The average household tosses out 14% of the food they buy, according to Money magazine. For the typical family, that’s over $1,300 a year! I don’t know about you, but I’d MUCH rather spend that kind of money on a getaway with my family…not throwing it in the trash!
Fortunately, a lot of that waste can be avoided by learning how to properly store your food to keep it fresh longer!
Making your food last longer will help you to avoid waste, shop less and cut your grocery-shopping bill.
Since most of the food that we throw away is refrigerated I thought it would be a good idea to research how we should be organizing the food we put in it. The below is is a GUIDELINE of what should be stored where for optimum freshness.
Top Shelf – The top shelf is the warmest part of the fridge compartment and best for pre-prepared foods such as yogurt, cheese and sauces. Store cooked meat and leftovers in sealed containers on the shelves underneath. If there’s space, keep milk here too – it’ll keep for longer than it would in the door rack where it’s warmed by hot air whenever the door is opened.
Bottom shelf – This is the coldest part of the fridge, so keep raw meat, fish and poultry in its sealed packaging, or place it in sealed containers and store on the bottom shelf. Plus there’s less risk of raw juices dripping onto ready-to-eat foods.
Salad crisper drawer – Store fruit and vegetables in the salad crisper drawer. Some come with humidity controls to retain moisture which will help certain vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, carrots and leafy veg, last longer.
Door racks – The temperature in the door racks can fluctuate because they’re exposed to the warm air of the kitchen when the door is opened. The door racks are a good place for condiments, jam and fruit juice. A lidded compartment is ideal for keeping butter and margarine extra cold.
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona
Be sure to store the eggs in the carton in the main part of the refrigerator. It is not a good idea to store raw eggs in the door of the refrigerator.
37 Tips for Keeping Food Fresh Longer
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Line the bottom of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with paper towels. They’ll absorb the excess moisture that causes veggies to rot.
- Wash berries in water with just a bit of vinegar before popping them into the fridge. Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) should be stored in their plastic container or a resealable plastic bag in the back of the refrigerator.
- Lettuce needs moisture to stay fresh and will quickly wilt if it dehydrates. Wrap lettuce in damp paper towels and store in a plastic bag. If salad greens begin to wilt, soak them in ice water to crisp them up before fixing a salad.
- To keep fresh celery, carrots and radishes around at all times, chop them and store them in water in the fridge, which keeps them crisp for a surprisingly long time.
- Prevent mushrooms from getting slimy by wrapping them in paper towels before refrigerating.
- Roast slices or chunks of about-to-go-bad tomatoes, then store them in olive oil in the fridge, where they’ll keep for about a week.
- After trimming the ends, store kale, collards and Swiss chard in the fridge in a glass of water with a loose bag over the top.
- Rub whole summer and winter squash with vegetable oil and store them in the pantry, where they’ll last for several months.
- Keep apples away from other foods. Apples give off ethylene gas, which can cause foods to spoil. If they get too soft, just cook them!
- Avoid separating bananas until you plan to eat them – they spoil less quickly in a bunch. Store bananas at room temperature until they ripen. Freeze over-ripened bananas for use in banana bread and other baked goods.
- Triple the life of scallions by storing them in a jar of water on the counter. The green onions will keep growing as you snip the tips for fresh eating.
- Asparagus will last longer if its thick ends sit in cold water.
- Do not store garlic in a sealed container. Fresh bulbs can be stored in a wire or mesh basket or even a paper bag.
- Store avocadoes unbagged in the refrigerator.
Meat, Fish and Eggs
- Store eggs in their original carton. If you’re unsure of an egg’s freshness, see how it behaves in a cup of water: Fresh eggs sink; bad ones float.
- Meat & poultry should be kept in its original package if you’ll use it within 2 days. (Re-wrapping increases the risk of exposing the food to harmful bacteria.) Otherwise, wrap it in foil and freeze. Wrap smoked meats (bacon, ham, etc.) in a vinegar soaked cloth then in wax paper and store in the fridge. Bacon can be frozen for up to a month.
- Fish should be kept in a bag on top of a bowl of ice and eaten as soon as possible. You can also freeze fish or broil it and store in the fridge.
Bread and Cereal Products
- Freeze flour for 48 hours to kill any insect eggs that might be present. Then, place in a tight-sealing container; and store in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight.
- To help ward off weevils, try slipping a bay leaf into your storage container. The scent of the bay leave will help repel the bugs.
- Contrary to popular belief, storing bread in the refrigerator actually makes it spoil more quickly. Your best bet is to store bread on the kitchen counter in a tightly sealed bag or container.
- Avoid tossing stale snacks, pasta, half-empty bags of cereal, pretzels and other dry foods by transferring into air-tight containers after opening the original packaging. Mason jars make great air-tight pantry storage.
- To revive day-old muffins, sprinkle them with water, place in a paper bag, and pop in a hot oven for five to 10 minutes. The steam created by the water will restore moisture.
Dairy Products and Cheese
- Keep milk in the main part of the fridge compartment if you have the space. When milk is stored in the door rack it’s warmed by the ambient air of the kitchen whenever the fridge door is opened.
- Make sure to wrap all cheese securely in wax paper or cheese paper before storing it in the refrigerator, which allows it to breathe without letting in excess moisture or odors from your fridge. You can also rub butter on the cut parts of hard cheeses to prevent them from drying out. You can also freeze cheese!
- In order to make cottage cheese or sour cream last longer, place the container upside down in the fridge. Inverting the tub creates a vacuum that inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil.
- Store butter in its original packaging. Stock up on butter when it’s on sale – you can store it in the freezer for up to six months. Pack the butter in an airtight container, so it doesn’t take on the flavor of whatever else you’re freezing.
- Store coffee in an airtight, opaque container to preserver flavor and freshness. Buy coffee in whole bean form and grind enough for one pot at a time. If you buy more coffee than you can use in 3-4 days, store in an airtight container in the freezer.
- Anybody that lives in the south where the humidity is particularly high probably has had their salt shakers clog up. If you put a little bit of dry rice in the shaker it will stop the salt from hardening.
- Honey is the only nonperishable food substance, so don’t get rid of the stuff if it crystallizes or becomes cloudy. Microwave on medium heat, in 30-second increments, to make honey clear again.
- The best way to keep herbs fresh is to by storing them in whole bunches. First wash them, then seal them in zip lock bags and place them in the freezer. Storing them this way should keep them at peak freshness for up to a month. When you are ready to use them, you’ll find they are actually easier to chop frozen – and they’ll defrost in a hurry once you toss them into a hot pan.
- Keeping brown sugar in the freezer will stop it from hardening. But if you already have hardened sugar on your shelf, soften it by sealing in a bag with a slice of fresh bread or an apple – or by microwaving on high for 30 seconds.
- Keep your refrigerator at the right temperature. It should be kept between 38 and 40 F. to keep your foods as fresh as possible without freezing them.
- Keep your eye on expiration dates when you shop.
- Grow your own food! If you can’t eat it all yourself, pass it along to friends, family or your local food bank. Even if you fail to harvest the complete crop at its peak, it can still be fed to the chickens or composted so it doesn’t really go to waste.
- Buy locally. If you can grow them yourself, the next best option is locally grown produce. It lasts much longer than supermarket fare, which has already traveled long distances before it gets to your kitchen.
- Plan meals in order of what needs to be used up first.
- Keeping in mind the specific ways you like to eat it, clean and prep fresh food as soon as you get it into the kitchen, making it much less likely you’ll let it spoil.
What are YOUR tips for extending the life of your fresh food?