Feeling accomplished takes many forms. Recipes and snacking are much easier when fruits and vegetables have been prepared ahead of time. Fruit and veggie prep is a great way to feel accomplished. These veggie prep guidelines will give you that sense of satisfaction!
Have you ever unpacked groceries and discovered you already had on hand some of the produce you just purchased? Or how about the disappointment of discovering wilted, soggy veggies in the crisper drawer? Or your raspberries are growing less-than-desirable forms of probiotic? Another meal and snack plan ruined!
It takes time and thought to create a menu, prepare a grocery list, and then shop to get everything you need. So it’s ideal to actually follow through with the mouth-watering plans you made! One helpful route is to line up your needs for the week and prepare some of the produce to be easily grabbed and used on the day it is on the menu plan.
Veggie Prep Guidelines: A How To
Some vegetables just shouldn’t be prepared ahead. Peppers tend to get slimy on the edges. Similarly, tomatoes are best cut fresh right before a meal. But many vegetables can be cut and stored for easy use later.
Kale is one I prefer to clean up immediately when coming home from the grocery store. If a handful isn’t ready to go into a smoothie, I’m probably not going to spend time preparing it at breakfast time.
Carrots can be peeled, cut, and stored in a container with some water over them, which keeps them crisp and ready to eat. Potatoes must be covered with water to keep them from getting brown. Spiralized zucchini or summer squash keeps great all week in an airtight container. Careful cleaning and storage will ensure the longest life possible for many of your vegetables that you prep ahead.
Be sure to wash your produce before you ever drag a knife through it. Bacteria on the outside skin, even an orange rind, can be transferred to the edible fruit that way.
The Cleaning Process
Cleaning fruits and vegetables well is crucial to remove all of the germs from the farm, boxes, trucks, handlers, and possible encounters with a grocery store floor before you ever laid eyes on them. Gentle scrubbing or using a vinegar cleaning method removes or kills off the particles of bacteria on your produce. For larger, solid fruits and vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers, cucumber, potatoes, zucchini, squash, and even most fruits like cantaloupe, apples, oranges, watermelon), I rub under a flow of running water with my hands or a scrubbie.
Softer fruits and vegetables (mushrooms, strawberries, grapes) and leafy vegetables get special treatment in a bowl of water mixed with white vinegar. I use about a cup of vinegar into a gallon or two of water. I don’t measure it. Let the produce set in the water for a few minutes, swish it around, rub any spots of dirt off, and then drain off and rinse with clear water.
Another method is to prepare a spray bottle with four parts water to one part vinegar. Spray fruits or vegetables with your solution, allow to set for a couple minutes, then rinse and wash off. I use this method by loading smaller portions of fruit into a colander.
Drying Is Important
Before tucking away your fruits and veggies, blot them dry and let them continue to air dry on a towel. Fruit can be stored whole. You can choose whether to store fruit in an airtight or breathable container. I have found pros and cons to both, so I like to let grapes sit in a bowl with a moist cloth spread over them, which keeps them from drying out. Berries are stored in a breathable container, often the clamshell they came in, but washed up so that you don’t put clean produce back into dirty plasticware.
Airtight containers are all that some diced veggies need, and they’ll be ready and waiting three days later for you to toss them into stir fry or combine them into a salad. Consider how long you’ll be keeping your prepped veggies in the fridge, and be wise about your expectations.
Preparing zoodles ahead of time is a perfect way to spend some weekend downtime. Spiralizing your zucchini or squash squeezes out a lot of moisture, so you’re left with relatively dry vegetables that I have found will last five to six days in a sealed container in the fridge before I use them in a recipe.
Rescuing Veggies Before They Spoil
There will be those days when you open a crisper drawer to find that some of your veggies are almost to the point of no return. With some cleaning and knifework, you can bag up nutritious diced vegetables for the freezer that will go into omelets, soups, and casseroles at a moment’s notice. No thawing needed. Wash, chop, bag, freeze, shake loose, cook, eat.
Just a little planning and motivation with these veggie prep guidelines will keep your produce supply stocked up and ready for any snack or meal!
Recipes Using Vegetables
Put your prepared veggies into these great recipes: