field — everything is uniformly shaped and sized, and ready to cook. You suddenly have more room in the crisper! Now, it’s all up to how you store these prepped veggies, which brings me to rule number two.

Rule 2: Store the veggies in uniform bags.

After I prep the goods, I store them in zip-top bags. I pack the bags, remove excess air, seal them, and place them neatly in an upright row in the crisper. This makes it much easier to look through when I’m deciding what to cook for dinner. I love that they are sturdy enough to stand upright, rather than in a jumble at the bottom of the drawer. Think of it as flipping through an old poster display rack — it’s simple to assess your inventory and choose what you want, without having to dig through the drawer. You can label the bags if you want, using a marker and tape. But the benefit of clear bags allows you to quickly identify what’s inside.

As food safety experts have advised, keeping vegetables in bags reduces moisture levels and keeps produce fresher, longer. I keep both the gallon- and quart-sized bags handy. The gallon ones are perfect for rinsed and de-stemmed cooking greens, lettuce, and just about any and every type of root vegetable. The quart bags are handy for fresh herbs, or small quantities, like chopped bell peppers.

Some may argue that conventional plastic bags can “suffocate” vegetables by trapping stale air and ethylene gas (which certain produce gives off naturally, affecting the ripening process). Others might say the whole point of a crisper drawer is to offer a more or less humid environment than the rest of the interior refrigerator. So, why even put produce in sealed bags? For me, the plastic bags just work — largely because I speed through eating them a lot faster than if I just left veggies in the drawers.

And I know: Plastic bags can get expensive and wasteful if you buy them every week. But because mine just store raw produce, I only purchase a new box once or twice per year. When a bag is emptied, I give it a quick rinse and dry it out before reusing. The only time I have to toss my plastic storage bags is if a veggie has gone moldy inside, or if the seal breaks. Both are rare circumstances!

I have yet to spring for a set of totally reusable produce bags, but I’m definitely considering it! Maybe when I run out of plastic ones, I’ll have to see if reusable produce bags work as part of my veggie organizing system.

Do you have a system for organizing your crisper drawer? Tell us in the comments below.