The best way to ensure that your family’s eating fresh vegetables on a regular basis is to have a variety of them on hand and ready to throw on the grill, in a steamer, blender, salad bowl, dip, or recipe at any given time. This can easily be done by blocking out a 1-2 hour chunk to time once or twice a week to wash and chop vegetables, then store them for quick, easy access. Following is a simply, tried and true 3-step method.
Keep in mind that the first couple of times you do it will take a little longer. But like most things worth learning, the more you do it, the easier and more routine it will become. So have fun and persevere – renewed mood, health, and energy will be your reward! Enlist the help of other household members or hire the teenager next door to save even more time.
Three Easy Steps for Fresh Veggies All Week Long:
To ensure freshness, plan to shop for produce the day of, or the day before you plan to chop and store it. Choose vegetables that are dark in color, firm to the touch with no bruises or bad spots, locally grown, in-season, and organic whenever possible.
For steaming, roasting, or grilling, choose zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, onions, boo choy, celery, carrots, portobello mushrooms, green beans, brussel sprouts, etc. You can also steam green leafy veggies such as swiss chard, boo chop leaves, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and beet greens. Leafy greens are also great to throw in smoothies. For salads, choose lettuce, spinach, fresh herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, etc.
Store all fresh produce in the refrigerator until ready to wash and chop if you’re doing so the next day.
Wash & Chop
To bulk wash, place veggies in a sink or large wash basin with 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar and let soak for 10-20 minutes to remove 98% of contaminants. Scrub off any remaining dirt with a vegetable brush, then rinse by running under clean, cool water.
Air or towel dry vegetables before chopping to preserve freshness when stores. To dry lettuce and leafy greens, use a salad spinner or lie flat in single layers on dish towels and blot carefully with another clean towel. Using a small serrated paring knife, cut off any bad spots before chopping. When chopping firmer vegetables to be used for steaming, roasting, or grilling, chop veggies that steam quickly, such as zucchini, into larger chunks, and those that take longer to cook, such as broccoli or cauliflower, into small to medium-sized chunks. For lettuce and leafy greens, chop off the ends, separate and chop the stems into bite-sized pieces. Tear the leaves with your fingers into salad sized pieces. Chop cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and other veggies into bite-sized bits to be used in salads and cold pasta dishes. It’s also a good idea to chop some of the veggies, such as carrots, peppers, and celery into strips for dipping. And also grate 3-4 cups of carrots to toss together with green salads or hide in pasta sauce.
Throw together all the firmer, chopped vegetables for steaming, grilling, or roasting in 1 or 2 large hard plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers. Place salad and leafy greens in separate containers. Place watery and other vegetables to be used in salads such as cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, onions, celery, etc. in their own individual containers to maintain flavor and prevent mushiness.
Produce will keep approximately 3-5 days in the refrigerator chopped and stored in this manner depending on the type of produce and how fresh it was when you bought it. You can double, and sometimes even triple, this storage time by vacuum sealing your chopped veggies in wide-mouthed glass jars.
That’s it! Follow these three easy steps – shop, wash, chop, and store – and you’ll have a week’s worth of fresh veggies at your fingertips. You can throw raw veggies together for quick, colorful salads, and grab a handful or two of the mixed veggies as needed for cooking. Have these mixed veggies over rice or pasta with marinara sauce and a little grated, raw cheese or sprinkle of rice parmesan; add them to burritos, tacos, scrambled eggs, stir fry, lasagna, or other casseroles, wraps or pita sandwiches.
Using this method you can easily meet your daily intake quota by throwing a variety of vegetables in virtually anything! And at the end of the week, or when your once vibrant veggies start to look a little sad, throw the leftovers in a compost bin!