Proper food storage is seldom discussed, but according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family of four throws away $1,600 of wasted food per year. That’s a big chunk of change but that’s not even the worst of it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million persons get sick from foodborne infections and illness in the United States every year. Don’t worry though, here are a few tips to safely store extra food in your fridge and keep some money in your pockets.
You can prevent and kill any of those berry-infecting mold spores by simply rinsing your berries with a vinegar water solution – One part vinegar, 10 parts water. This can help your raspberries stay fresh for up to a week, and strawberries up to two weeks.
Another tip would be to keep them in their original, well ventilated plastic clamshell packaging – as long as you line the container with a dry paper towel and leave the top uncovered. This allows for air flow which helps evaporate excess condensation and keeps your berries fresher for longer.
Keeping Bananas Fresh
To keep your bananas fresh and prevent them from ripening too quickly, simply wrap their stems in plastic wrap. The stem of the banana is what produces ethylene gas, which is responsible for the ripening of your favorite yellow fruit. Wrapping each individual banana stem would help make them last even longer.
Another conventional way to keep those bananas fresh is by placing them in your refrigerator once they’ve begun to ripen. The application of colder temperatures slows down this process and allows bananas to stay fresh for over a week.
It’s best to store avocados at room temperature until they’re ripe, then transfer them to a plastic bag in your fridge for 3-5 days if you don’t plan on eating them right away. Once your avocados have been sliced, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to reduce the oxidation process.
If you’re storing guacamole, use plastic wrap to tightly seal the container and adhere it directly to the surface of your dip. This will prevent browning for up to two days.
Keep Your Lettuce Crisp
No one wants to deal with soggy lettuce, I get it. So to avoid this, try using a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture and place it in an airtight container. This will prevent your greens from drying out and browning.
If you absolutely can’t avoid it, there’s still hope! Try placing your lettuce in a bowl of ice water for 15-20 minutes, then removing it and drying it in a salad spinner. Once done, you should have a colder, crisper and fresher tasting lettuce for your salad.
Putting your bread in the freezer until you’re ready to eat it is probably the best way to preserve its freshness. You’ll definitely want to avoid keeping it in the plastic bag it comes in, which would make it get stale and moldy faster.
You should also avoid keeping your bread in the fridge since the air is drier than the loaf itself. In fact, your bread will go state faster in the refrigerator than it does at room temperature.
Do you ever see a bouquet of flowers sitting in a vase, filled with water? That’s exactly how you should be storing your herbs, with an extra step involved. After placing the stem in the cup or vase of water, drape a Ziploc back over the top of your herbs to keep in moisture, then place them on the counter at room temperature.
This method should help your herbs remain fresh from a few days to a week or so. Once the leaves on your herbs become brittle or dark, or the stems show signs of mold, it’s time to discard them.
Keep Brown Sugar From Drying Out
No one likes finding a solid block of brown sugar on the morning you promised you’d make your famous snicker-doodle cookies. Luckily, you can avoid this by simply adding small marshmallows to your brown sugar before storing it in your refrigerator. This method also works with a slice of bread or some apple slices.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where it’s already hard by the time you need to use it, you can always add your sugar to a bowl, cover it with a moistened paper towel, and microwave it in 20-second bursts.
Potatoes & Apples
Did you know storing potatoes with apples can actually help prolong the sprouting process? The ethylene gas produced by ripening apples is the apparent reason for this effect on your spuds. Ethylene is a colorless, scentless gas created by most ripening fruit (and some vegetables).
Typically, this gas aids in the ripening of fruits and vegetables, but it has an unusual effect on spuds that actually does the opposite. For longer-term storage, you can keep them in a paper bag or small burlap sack and store them in your pantry.
Tomatoes are best kept in a cool place until they ripen. Then they can be left on the counter. Avoid throwing them in the fridge as the cold air prevents the ripening process and breaks down the cell membranes, giving them a mealy texture and loss of flavor.
Another helpful tip is to store your unripe tomatoes on your countertop – stem side down. This serves to block moisture from leaving the tomato and air (mold and bacteria) from entering. You can also tape down your stem, this will achieve the same result.
Citrus And Melon
Citrus and Melons should also be kept on your counter until they’re ready to be eaten. Keeping melons at room temperature actually helps keep their antioxidant levels higher – retaining much of their vitamins and nutrients.
Once you cut your melon, it should be wrapped in plastic and can be stored in your refrigerator for up to three days. Same deal for citrus fruits like lemons or limes. Ideally, you’ll keep these at room temperature for up to a week, or you can refrigerate them up to two weeks.
Onions, Garlic, and Shallots
The trick for properly storing your onions, garlic, and shallots is to store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Your pantry isn’t a bad option but it’s a bonus if it’s well ventilated. This isn’t a deal-breaker though. Using this method, your bulbs shouldn’t have a problem staying fresh for around two weeks.
If you’re looking for a long term solution, try storing them in hanging pantyhose. The air circulation prevents mold and you’ll be able to safely keep them for about six months!
Cheese Needs Air
Keeping your opened cheese wrapped in its original plastic packaging will effectively suffocate it and give it a plastic flavor. If you’re noticing this smell or taste, you can remove the thin outer layer and wrap it in wax paper, cheese paper, or parchment paper.
These papers are a better method for providing breathability for the cheese without sacrificing too much of the natural moisture. For the record, this method works best for hard to semi-hard cheeses. Fresh cheese like mozzarella or Feta needs to be left in water that’s changed every couple of days.
Store Milk in the Back of the Fridge
Proper milk storage seems pretty simple enough. Just put it in your fridge, right? Maybe it’s not that simple after all. You should always store your milk in the back of your fridge, that way it’s always at a consistently cold temperature. Keeping it in the refrigerator door will cause your milk to spoil faster since the temperatures tend to fluctuate when it’s being opened and closed.
Opened milk, even kept in colder temperatures should always be consumed within one week. Any longer than that, and you’ll know it’s gone bad by its chunky texture and sour smell.
Store Butter in the Freezer
Butter freezes surprisingly well and can be kept in great condition for up to a year (salted butter lasts longer but this also works for unsalted). Leave your butter in its original wrapping and place it in a freezer bag, that way you’ll always have some on hand in your time of need.
As with anything though, while freezing your butter can prolong shelf life, gradual loss of flavor and texture can occur over time. For the best results, freeze your butter while it’s still fresh.
Keep Honey Store At Room Temperature and Out of Sunlight
Storing honey is one of the easiest things you can do since it doesn’t require much maintenance. Ideally, it should be stored at room temperature and kept away from any heat sources like stoves or direct sunlight.
You can pretty much store honey at room temperature for an eternity. Over time, you may notice that your honey begins to granulate or crystallize – this doesn’t mean it’s gone bad! This process can be reversed by simply placing your jar of honey in warm water to allow the granules to dissolve to their original state.
In The US, Keep Eggs Cold
Storing the mighty egg depends on where you live. In the US, eggs should be placed in the coldest part of your fridge, ideally towards the back, since they’re washed with a certain chemical sanitizer to reduce the odds of salmonella infection. These eggs need to be kept in cold temperatures to prevent deterioration.
In Europe or other places where eggs don’t undergo this process, it’s safe to store them at room temperature in their original cartons. You can tell if your eggs aren’t fit for consumption if they begin to emit a sulfurous odor.
Olive Oil Will Last a Few Months After Being Opened
Olive oil should be kept in a cool, dark place until it’s ready to be used. Absolutely avoid putting it in the fridge where it will go solid. An unopened bottle of olive oil can be kept for up to two years but should be used within a few months of being opened.
The real key here is making sure you’re buying the right kinds of olive oil. More specifically, pay attention to the type of container. You want to choose a product sold in a dark, glass bottle – avoid clear plastic containers.
Keeping Meat In The Fridge
Duh, tell me something I don’t know. Okay, refrigerating your meat keeps it safe by slowing down the growth of bacteria that causes food poisoning. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, meat kept between 40 and 140 °F is dangerous as bacteria grow most rapidly at these temperatures.
Keep meats in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator so it doesn’t contaminate other foods. Take an additional step by double wrapping the meat to reduce the chances of cross-contamination. Beef and pork will usually last around a day or two in the fridge.
Chopping vegetables, fruits, or meat too far in advance will cause premature browning, loss of moisture, and loss of flavor. It’s best to wait until you’re ready to use these ingredients to avoid unnecessary degradation in quality. In fact, a lesser-known trick is actually covering your chopped vegetables with a damp paper towel while you work on prepping the rest of your meal.
If you plan on refrigerating them overnight, it’s a good idea to place them in a well-ventilated container alongside a damp paper towel.
Avoid placing odor-absorbing foods in your fridge. Basil or coffee, for example, will begin absorbing other flavors soon after being placed in your fridge. To avoid odd flavors in your morning cup o’ joe, keep coffee in an air-tight container and away from sunlight. This will ensure the flavor of your grounds isn’t compromised.
Basil is a little different. To store fresh basil, trim the stems and place them in water. Similar to how you’d store a bouquet of flowers. This will keep your herbs vibrant and green for up to a week.