It’s that time of year again! We in the U.S. are smack in the middle of summer and fall’s bountiful harvests, which means farmer’s markets everywhere abound with beautiful, fresh produce. Plump heirloom tomatoes, sweet ripe peaches, berries, fragrant herbs, luscious greens, and crunchy vegetables — we want it all! The abundance of food can lead to problems we’ve all experienced at one time or another, however — sometimes, we get a little overzealous, and end up with an overstocked fridge and no time to eat the precious produce before it’s way past its prime.

Chocking everything in the bin is not only heartbreaking but also wasteful. Unfortunately, Americans are guilty of doing just that — throwing away up to 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This sobering statistic shows how essential it is to learn to preserve our fruits and vegetables better.

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Next time you put away your groceries, keep in mind these 6 Tips to Keep Your Veggies Fresh Longer and check out our guides on How to Properly Store Your Fruit and Vegetables for Maximum Freshness and Harvest and Beyond: How to Make Seasonal Produce Last Longer. It’ll save you a lot of money and heartache.

If it’s too late and you currently have produce that’s starting to look less than appetizing, don’t fret. There are still things you can do to use it up! Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

1. Blend it UpBloody Mary Green Smoothie

Have some slightly bruised fruit on hand and greens that could be crispier? Blending them in a smoothie is a good solution. They may be visually unappealing, but in a creamy smoothie, they’ll taste divine. Try this Peachy Ginger Green Monster Smoothie, Strawberry Kale Smoothie or this Raw Vanilla, Berry, and Lemon ‘Cheesecake’ Smoothie Bowl for a delicious helping of health! This Berry Chia Smoothie With Cacao Drizzle and this Blueberry Açaí Super Smoothie are also great to use up imperfect late summer fruits. Check out these 16 Champion Smoothies That Will Rock Your World for more antioxidant filled, delicious fruit smoothie ideas.

You can also try savory smoothies if you have one too many tomatoes, or wilted herbs, kicking around. Case in point: this Bloody Mary Green Smoothie is packed full of healthy lycopene and its flavor is out of this world. This Beta Carotene Sipper and this Avocado Seed Smoothie are also great examples of tasty smoothies that will rid you of your older vegetables.

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2. Make Soups and StocksNo-Bone Broth [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Soups and stocks are a great way to use up all that produce that’s been sitting in your fridge for too long. Provided that you’ve washed your veggies well, you can even add veggie roots and peels to make your stocks more flavorful and nutrient rich.

Want to try your hand at making your own stock or broth? Check out How to Make the Best Vegetable Stock Recipe and 5 Tips for Making Your Homemade Veggie Broth Even Better.  You can also try this easy and warming No-Bone Broth.

A nice homemade stock makes a perfect base for cooking comforting fall dishes like this Saffron RisottoFall CasseroleRed Pepper Risotto and this Butternut Squash, Portobello, and Spinach Casserole With Sausage. Stock can also be used to create delicious vegetable soups like this Creamy Potato Leek Soup, Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Anti-Inflammatory Sweet Potato Soup, and Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup With Cream Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes.

Not only do you get rid of veggies and herbs that would’ve been thrown out otherwise, but you get flavorful soups perfect for lunch or dinner on a cool, fall day. Talk about a win-win!

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3. Freeze It

Diana House/Flickr

Freezing your produce is a good option if you can’t be fussed with cooking. Most fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be frozen for later use. The easiest thing to do is to cut up your fruits and vegetables into chunks, put them on a tray in the freezer, and then transfer them to airtight containers and freezer bags. You can also blend your herbs with a little bit of water and freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray. Just pop a cube whenever you want to season a dish!

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Be aware that cabbage, celery, cress, cucumbers, endive, lettuce, parsley, and radishes are among the few vegetables that don’t tolerate freezing. Other than that, you’re good to go. Try these Smoothie Ice Cube Concentrates for Make-Ahead Breakfast and these Herb and Garlic-Infused Olive Oil Pods to use up some of your produce. Check out our guide on How to Store Your Herbs Properly for more info.

Once frozen, your fruits and vegetables can keep for up to a year.

4. Re-Plant

charlene mcbride/Flickr

Yes, you read that right. You can enjoy some of your favorite vegetables all year long simply by replanting them. Leek, celery, scallion, fennel, bok choy, romaine, cabbage, garlic, onion, and potatoes are among some of the vegetables that can regrow from their root once it’s been cut off. Plant re-purposing is as easy as placing the vegetable core in water by a sunny window and waiting for its roots to grow. Once they are strong, just plant them in a container and make sure your new (and old!) plant gets sufficient sunlight.

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Want to know more about easy gardening? Check out From the Chopping Block to New Life: How to Regrow Common Vegetables, Plant Re-purposing 101: Unique Edible Plants You Can Re-grow Over and Over Again, and How to Start Your Own Food Forest for Years of Free Produce.

When it’s this easy, you have no excuse for letting your kitchen scraps go to waste!

5. Compost

Joi Ito/Flickr

Sometimes you have to face the facts: what used to be beautiful produce is now a pile of mushy, wilted, and rotted sludge.  When that happens, don’t chuck the waste in the bin, but compost it instead. Building you own compost pile can help reduce landfill waste, gas emissions and contribute to making your garden’s soil micro-nutrient rich. Want to know more? Here are 5 Reasons Why Composting is the Greenest Thing You Can Do.

If you want to give composting a try, check out How to Make a Quick-Leaf Compost Out of All Those Autumn Leaves and How to Compost Without a Compost Bin.

Think of it this way: even if your produce didn’t make it to your plate, it’s giving back to nature and that’s never a waste!

Recommended Resources and Recipes to Get You Started

Want more tips and recipes to help you use up fruits and veggies that are past their prime? Here are a few articles that might interest you:

If you enjoy articles like this and want to find more recipe ideas featuring all kinds of produce, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to eat healthier, cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and find more awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.

The Food Monster app has over 8000+ recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8000+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!

Lead image source:  mythja/Shutterstock