Way back in May, in a post entitled “5 minute Panera Wannabe Salad,” I mentioned that I stored veggies pre-prepped and that I would post more on it someday. It is someday.
This idea was an accident. It was January of 2008. Mexican night. The table was covered with lots and lots of small bowls with “fixins” like diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, chopped onions, diced red bell pepper and of course shredded cheese, salsa, queso and more. At cleanup time, we put everything into individual Rubbermaid containers and piled them in the fridge.
The next night, we had salad with dinner and pulled out all the little containers to add the fixins to our salad. At cleanup time, the lids went back on and everything went back into the fridge. THAT was easy! We liked the convenience so much we decided to add some other pre-prepped veggies into the mix for future salad building. Soon we had individual containers of (raw) broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red, yellow and green diced bell peppers, scallions, carrots, mushrooms – we went all out.
The problem was that when we tried to get something from the fridge, these little individual containers would fall over and out onto the floor. (Is this the underwear principle at work or what?)
Here were the pros:
- We liked that we didn’t have to prep veggies every time we wanted to eat them. Sure veggie prep took longer, but that’s because we were prepping about a week’s worth at a time! Far less than the cumulative time it took before – and we didn’t have to wash the Chop Wizard so often!
- We were eating more fresh veggies because it was so flippin EASY.
- The individual containers took up less room than un-prepped veggies because we were no longer storing the veggie parts we don’t eat.
- Unlike shrink wrapped broccoli or a bag of bell peppers, the containers were STACKABLE.
- With small, individual containers, we only grabbed the veggies we wanted. (I had originally considered a multi compartment veggie tray with a lid – but we would have to take the entire thing out even if we only wanted one thing. Besides. They were all round.)
- The veggies were staying fresh longer because we were lining and layering the containers with dry paper towels. (Amazing discovery! Works great with mushrooms, lettuce and fresh spinach!)
- We were no longer sacrificing still packaged but rotten veggies to the mold gods every week.
- No more dry heaves while cleaning out the fridge. (The “what was this?” fridge cleaning game is rarely played in our house anymore.)
Now the cons:
- We had to prep veggies. (Unfortunately, since we don’t want to pay for pre-prepped veggies, we weren’t going to get around this one.)
- The individual containers were getting knocked over and falling out of the fridge way too easily.
There was a problem with our “system.”
So, as I mentioned, I shopped/researched what container solutions were available. I finally settled on an unused rectangular plastic box I happened to have. It was the perfect height and depth. I packed it with all the individual containers. Again. Perfect. It’s been working for nearly a year. We can either remove one or two containers or we can slide the box all the way out of the fridge like a drawer. The actual veggies and individual containers change all the time, but the are always stored in the veggie box. And yes. Those are actually oblong containers not square or rectangle, but they work in the veggie box, so they may stay.
We’ve also added two large rectangular containers to sit alongside the veggie box. One with a romaine mix and one with fresh spinach. The photos below only show one – we were out of romaine.
UPDATE: (Inspired by Endless Freebies comment below.)
The photos may be misleading. They only show one configuration of the box. We usually use the smallest containers we can and when space is needed for more veggies, we size down as we use the contents. And we have multiple sizes and shapes!
With regard to the box size – that was a process. (Like I said, The Underwear Principle at work!) We tried a smaller veggie box size, but we had a few problems:
1. When the depth of the box didn’t equal the depth of the fridge we had wasted space behind or in front of it. (Wasted space? Not on my watch.) We tried pushing the box to the back and using the extra space in front for other things, but we HATED moving the stuff to get to the box. Storing anything behind the box? We would forget about it and have to play the “What WAS that?” fridge game later.
2. We tried a shorter box and storing it on an adjustable shelf, but we had too many veggies and needed to stack. When we did, stuff fell out because the sides of the box were too short.
3. The day the above photo was taken, the veggie box wasn’t full. We didn’t have any onions or scallions and only one color bell pepper. Sometimes we have shredded carrots, asparagus, avocado, diced or sliced tomatoes, sliced zucchini or squash – LOTS of choices. So while a smaller box would have worked THAT day, it doesn’t work every day.
I eat a fair amount of salad and we use LOTS of spinach, so the big rectangular containers along the side work out the best for us. (We put fresh spinach in LOTS of things – especially omelets!)
I’m charging the camera battery right now, but later I’ll take another photo of TODAY’s configuration as a comparison.