1. K-State home
  2. »Research and Extension
  3. »Johnson County
  4. »Health and Nutrition
  5. »Articles
  6. »Buying and Storing Fresh Produce

Johnson County

Research-based Information You Can Trust — Localized for your needs

Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax
jo@listserv.ksu.edu

Map to our office

Buying and Storing Fresh Produce: Do's and Don'ts

Return to Heath and Nutrition Agent Articles

The farmers’ markets and fresh produce sections at the grocery store are finally in full seasonal swing in Johnson County!  I’m not sure about you, but I’m starting to get a little tired of bananas, apples and oranges. And it’s my hope that you relish and enjoy all the beauty and delicious nutrition that fresh produce has to offer. But keep in mind that fresh produce was once part of a living organism, and living organisms tend to attract and be surrounded by other living organisms, and not all living organisms are friendly to our health.

Thankfully, there are some strategies we can employ that will help keep our experience of enjoying fresh produce a healthy one. When shopping at stores or farmers’ markets, remember to:
  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods. Sometimes packages will leak (especially if your 9-year old likes to pretend he’s Shaquille O’ Neal and throws packages into the grocery cart and ends up damaging/breaking seals in the process) and the meat juices may cross contaminate ready-to-eat items like fresh produce. Also, make your meat and dairy selections last, if possible. While not conducive to most store layouts, I gather my unperishable items (canned goods, cereals, nuts, anything in a box in the middle of the store) first, then produce, then meat, then dairy, and save frozen items for last and always make sure they’re sitting close to my dairy products as an extra cushion of coldness.
  • Make the store/market your last stop. Don’t stock up on groceries then run errands afterwards. There’s a chance your food could spoil (especially in hot weather) or lessen in quality.
  • If your drive home from the store/market takes longer than an hour, use a cooler/insulated -bags to keep the food fresh and safe.
  • Before consuming ANY produce, it’s important to thoroughly wash the items under hot running water even if you are not eating the peel as dirt can transfer from the outside to inside. So yes, this means I’m recommending you wash your onions! It’s not necessary to wash with soap or special commercial produce washes; clean running water is enough. Clean scrub brushes are helpful when washing tough or dimpled skinned produce like potatoes and melons.

When you get home from the grocery/market, make sure to store your produce properly to maintain its quality and safety.  See the chart below for storage guides.

Storage Location:Fruits and Melons:Vegetables :
Store in refrigerator
(<40°F)
*Keep in moisture-proof bags with a few homes to retain moisture while allowing for air flow to prevent condensation.
Apples (>7 days)
Apricots
Berries
Cherries
Cut fruits
Grapes
(Any fruit that has been peeled or cut open)
Herbs
Carrots
Mushrooms
Cauliflower
Green Beans
Cut Veggies
Beets
Leafy Greens
Broccoli
Summer Squash
Cabbage
Sweet Corn
(Any veggie that has been peeled or cut open)
Ripen on the counter, then store in refrigeratorAvocados
Peaches
Pears
 
Store at room temperature Apples (<7 days)
Bananas
Citrus fruits Muskmelon
Watermelon
Basil (in water)
Peppers (can be refrigerated)
Cucumbers (can be refrigerated)
Dry Onions (in well-ventilated area)
Pumpkins
Eggplant (can be refrigerated)
Potatoes (in well-ventilated area)
Sweet Potatoes (in well-ventilated area)
Garlic (in well-ventilated area)
Tomatoes
Winter Squash

When possible, make an effort to shop at farmers’ markets as they are an excellent opportunity to visit with local farmers and learn more about your food. Plus, it’s more fun than shopping at the grocery store. But do be aware that farmers’ markets should be displaying good food safety practices to ensure that the products’ quality and safeness are maintained. Here are some things to look for:

Food Type/Category:What to Look For: 
 Fresh ProduceClean, looks fresh, no cuts or nicks
Cut or Peeled ProduceSurrounded by ice and looks fresh and cold
Meats, Eggs, CheesesProduct is in cooler or on ice
 MilkMust be pasteurized (KS/MO regulation)
 Juice, cider Pasteurized is safest
 Hot prepared foodsVendor should be using thermometer and lids on pots/pans and should see steam rising from pots/pans
Home-canned FoodsAsk how it was prepared and handled
Booth, Personal CleanlinessVendors have clean clothes, hands, maintain good personal hygiene (not wiping nose, playing with hair, etc.)
 All Products Ask vendors about their food safety practices

Also, only purchase what you’ll consume in between shopping trips. This can be tricky if you have a small or single household. According to the USDA, 31%, or 133 billion pounds of food in the United States ends up in the landfill. If you worry about buying too much and hate throwing away good food each week but aren’t quite sure how to make smaller portions so you’re not eating leftovers for days, then consider enrolling in our Johnson County Extension Master Food Volunteer class “Cooking for 1 or 2”, Tuesday, June 20, from 6 – 8 pm at our Johnson County Extension Office in Olathe. To register, please call 913-715-7000 or click here


Other Resources

Contact Us

Crystal Futrell
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
crystal.futrell@jocogov.org