Everyone knows the importance of having enough fruit and veg in our diets. It takes work, of course, but if what’s stopping you is a little missing knowhow and the sheer time spent preparing nutritious meals, read on: it’s much less hassle with these handy food hacks. These nuggets of advice will set you well on your way to a healthier lifestyle — and save you time, effort, and money along the way.
1. Listen to your avocados
There are certain tests you can do in the store to ensure you’re bringing home a good avocado! First, make sure it has no dark blemishes on it. Then, you want to hold it up to your ear, and shake it very gently.
If you hear a rattle inside, that means the pit has come away from the flesh: the fruit is too ripe. Squeeze the top — not the sides — and check to see if you leave a dent or not. If there’s a dent, that’s another sign it’s too far gone! Finally, flick the little stem off the fruit to see what color is underneath: if it’s green, you’re good to go.
2. Turn food scraps into delicacies
Don’t throw away all your vegetable scraps; they can be super useful. While chopping your veggies, gather up all the leftover pieces in a bag or container.
Then, throw them into a pan with salt, water, and herbs of your choosing, and you’ve got all you need to make a delicious stock. And that’s not all. Cut up broccoli stalks and use them in soups or stir-frys; add cauliflower leaves to curries; freeze lemon peel and use it to make limoncello! Believe it or not, you can even use onion skins to make dyes. Simmer them in water for half an hour, add the cloth, and then leave it soaking for a few weeks. You should get a lovely brown color.
3. Keep fresh herbs fresh
You don’t need to keep continually buying expensive fresh herbs; neither do you need a fancy, expensive “storage pod” device to keep them fresh for longer! Instead, simply put your surplus herbs in a glass container — perhaps an old jam jar — filled with water, and cover the leafy bits with a bag. Then store them in the fridge until you need them: they should be perfectly fresh when you take them out..
4. Peel mangos with a glass
Do you cower at the thought of actually having to peel a mango? Have no fear. Getting the skin off the halved fruit is actually really easy when you know this handy hack.
Simply get a large drinking glass or something similar, and use the side of it to slide the flesh out of the mango. You still have to be a little careful — since glass is involved — but it’s much easier than using a knife.
5. Make your mash work harder
There are many things you can do with the simple dish of mashed potatoes. In order to get more vegetables in your diet, you can mash up a tasty vegetable like parsnip or swede and mix it in with the potato.
And throw in some herbs, too, for an even better flavor. If you’re looking to be healthier, though, try not to add any butter: we know it’s very tempting, but cutting down on butter is a healthy step.
6. Keep onions away from potatoes
Turns out that onions and potatoes are not friends. If you put them in the same storage space, the onions will release ethylene and cause the potatoes to go bad, while at the same time the potatoes will release moisture and cause the onions to go bad.
Oh no! But there are solutions. Store potatoes in a dark, dry compartment. And as for onions, why not wrap them in a pair of unused tights to prevent them absorbing any moisture?
7. Peel ginger with a spoon
Whatever you do, don’t use a peeler to get the skin off your ginger: there are better alternatives! Instead of putting your fingers at risk with a blade, get a simple metal spoon. That will work as well as any peeler, as long as you put pressure on the tip rather than the handle! Also, when buying your ginger, try and pick out pieces that aren’t too “bumpy” as that will help when it comes to the peeling..
8. Put squash in the microwave
Raw squash can be dangerous to the busy kitchen-worker. Many a would-be chef has tried to slice one open with a knife and ended up injured.
How to cut them, then? Well, what you need to do with your squash is cut a few small slices in it and then stick it in the microwave; appliance powers vary, but less than five minutes should do the trick. When it comes out it should be easy to cut and peel!
9. Wrap up your greens
If you’re a fan of tough green vegetables — and contrary to popular opinion, there are plenty of you out there — you’ll want to make them last longer. You can do this by taking some sheets of kitchen paper or clean dishtowels, moistening them and wrapping them around your veggies before putting them in the fridge.
The dishtowel is the more environmentally-friendly option!
10. Ripen hard avocados
There’s a myth that you should stick an unripe avocado in the microwave if you want to ripen it. That won’t work! It’ll make it soft, but not actually ripe.
To really ripen one, what you want to do is store it in a paper bag, which traps the ethylene it produces. Or alternatively keep it next to bananas, which also produce ethylene and can help to speed up the ripening process. There you have it!
11. Store strawberries in glass jars
Aren’t glass jars great? Not only do they look beautiful, they’re so useful for storing fruit! If you want a great way to ensure your strawberries stay nice, simply remove them from their plastic packaging, put them in a glass jar, and screw the lid on nice and tight. They can last for up to three weeks like that!.
12. Don’t wash your grapes, but you can freeze them
Many people wash their grapes as soon as they get them home; while that may seem like a good idea, it’s actually not! You see, the extra moisture will cause the grapes to decompose faster. Instead, you should keep them in the container they were bought in, and place them in the middle of the fridge.
But if you’ve messed up and already wetted the grapes, don’t worry! Why not pop them in the freezer to use as “ice cubes” to go in a nice glass of wine?
13. Cut pineapple without wasting an inch
Cutting pineapple looks like it should be difficult, but actually it’s kinda fun! The trick is to cut it into a spiral shape. Prop the pineapple up, get a sharp knife, and cut V-shaped grooves that follow the natural pattern of the fruit.
This will help you remove the eyes, but not too much of the flesh, so less waste. Many Asian countries use this technique!
14. Buy veggies with the tops still on
If you get your vegetables from a place where they’re sold by weight, it might be tempting to purchase them with the tops sliced off, because they’ll obviously weigh less. But actually, you get better value for money by buying veggies with the tops on, as long as you don’t make the big mistake of throwing them away! For example, you can use the green tops of carrots to make healthy, nutrient-packed pesto..
15. Cut a cauliflower with no knife
Do you want to make a cauliflower dish for dinner, but you have no knife? First of all, how did you get in that situation? Second of all, you can actually “cut” a cauliflower without needing a knife at all! Tear off the leaves, place the cauliflower in a bag, and then do the fun part: slam it stem-down against your table or counter. That should break the cauliflower into florets and you can cook them!.
16. Save money by buying bruised produce
Ew, who wants bruised fruit and vegetables? Well, you do. Or you should! Many markets offer discounts on produce that doesn’t look good, so you can snap it all up.
Take them home and make jam or soups! And if you want to save even more money, try hitting up the market at the end of the day. Prices are often reduced then because the vendors want to offload everything they have left and head home!
17. Leave the peels on
Peels on fruit and veg are packed full of benefits. In other words, they’re very… a-peel-ing.
Sorry. You may be used to peeling all your produce before you eat it, but you should actually leave the skins on. For example, potato skin gives you important nutrients such as iron, potassium and Vitamin C, while citrus peel helps with blood pressure and may even help to prevent cancer. You can even eat the skin of squashes if you soften them in an oven first! Why not use scraps of peel to make crisps? They’re a quick and easy snack.
18. Cut tomatoes in record time
If you have a dish that needs a lot of cherry tomatoes, don’t worry, there are ways to get around cutting them all up individually. What you need to do is get two plates or strong containers and sandwich the tomatoes between them.
Then, holding down on the top plate, cut through all the trapped tomatoes with a serrated knife in one go. It’s so quick and easy!
19. Fork your onions for chef-grade slices
There’s a quick and clever way to slice onions popularized by a TikTok user called Casa Tips. He showed his followers that all you actually have to do is stab the base of the onion with a fork to hold it steady while running a vegetable peeler over the top of it! The result is finely sliced onion that looks like it was done by a professional..
20. Don’t strike an avocado with a knife
An important safety tip: many people like to pit their avocados by cutting it in half around the pit, then holding the half in their hand and striking the pit with a knife. This attaches the knife to the pit and lets you pull it out.
But it’s also dangerous: if you miss, where’s that knife going? Through the flesh of the avocado and straight into your hand. Instead, put the fruit on a cutting board and cut it into four equal pieces around the pit: you should be able to pull the pit out from the fourth part.
21. Re-grow vegetables from scraps
Even if you’ve got no need for stock, many vegetable scraps are still worth holding onto, because you can use them to grow into new plants. Yes, with a little time and effort, there are plenty of fruit and vegetable leftovers that can be entirely regrown — from green onions and garlic to carrot tops and cabbage..
22. Store tomatoes upside down
Tomatoes are notoriously quick to ripen, but there’s a simple storage technique to keep them fresh. The magazine Cook’s Illustrated suggests removing the tomatoes’ stems and then placing them in a container upside down.
This seals the gap that the tomato juice usually evaporates from and prevents moisture and air from getting out. The result? Fresh tomatoes for longer. Win!
23. Use onions to keep avocados fresh
If your avocados keep ripening too quickly, try storing them with a fresh onion. Either red or yellow will work, although the yellow flavor is stronger and more likely to affect the taste of your avocado.
Whichever you choose, though, it’ll stop the avocado from browning at such a rapid rate.
24. Shock your veggies to seal in freshness
If you're getting ahead and batch-cooking veggies for the week, then here's a way to ensure you get fresh, crunchy veg right through until Friday. Did you know that the cooking process will carry on even after you take your veggies off the boil? So to avoid any soggy, flabby texture, plunge your greens into an ice bath — or, at the very least, run them under very cold water straight after you've taken them off the heat.
Then they’ll stay good for leftovers!
25. Store apples alongside potatoes
Ethylene production isn’t always a bad thing, and according to the website House Beautiful you can use it to your advantage in the kitchen. Whereas bananas tend to ripen everything too quickly, other fruits produce different levels of ethylene.
Take apples for example — which also emit the gas and can actually delay how quickly some vegetables rot. Potatoes are one of the vegetables that can benefit from ethylene gas. The lifestyle website says that all you have to do is store them together with apples and the fruit will act as natural preserving agents. Apparently, the gas can keep the potatoes fresh for up to eight weeks longer than normal.
26. Save fresh herbs
Many of us love a herb bouquet to store in the kitchen when we might want to spice up our dishes. But they can die out before you get the chance to use them up in food.
Luckily, it turns out that if you have an ice cube tray handy, you could save yourself a lot of waste. Instead, try chopping your herbs up and popping them in an ice cube tray along with some water. Then pop them in the freezer and the resulting ice will seal your herbs in. Next time you need seasoning, simply take out a frozen cube, let it defrost, and get cooking!
27. No-fuss peeling in minutes
If raw garlic is what you need, but you don't want to deal with the sticky skin or intense smell, then grab yourself a jar or another lidded pot. Then, all you need to do is add the whole bulb, secure the lid, and shake! It might take a minute or so for all the skins to come loose, but you should be left with a whole pot of naked garlic cloves! This hack is best for batch cooking or recipes that call for a lot of garlic.
If you only want one clove, though, you could chop the rest and add it to some vinegar and oil for a homemade easy-peel pot. Just store in the fridge and take a spoon whenever you need.
28. Super-speedy stored onions
Onions are often at the center of so many of our favorite dishes. But as we all know, they can be a hassle to prepare.
That's why this hack is so ingenious. Simply dice up a bunch of onions at once and save them in the freezer. Then, next time a recipe calls for some chopped onion, you'll be ready. No tears in sight! Speaking of chopping up stuff and saving it for a rainy day, you can also put any leftover chopped scallions you have into an empty water bottle and store them in the freezer. They will keep for two to three months — plenty of time to use them all!
29. Make bell peppers a breeze
To stop seeds flying everywhere when you cut into a bell peper, start by laying it on its stem. Then, follow the rounded edges with your knife.
That way, the seeds should stay attached to the pepper’s core. The seeds are actually fine to eat, too. Just watch out — they have a strong bitter flavor that you might not want in every dish. Top tip — if you're a fan of the taste of green bell peppers, then it's likely you won't mind the seeds' taste. Just remember to throw away the core as that's inedible.
30. Freeze leftover stock in an ice cube tray
If you really want to get savvy with your stock, you can take things a step further by freezing it in an ice cube tray. It’s essentially a ready made means of measurement — allowing you to pop out the perfect portion of stock as and when required.
And if you need your ice cube tray back, you can simply transfer the cubes into a Ziploc bag. Beautiful!
31. Soak berries in vinegar
We all know that berries can go bad, and fast! Luckily, there's is a way to make your punnet stay fresher for longer. According to Save the Student, washing the berries with vinegar and water will kill off any harmful bacteria.
To make the solution, you simply mix three parts of water to one-part vinegar. Afterwards, clean your berries with the liquid and then store them in the fridge.
32. Stop wasting time on garlic
Celebrity chef Lorena Garcia spends a lot of time in the kitchen, and it's made her realize that the rest of the world is wasting way too much time peeling garlic. Instead, she told People, “I like to throw whole, unpeeled garlic cloves into the microwave for ten seconds.
It makes the peels slip right off.” As a bonus, her method helps “reduce the harsh flavor of raw garlic in uncooked recipes,” such as guacamole and salsa.
33. Keep veggie smells at bay
Sometimes, just washing your hands with soap after cooking isn’t enough. If you’ve been preparing something particularly stinky, you might find that the odor refuses to budge, no matter how many times you wash your hands.
Rinsing your mitts with lemon juice, however, can absolutely do the trick — especially if you’ve been cooking with something like garlic or onions.
34. Stop cutting limes wrong
When most people come to cute a lime, they will naturally go to cut it in half. But if you want to achieve the maximum amount of juice — and, trust us, you do — try slicing your lime into quarters instead of halves.
This should also leave the central part of the lime free to juice as well. Now, all you need is the rest of the margarita...
35. Get more juice out of citrus fruits
When it comes to getting every last delicious drop of juice out of citrus fruit, it’s best to take a two-pronged approach. After all, you need to refrigerate them to keep them fresh — but that makes the fruit less suitable for juicing.
When it’s time to squeeze their liquid goodness out, then, simply toss them in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.
36. Pit cherries using a chopstick
It's difficult to remove the pits of cherries without destroying basically all of the fruit. But if you place one on a bottle top with the lid off and poke it with a long thin instrument, such as a chopstick, the pit should fall through without a problem..
37. Watermelon wizardry
If you want to spend more time enjoying the watermelon instead of working out how best to tackle the mammoth task of chopping, then try this failsafe chopping method. First, cut the entire watermelon into quarter chunks, then cut into each quarter vertically and horizontally.
You should have a cross-hatch pattern now. Then, carefully run the blade along the rind below the cubes, and they should pop out perfectly cubes and ready to enjoy.
38. Extend the lifespan of bananas
Watching a fresh bunch of bananas quickly turn brown is a seemingly universal experience – but it doesn’t have to be. To extend the period between unripe and unusable, then, try using plastic wrap to cover the end of the bunch.
It’ll stop the bananas emitting ethylene gases from the stem – which can cause the rapid ripening of the potassium-packed fruit.
39. Switch ice cream for homemade froyo
If you’re craving ice cream but don’t want to deal with the calorific consequences, you could always try frozen yogurt as a healthier alternative. It couldn’t be easier to make yourself; simply push a stick for a popsicle into the yogurt of your choice, then freeze it for a couple of hours.
Voila: you have a healthy, refreshing summer snack, and you're getting one of your 5-a-day.