4 Fresh Ideas for Produce Storage in a Small Kitchen
A simple trip to the local farmers market can turn into an adventure when you get home. While you were snagging all the colorful produce you could carry, perhaps you weren’t considering how you might store it later.
After trekking from the car to the kitchen with heavy grocery totes, you suddenly discover that storing your new vibrant mound of potatoes, pears, butternut squash, and apples is going to take some creative refrigerator shuffling.
Fortunately, many fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to be kept in the fridge. Even the deepest crispers have difficulty holding all the produce a healthy-eating family needs in a given week. And oftentimes, storing produce in the fridge makes it easier to forget what’s there, with broccoli buried beneath kale, and carrots hiding behind a bunch of beets. Finally, some produce (like tomatoes and potatoes) actually lasts longer when kept at room temperature.
If you find yourself pressed for storage space, it’s time to get creative.
Think About Wheels
A rolling island cart can be the perfect solution — even in a tiny kitchen. Some rolling kitchen carts are as small as 21 square inches but provide multi-level storage. Carts with wire baskets are perfect for produce since the open grid allows for fresh air movement, helping produce last longer.
If you choose a cart with a butcher-block top, the cart becomes a great prep center for slicing and dicing those fresh vegetables. If your cart has a drawer, organizing your knives beneath the cutting surface makes perfect sense. If your cart doesn’t come with wire baskets, you can add some made of wicker or sea grass.
A rule of thumb when organizing a small space is to go vertical.
One way to do this is to hang baskets. Hanging wire baskets come stacked to maximize storage. You can also look for woven hanging baskets meant for plants, but you can store your fruit in them instead.
Multi-level baskets or trays that stand on the kitchen counter are another good option for getting the most out of a small area while staying organized. Use one basket for fruit and another for vegetables.
Fruit looks beautiful all on its own. Think of the many painters who have been inspired by a bowl of fruit. Instead of hunting for a spot to hide your pile of produce, arrange it on a tray for a centerpiece. It can go on the middle of the table, your kitchen island, or counter. If you’re still pressed for space, a bright bowl or large, clear vase of green or red apples is a great decorating statement on a coffee table or bookcase.
Tuck It Away
You can easily adapt a lower cabinet into produce drawers. Pullout wire bins can be added to your existing shelves, or add wicker or plastic baskets that you can easily slide out. Make sure that your basket choices allow for plenty of air circulation to keep your produce fresh.
Helpful Storage Tips:
- Tomatoes: Refrigerating tomatoes can make their texture mushy. They have a much better taste if allowed to sit at room temperature. Tomatoes “on-the-vine,” which still have their stems attached, will keep the longest. Plus, they are too pretty to hide away!
- Potatoes: Did you know that potatoes’ flavor changes if you store them in the fridge? Their starch turns to sugar. For peak flavor, store potatoes loose in a basket or wire bin, like the ones on kitchen carts. If they come in a plastic bag, promptly remove them as the bag traps moisture.
- Onions: Onions need plenty of air circulation and keep the best if they are stored separately from potatoes.
- Garlic: Bulbs of garlic keep very well at room temperature — up to two months sitting out. Pile them in with your onions.
- Squash: All kinds of squash — butternut, spaghetti, acorn, and more — are known to last well in the winter months. Choose squash that are free of bruises and store them at room temperature.
- Fruits: Unripe fruit can be stored out of the refrigerator. Cantaloupe and watermelon do well sitting out as they ripen. Pears, peaches, mangos, avocados, and other fruits that are hard when unripe can also sit out to ripen naturally. Once ripe, they can be held a bit longer in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy them.
Lea Schneider is a nationally-recognized organization expert who writes from her home in Nashville, for Home Depot. Lea's kitchen storage tips and expertise focus on everyday activities that can help you better organize your home. You can research Home Depot's kitchen utility tables and other products mentioned by Lea online.