With the rising cost of groceries, and the familiar inner cringe when you hand over your debit or credit card, it can be especially upsetting to pour milk into your coffee only to see it curdle, or to open your produce drawer to make a salad only to find brown wilted lettuce and moldy fruit.
Many of today’s families are busy and away from home during the day. But just because you aren’t able to immediately use the foods you buy and store, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect them to remain fresh for a reasonable period of time so that they are available when you need them.
It’s estimated that families unintentionally waste about $1500 dollars per year by throwing out food that went bad before it could be eaten. But according to experts, there are ways to keep your stored foods fresh for longer periods of time.
Produce Storing Practices to Retain Freshness
One great tip for storing produce to extend its longevity, is to keep dry, folded paper towels inside your produce drawer, and tucked into produce bags, such as your bag of lettuce or strawberries. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain moisture that slowly leaches out. When the produce sits in the moisture for days it can induce wilting and browning, causing your foods to deteriorate faster. A paper towel will absorb excess moisture to keep it away from food.
Try adding an apple to your bag of potatoes to help keep them fresh and to minimize sprouting. Apples produce ethylene gas which keeps potatoes fresh for longer periods of time. Although this works for potatoes—which should not be stored in a refrigerator—apples should not be kept near other produce. While ethylene gas helps preserve potatoes, it tends to cause other produce to spoil faster.
Some newer refrigerators, including some of the best counter depth refrigerators, contain produce drawers that are designed to reduce ethylene gas inside the drawer to extend the life of your produce.
Take your celery out of the plastic bag that you bought it in and wrap it instead in aluminium foil. This allows more moisture to escape and helps to keep your celery from softening and wilting.
Never store cut herbs in your refrigerator. Herbs are expensive and flavorful. To get the most out of your herbs, place them in a glass of water and keep them on the kitchen windowsill in the light. This will greatly extend their freshness—and they look nice in the window!
More Tips for More Fresh Produce
Washing your produce with your tap water can also cause it to lose flavor and freshness faster if your water contains chlorine. It’s best to wash produce in water that’s been treated with a good water softener, or to use bottled water for produce cleaning. Be sure to blot your produce dry with clean paper towels before storing.
Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator. Tomatoes should be kept on a windowsill or in a produce basket on your countertop. This helps to maintain their juiciness and keeps them fresh and flavorful for longer periods of time.
If you have cut avocados, be sure to squirt a little lemon juice on them before storing them in your refrigerator. This will keep them from turning brown and will help them to remain fresh and usable for longer periods of time.
Store your mushrooms in a brown paper bag. This keeps them clean and dry, and mushrooms do much better in a darkened environment during storage.
Dealing with Dairy
You can keep your milk fresh for longer periods of time by checking the temperature setting on your refrigerator. The coldest setting will keep milk and other dairy foods fresh for much longer periods of time.
Never store milk in the door of your refrigerator. This part of the fridge is the warmest area and is better for condiments. Milk should be stored on an inner shelf and toward the back center of the refrigerator to keep it fresh for longer. You can also store extra milk in the freezer. If you are going out of town, there is no reason to dump out your half-used gallon of milk. Milk freezes quite well and the entire container can simply be placed in the freezer until you return and then thawed in the refrigerator.
Cheese is best stored out of its original plastic package. Instead, prevent mold from growing on your cheese by sprinkling vinegar on a paper towel and wrapping it around your cheese. Then, wrap it loosely with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. If you keep your cheese for more than a week, remove it and sprinkle the paper towel with more vinegar to retain your cheese’s freshness.
How to Treat Your Meat to Keep it Fresh
Meat should be removed from the store packaging if you don’t intend to use it within the next 24 hours after purchasing. Instead, rewrap meat in aluminium foil to allow moisture to escape, or loosely wrap in plastic wrap. This should keep fresh cuts safe to eat for up to five days from your purchase date. If you plan to wait longer than that to use your meat, store it in the freezer immediately after purchase. Frozen meat that is large in size, such as roasts, can last for up to eight months in the freezer. Cut meat such as steaks or pork chops will last for about four months when frozen.
Once opened, deli meats should be stored in a tightly sealed container. Deli meats tend to lose their freshness quickly after opening and are only good for about five days. Only buy as much deli meat as you plan to use within that time period. If you want to use up your deli meat quickly because you’ve had it for close to five days, the safest way to eat it is to fry it before eating it on a sandwich. This will ensure that any bacteria is removed. Add some onions and peppers to the frying deli meat for a delicious sandwich!
The Deal for Dry Goods
Once you’ve opened a package of dry goods such as cereal, rice, or instant potatoes, it’s best to transfer them into sealable airtight containers for long term storage. Bread can be stored at room temperature for several days, but then its longevity can be extended by storing it in the freezer. Place four to six slices per freezer bag and pull out one bag per day. Bread thaws very quickly at room temperature.