The Bountiful Baskets lifestyle is one to which I have become quite accustomed. Not only am I saving money but several little chores are simplified each time I pick up my basket. Runs to the grocery store are cut by at least half- Bountiful Baskets really is my one stop shopping trip. Menu plans get an immediate outline that I did not have to create out of my own little head. I am pretty much guaranteed healthy, simple snacks and desserts without the temptations presented when walking down the chip and cookie isle. While I love taking advantage of these time and money saving benefits I must concede that participation in Bountiful Baskets comes with an extra level of responsibility.
Unlike grocery store shopping, Bountiful Baskets does not offer me the freedom to choose the level of produce ripeness, or to decide to buy Friday’s produce on Friday. This was particularly daunting my first few times participating. I was thrilled with the quality and completely overwhelmed with the quantity. I found myself standing in my kitchen staring at a basket brimming with produce in varying degrees of ripeness and thinking “There is no way I can use this up or keep it all good until next Saturday, how do people do this?” I quickly turned to the resource I’m sure many of us turn to in times of desperation (no, not my mother), good old Google. I set about finding recipe ideas for the “weird” stuff, preserving tips for the “ripe” stuff, and storage tips for everything in-between. I will admit, there was a learning curve. Not everything got used up in time, not everything was stored correctly but…I stuck with it. Three years later, my family has increased our intake of fresh fruits and veggies, and I have increased my knowledge of food storage and preserving enough that we are needing to order two baskets a week! While the internet was a good resource in the beginning, I quickly learned that my best resource was the expertise of other participants at my site. This collective creativity, knowledge, and love of food has provided the best tutorial I could ask for. With this understanding the BB administrators recently put a shout out for participant’s best storage and preserving tips. Here are a few of the words of wisdom that were shared on the Bountiful Baskets Facebook page:
Start At the Site
• Carefully switch your items from their basket to your own. Pack heavy stuff on the bottom and lighter, more delicate stuff on top. Don’t toss or drop the produce.
• Soft-sided bags seem to be better for fruits than hard boxes or coolers
• Pack the produce fairly tightly. If it has room to roll around it will be more likely to bump, bruise, and spoil.
Prepping and Storage
• Vinegar Wash- Many participants rely on this to keep their produce from molding. Create the wash by combining 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Some participants simply “dip and go”. Others let it soak for a few minutes. Be sure produce is completely air-dried before putting in the fridge or a counter basket. Some foods that should not be vinegar-washed include bananas, onions, and garlic.
• Leafy Greens- Cut the base off. Place the head of lettuce in a bowl of ice water with the cut ends down and put the bowl in the fridge until the lettuce is perked and crisp. Once the lettuce is refreshed, wash and dry very well. At this point participants store the lettuce in the fridge in salad spinners, store-bought green bags, glass mason jars with lids, or wrapped in dry paper towels and put in a gallon Ziploc. All agree that no matter what you store it in the leaves must be VERY dry before placing the container in the fridge.
• Ready to Go- Many participants mentioned that they are more likely to use the veggies if they are already prepped. Wash, peel, slice, and store “snacking” produce such as carrots, celery, cucumber, etc. Freezer bags and Tupperware are popular container choices.
• Herbs- Trim the ends of a fresh bunch and place upright in a glass of cold water. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
• Celery- Wrapping fresh celery tightly in aluminum foil seems to be the most popular storage system. Slicing into “sticks” and placing in a Ziploc or a Tupperware filled with cold water were other popular suggestions.
• Asparagus- Trim the ends and place upright in a cup of cold water- store in the fridge.
• Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic- Store in a cool, dry, dark place. Wood crates and metal baskets are the containers of choice among BB participants.
• Avocado- If you are saving the second half for later, leave the pit in to prevent browning. Place in a Ziploc and store in the fridge.
• Most things can be frozen using the “Free-Flow-Freezing” method. This method ensures that everything will stay separate and not clump together in one big produce ice cube. Wash, prep, and slice or chop the produce. Spread out in a single layer on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer until each piece is individually frozen and then transfer to freezer-safe bags. Use for baked goods and smoothies. Peppers and onions can be frozen this way but their consistency will change slightly so that they are ideal for soups and casseroles but would not be good in salads.
• Bananas- When spotted, place in gallon bags in the freezer. These will be perfect for banana bread and other baked goods. Participants are mixed as to whether the bananas should be peeled before frozen. I have frozen them in the peels and found that they come out nice and easy- but I am sure they will work just as well if peeled first.
• Avocado- While it is not recommended to freeze whole or chunked avocados, they can be frozen if cut and finely mashed or pureed, tossed with a little bit of lemon or lime juice, and stored in freezer-safe containers. It is not recommended to freeze guacamole because of its other ingredients.
• Kale- Blend kale in a blender with a touch of water and freeze in ice cube trays, then add to smoothies. (Josie A.)
Use Up the Scraps
• Place peels, ends, and other “throw away” parts in a tightly tied grocery bag. Put the bag in a covered plastic tote in the yard. Mix the contents into your garden soil at planting time. (Jen T.)
• Toss kitchen scraps (including bones, peels, and ends) in a Vitamix/Blendtec to make a liquid compost for the garden. (Lynsay N.)
• Store veggie scraps (carrot peels, celery tops, onion peels, etc) in a Ziploc in the freezer- use to make veggie or chicken stock. (Betsie N.)
I want to thank all the participants who took the time to share their great ideas. I also want to remind readers that these are ideas shared on the Bountiful Baskets Facebook page.