Save Your Groceries! Hacks To Make Food Last Longer

In the United States, 30% to 40% of food goes to waste. When people buy groceries, the food often goes bad before they can eat it. But some simple tricks can make your groceries last longer. Re-organize your refrigerator and turn your tomatoes upside-down; your food will stay fresh for longer! Read on for more hacks to prolong food’s shelf life.

Place Your Tomatoes Upside-Down On The Counter

Tomatoes sit on a baking sheet with their stems facing down.

During an interview with Epicurious, food scientist Harold McGee said that tomatoes are especially sensitive to refrigerator temperatures. The refrigerator can inhibit flavor-producing enzymes. Instead of putting ripe tomatoes in the fridge, place them upside-down on the counter.

The stem allows air to go inside the tomato. By turning the stem down, you can slow the ripening process. If your tomatoes become too ripe, stick them in the fridge for a bit to revive them.

Organize Refrigerator Items By Temperature

The inside of a refrigerator is labeled and organized.
Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images
Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Did you know that food can spoil more quickly depending on where you put it in the fridge? In general, the upper shelves have the most inconsistent temperatures, and the lower shelves are colder.

On the lower shelves, store raw meats and other animal products. This will keep them fresh and prevent dripping onto your other products. On the higher shelves, store leftovers, berries, hummus–anything that does not need cooking. If you need something to last longer, push it toward the back.

Wrap The Stems Of Your Bananas Only

Banana stems are wrapped in tinfoil.
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Like other fruits, bananas release ethylene gas, which causes them to ripen. But did you know that most ethylene gas escapes through the stem? If you wrap the stem, you could slow the rate of ripening.

Grab some plastic wrap and cover the stems of your banana bundle. If you separate each banana and cover each stem, then they will last longer. Do not cover the entire banana, or else it will go bad more quickly.

Put A Paper Towel In Your Veggies Bag

Romaine lettuce is wrapped in paper towels in a Ziplock bag.
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Shana OMara/Pinterest

Vegetable bags, especially chopped veggies or leafy greens, tend to mold more quickly. As the pieces produce ethylene gas, they fog up the bag and become too wet. To prevent this, put a paper towel into your vegetable bag.

The paper towel will absorb some (but not all) of the moisture. This will keep your veggies fresh without drying them out. When the paper towel becomes soaked, replace it with a dry one. This is especially helpful for lettuce, broccoli, spinach, carrots, and peas.

How To Re-Seal A Chip Bag

A diagram shows how to fold a bag of chips to vacuum seal it.
Lydia Whiting/Pinterest
Lydia Whiting/Pinterest

Chips become stale when they get exposed to moisture. Because their molecules are hydrophilic, they soak up water from the air around them. Instead of rolling up the bag and clipping it, re-seal it. Removing the air will keep your chips crisp.

Lay your chip bag flat on a table, and push the air out (without crushing the chips). Then, fold each corner inward, meeting in the middle of the bag. Roll the empty part of the bag and clip it.

Hang Onions And Let Them Breathe

Onions hang from a closet encased in pantyhose.

Onions should be stored in a cool, dry place, with plenty of room to breathe. Achieve this by hanging your onions in mesh bags or pantyhose. Hanging onions will help them last longer, up to six months.

Onions are full of sugary juices, mainly stored in the neck, the thin part at the top. As the onion dries out, the neck will resupply it with juices. When onions hang, gravity works in your favor by spreading these juices more quickly.

Prolong Cheese’s Shelf Life With Butter

A person holds up squares of sliced cheese.

If you slice into a block of cheese, don’t put it back in the fridge yet. Rub a layer of butter onto the sliced side. This layer will moisturize the cheese slice and prevent it from hardening. It can also ward off mold by acting as a seal.

If you try this, make sure that you store cheese properly. Do not use plastic wrap; use a breathable material like parchment paper. After covering the cheese in parchment paper, seal it in a ziplock bag or resealable container.

To Preserve Potatoes, Add An Apple

An apple is in a pile of potatoes.
Practical Priorities from Kathy K. Norman/Pinterest
Practical Priorities from Kathy K. Norman/Pinterest

Once potatoes sprout, you cannot eat them. You can delay the sprouting process by adding an apple to your bag of potatoes. The apple produces ethylene gas, which will inhibit the sprouting process. On the flip side, keeping onions nearby will cause them to sprout.

For the apple trick, the only downside is that your apple will become gross. When it rots, replace the apple with a new one. Keep an eye on your potatoes to make sure that they are cool and dry.

Soak Asparagus In A Vase

In a refrigerator, asparagus stands in a measuring cup with water and is covered with plastic wrap.
Charissa Galbraith/Pinterest
Charissa Galbraith/Pinterest

By itself, asparagus lasts for up to five days in the fridge. But with this method, asparagus can remain fresh for ten days. Stand the asparagus upright in a vase or measuring cup with one to two inches of water. The water will keep the asparagus hydrated, like a plant.

For the tops of the asparagus, cover them with plastic wrap. Stick your asparagus into the fridge. It will remain firm and fresh for much longer than usual.

Poke Holes In Plastic Bags

While plastic bags conveniently store vegetables, they do not make them last longer. Plastic does not allow the produce to breathe, and when the bag fills with ethylene gas, the food wilts or rots.

If you are going to use plastic bags, poke holes in them first. These will release some of the ethylene gas and help your food last longer. Also, the holes will get rid of some condensation that would otherwise sprout mold.

Force Your Apple Slices Back Into The Apple

Apple slices are held together with a rubber band.

If you don’t like brown apple slices, grab a rubber band. You can force the apple slices back into the shape of the fruit. Face the open slices into each other, wrap a rubber band around them, and force them together. Limiting exposure to the air will prevent browning.

Another method is to soak the slices in salt water for up to ten minutes. Browning occurs from dryness and bacteria exposure. The water will hydrate the slices, and the salt will eliminate bacteria.

Remove Any Spoiled Bits, No Matter How Small

Two tangerines sit in a wooden bowl, one fresh, and one moldy.
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you have a container of berries or a bag of vegetables, watch it for rotten or moldy bits. When you find one, take it out! Spoiled pieces will make the rest of the produce rot twice as quickly.

On that note, do not wash produce before putting it into the fridge. This will add more moisture, which prompts mold growth. Allow your fruits and vegetables to breathe, and remove any piece that looks brown, wilted, or moldy.

Never Cut Produce Before Refrigerating It

Sliced cucumbers lie on a wooden cutting board.
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Do not cut fruits or vegetables before storing them; wait to chop them until right before you cook. When produce is chopped, its sugars break down more quickly. It also reveals more skin to create more ethylene gas.

According to Very Well Fit, chopping produce can also worsen the nutritional quality. Vitamins C, A, and E are all carried by water. When you chop produce, that water dries, taking the vitamins with it. Keeping foods whole will work in your favor.

Put Non-Perishable Foods In Refrigerator Doors

Condiments and other food items are stored on the refrigerator door.
Getty Images
Getty Images

The refrigerator door has the most fickle temperatures. Every time you open it, the temperature warms. Because of this, do not store perishable foods like eggs, butter, cheese, or fruit there. They will spoil more quickly.

On the door, you can place juices, water, and condiments. Remember that even condiments like mustard and jam have a shelf life, some as low as three months. Do not eat them if they smell odd or become discolored.

Put Milk In The Back Of The Fridge

Cartons of skim milk are in the back of a refrigerator.
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you store milk properly, it can last up to seven days after you open it. To maximize your milk’s shelf life, put it in the back of the fridge. That way, it will not heat up every time you open the refrigerator.

Never put a milk carton on the refrigerator door. The warmer milk gets, the more likely it will spoil. Instead, place the carton on the middle or upper shelf. If you buy milk substitutes, do the same thing.

Make Fresh Herb Ice Cubes

A variety of ice cubes contain rosemary, an olive, and a walnut.
Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Instead of letting fresh herbs go bad, why not freeze them? You can put herbs into an ice tray, and it will last for up to 12 months. You can also freeze these herbs in olive oil and thaw them into pasta, salads, stir fry, and more.

According to Olive Oil Times, you can safely freeze olive oil and it will maintain its flavor. Fresh herbs should not be infused into room temperature olive oil, as it can produce a toxin.

Keep Food Away From Windows

Baskets of lemons and oranges hang next to a window.
Chris Arthur-Collins/Unsplash
Chris Arthur-Collins/Unsplash

Move fruit bowls, bread containers, and coffee pods away from windows. Sunlight heats up the food, which speeds up ripening. The sunlight can also make products go stale or harden more quickly.

In fact, the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals recommends keeping food at least 18 inches away from the wall. Walls tend to warm and cool with the outside temperature, which influences the spoiling process. If you have counter food, place it away from walls and windows.

Why People Pair Avocados With Onions

Half an avocado is placed in a container with sliced red onion.
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Vickie Pinney/Pinterest

Avocados quickly ripen, especially when they are cut in half. But you can slow their ripening process by refrigerating them with onions. Onions emit sulphur, which reacts with enzymes inside of the avocado and inhibits the ripening process.

Pair a whole onion with a few whole avocados. If your avocado is cut in half, then chop your onions, too. Provide a bed of sliced onions at the bottom of a plastic container. Then, set your avocado on top of it and seal it.

Give Your Herbs A Plastic “Hat”

Freshly-grown herbs are covered with plastic wrap.
Mustard Seed Mommy/Pinterest
Mustard Seed Mommy/Pinterest

Some herbs do not like to be frozen. In this case, give your fresh herbs a “hat.” First, put them into a glass of water. Cover the tops with plastic wrap or a ziplock bag.

This is a recipe for long-lasting herbs. The water will prevent your herbs from drying out. Meanwhile, the plastic bag around the top will prevent the herbs from wilting. It’s like creating a tiny greenhouse for every one of your herbs.

If You Buy Bulk Meat, Make Your Own Vacuum Seal

A person puts a chunk of meat into a plsatic Ziplock bag to vacuum-seal it.
Thermomix Sous Vide/Pinterest
Thermomix Sous Vide/Pinterest

In some cases, buying bulk meat is cheaper. In other cases, you might need to divide a meat package for a recipe. When you do so, re-cover them by creating your own vacuum seal. Vacuum sealing removes air and prevents bacteria from growing.

First, put meat into a plastic bag. Dip it into a bowl of water; this will help to press out the air. Then, press as much air out as possible, allowing no water to enter. When the bag becomes flat, close the ziplock.

Give Your Strawberries A Vinegar Bath

A strawberry lands in a vinegar bath.

In the refrigerator, strawberries can last between four and seven days. But if you want to maximize (or possibly lengthen) their shelf life, give them a vinegar bath! Vinegar is an anti-bacterial that removes mold and bacteria from the strawberry’s surface.

Create a three-to-one ratio of water and vinegar: three cups of water, one cup of vinegar. Soak the strawberries for five to ten minutes. Do not rinse them; let them dry, and the vinegar will evaporate off. Enjoy!

Flip Your Pineapples Upside-Down

As a tropical fruit, pineapples ripen very quickly. They last longest in the fridge, but even then, it’s only for around five days. If you want your pineapples to last a long while, cut the stem off of the whole fruit. Then, flip it upside-down.

Most of the pineapple’s juices are stored at the bottom, opposite the stem. Turning the pineapple upside-down will encourage juices to flow through it, which prevents it from drying out.

Why Food Lasts Longer In Mason Jars

A bakery sells peach pecan bread packed into mason jars.
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Mason jars are the ultimate food storage vessel. Their lids are designed to completely seal food, removing all air that could promote bacteria growth. They also do not contain BPA that other containers do.

Store leftovers, fruit, soup, and other foods in mason jars. Because the jars are made from glass, you can stick them in the fridge and they will cool down quickly. Many people have found that food lasts longer when packed in a mason jar.

Add Rice To Your Salt Shaker

A salt shaker in a restaurant has dried rice grains in it.

If you look closely at salt shakers in a restaurant, you’ll notice that most of them include dried rice. This is to prevent the salt from clumping. Over time, moisture from the air clumps salt together, making it much harder to use. If you put dried rice grains into your salt shaker, you won’t have this problem.

Because rice is porous, it soaks up water faster than salt. The rice pieces might clump together, but your salt will remain easy to use.

Make Yogurt Pops!

A woman pours strawberry banana yogurt into popsicle molds to freeze.
Paul Yeung/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Paul Yeung/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Is your yogurt about to go bad? Stick it in the freezer! Yogurt lasts for up to two months in the freezer, as opposed to ten days in the fridge. For a fun treat, turn your yogurt into popsicles.

Grab a container, such as an ice cube tray or a cup in the shape that you want. Stick a straw into each container of yogurt. When the yogurt freezes, you can pick it up by the straw and enjoy!

Keep Mushrooms In A Paper Bag

If you store mushrooms correctly, they will remain fresh for a full week. But you need to put them in a highly breathable container, not Tupperware or plastic. Because mushrooms are sensitive to mold, you should grab a brown paper bag, like a school lunch bag.

Put whole, uncut mushrooms into the brown paper bag. Do not wash them beforehand, and do not shove the bag into the crisper. These environments are too moist. Instead, put the bag of mushrooms in the center of the fridge.

Yes, You Can Freeze Bread

Bread loaves are stored in a freezer.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Store-bought bread typically stays fresh for seven days. But if you want to make it last up to six months, freeze it. Frozen bread can survive for several months, but it will start losing its flavor after one month.

When you want to use it, leave it on the counter until it reaches room temperature. Do not immediately put it into the oven, or else it will dry out. Once it gets warm, heat it in the oven at 350°F for ten minutes to revive the crust.

How To Keep Guacamole Green

A plate is filled with chips and a bowl of guacamole.
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for The New Yorker
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for The New Yorker

After someone makes guacamole, it gradually starts to turn brown. This happens because an enzyme in avocado reacts with oxygen in the air. If you want to keep your avocado green, spray it with vegetable oil.

Olive oil, coconut oil, or another vegetable oil will seal the avocado away from oxygen. Cover the guacamole with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. If you see a brown spot, scrape it off. This way, guacamole will stay fresh for up to three days.

Repel Insects With Bay Leaves

Bay leaves pour out of a glass jar.

Bay leaves are natural bug repellents. Ants, cockroaches, weevils, moths, and flies do not like dried bay leaves. Because of this, some people stick bay leaves into their pantry to keep their food safe.

You can even stick bay leaves into food containers. Make your dried rice, seeds, nuts, or flour last longer by pairing them with bay leaves. After a few months, replace the herbs. You need new leaves because the bugs dislike the bitter smell.

Save Soggy Cucumbers

A plate of sliced cucumbers has lemon slices and salt.
Caroline Mason/Pinterest
Caroline Mason/Pinterest

Because cucumbers are 95% water, they can easily become soggy or dry. To prevent both, add a little bit of lemon juice and salt to your cucumber container. The lemon will keep it fresh, and the salt will soak up some of the excess water.

Store your cucumbers near the front of the fridge, where it’s warmer. If you have to refrigerate a sliced cucumber, don’t fret! Cover the exposed end with tinfoil so that it does not release too much water.