Food for thought: Do storage containers keep your fruits and veggies fresh longer?

May 16, 2024, 10:38 PM | Updated: 10:48 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The following is a common scenario in many American households: We buy fruits and vegetables. We intend to eat said fruits and vegetables.

But for whatever reason, many of us just can’t seem to eat all that produce before it spoils, and a big chunk of it lands in the garbage – uneaten and wasted.

The KSL Investigators scoured the internet looking for any tips, tricks and “old husband” tales of ways that will keep produce fresher longer.

We found loads of advice, some of it contradictory – none more so than whether rinsing produce before storage is a good idea.

We also found tons of products boasting they will prolong the life of your fruits and vegetables. But do those storage containers live up to the hype? We put some to the test.

Our little experiment

We purchased two sets of food preservation systems. One sells for the fairly inexpensive price of $22. The other set – a more “Cadillac” version – sells for $55.

Both sets included colanders that rest inside plastic bins. The more expensive set included dividers and vents that can be open or shut. That set included instructions informing users to leave the vents open for fruits and closed when storing vegetables.

At the supermarket, we bought four containers of strawberries, four containers of spinach and four bunches of grapes.

Neither food saver bin we tested gave guidance on whether we should wash produce first. So, we rinsed some of that produce while not rinsing others.

We split half our produce between the colander containers and kept the other half in its original store containers. Then we popped it all in a fridge and waited.

Over the course of four weeks, we checked in on our experiment every few days.

For the first several days, everything seemed fine – more or less. A week later, the differences between our produce in the food saver bins and the samples still in their original containers were still minimal. Visually, they looked the same, but we noted ever-so slight changes in taste.

But after two weeks in the fridge, the differences became less subtle – with noticeable changes in colors and textures of the samples still in their original containers compared to those stored in the food saver containers. Visually, the grapes and strawberries in the bins held up stronger – less spots, less mold, less changes in texture. And the smell of spoiled spinach seemed more pronounced for the sets in their original containers.

After week three, the differences became much more quantifiable. The strawberries kept in their original containers were noticeably softer.

They exhibited an elasticity not found in fresh-from-the-store strawberries. The samples in the food saver containers, however, seemed fresher – firmer with less pronounced browning. Though a single strawberry in the more expensive, vented container became enclosed by a thick, fuzzy layer of mold.

As for the spinach, the leaves that were rinsed at the start of our experiment and then put back in the original container were spoiled more significantly. It seemed extra moisture pooled at the bottom in the original store containers, causing much more damage than the samples in the food saver bins with their colanders.

The final check

In week four came the final check. The one fuzzy, moldy strawberry kept in the more expensive container corrupted the entire lot. Nearly all were encased in a layer of mold. The two lots kept in their original packaging? Spoiled way past being edible. Surprisingly, the strawberries kept in the cheaper, non-vented food saver were by and large still edible with hardly any change in taste.

As for the spinach? Both third-party containers seemed to have done a decent job keeping it relatively fresh throughout the month. Yes, some leaves were considerably wilted but nothing I wouldn’t throw into a smoothie. Alas, we could not say the same for the lots we left in their original supermarket containers – especially the one we rinsed. The smell and – well – sliminess were too far gone.

The grapes kept in their original packaging all became soft. Rinsed. Unrinsed. It didn’t matter. But the bunches kept in the food saver bins were by and large – edible.

The bottom line according to our experiment: Food saver containers can prolong the life of your produce. And you don’t necessarily need to shell out the money to buy the most expensive set to keep your fruits and veggies fresher longer. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to make a concerted effort to use the produce in your kitchen as soon as you can.

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Food for thought: Do storage containers keep your fruits and veggies fresh longer?