Several weeks ago, I shared a post about how we reduce, and even eliminate, wasted produce. A few days after I published that post, one reader emailed me about how she reduces wasted produce by keeping it already washed, cut up, and ready to go in a large food storage container in the refrigerator.
As I responded to her email, I knew I would be implementing her idea that night after the kids went to bed!
For several years now, I have used this exact same strategy with fruit and cheese — but for some reason, I never thought to use it with veggies.
I always keep containers of already sliced or cubed block cheese in the cheese drawer for snacks and sandwiches; and our fruit drawer is filled with storage containers of already washed and sliced strawberries, peaches, mandarin oranges, washed and de-stemmed grapes, cut-up watermelon, etc. etc.
We use the cheese and fruit several times each day as we make or pack lunches, get snacks for the kids, or need a quick side dish for our meals. When the containers empty out, I wash, peel, chop, and slice more fruit and cheese after the kids are in bed (when I’m usually preparing food for the next day anyway).
I cannot tell you how much time and energy this already prepared food has saved me over the years… and I honestly have NO idea why I never did it with veggies.
I guess I have always done it with carrots (I wash, peel, and slice them — then put them in a container with a little water) but I don’t remember ever doing this with other veggies… until the past couple of weeks!
Ever since I read that email, we’ve had a food storage container packed full of colorful, already-prepared, garden-fresh veggies in our fridge. It’s ready and waiting whenever we want a quick snack or need an easy side dish for our meal.
Obviously, keeping this container stocked with prepared veggies takes some work on my part, but the benefits far outweigh the work I put into it… and here’s why!
1. It helps us use up our garden surplus.
We have SO many tomatoes, peppers, peas, and cucumbers — all of which we love to eat raw. I’m convinced that having them ready to go at a moments notice has helped us eat many more garden veggies than in previous years.
Of course, if you don’t have garden veggies, store-bought veggies will work just as well!
2. It’s a super fast and easy side dish for almost any meal.
When I’m in the middle of making lunch or dinner, the last thing I want to do it get out piles and piles of dirty garden produce, wash it, dry it, and cut it up… so we often didn’t have many raw veggies with our meals unless I set aside extra time to get them ready (and I rarely did that).
Now, I take a little bit of time at night (after the kids are sleeping) to cup up a bunch of veggies for the next 2-3 days and store them in a large food storage container. Then whenever we eat, we pull out the container and we all pick some veggies to go with our meal.
Our container of veggies also makes it much faster and easier to whip up a yummy gourmet salad!
3. It’s great when we have unexpected guests or get invited to a last-minute gathering.
I’ve already pulled out our container of veggies 4 or 5 times over the past month when we’ve either had unexpected guests or gotten invited to a last-minute gathering and asked to bring a side dish.
Everyone was thrilled to have a healthier option and I was thrilled that I didn’t need to do any work or run to the store for something.
4. It has changed our kid’s attitude towards veggies!
In general, I would say that Nora and Simon are pretty good eaters. They eat a wide variety of foods, clean their plates at every meal, and enjoy different types of food. However, they were never big on raw veggies.
Since starting our “veggie bin”, they have each tried several new raw veggies and Nora discovered she really likes raw beans, peas, and cucumbers. Simon like cucumbers but doesn’t love anything yet. However, he always tries a couple raw veggies at every meal (and he LOVES cooked zucchini, beans, broccoli, corn, etc.)
For them, it’s fun to see the colorful veggies and pick what ones they want to try. Even if they take one bite and spit it out, it’s still better than nothing at all.
In general, our container of already-prepared veggies has been SUCH a positive addition to our meal-times.
It’s so handy having fresh veggies (and fruit and cheese) ready to go all the time — especially when hunger strikes and I’m trying to frantically prepare food for 3 hungry mouths (and myself).
I have a feeling our veggie bin will be even more advantageous for me once school starts and I’m on my own again during the day!
If you’re not big on veggies, start with your most favorite raw veggies (or the one you are trying to like!) and keep a small container ready to go in your fridge. You might be surprised how much more likely you are to grab a few veggies if they are all ready to go!