Storing Fresh Foods
Waste Less With These 8 Tips for Storing Fresh
By Steve Edwards
I asked the
waiter 'Is this milk fresh?'
He said, 'Lady, three hours ago it was
If you glance at news headlines, you've probably read "Americans
don't eat enough fruits and veggies" and how we should eat more fresh foods.
There's no better time to improve on this than during the summer, when we have
enough choices for even the pickiest of us to find something we like. One of
the main problems with fresh foods is their life span. You need to buy only
what you can eat right away, which doesn't always fit into our hectic
lifestyles. And while fruits and veggies are not expensive, they quickly become
so if you waste half of what you buy. Here are eight tips to help you stretch
every penny while improving your health.
- Plan ahead. Try and make a trip to the
market every five days. Most fruits and veggies will stay fresh and edible at
least this long. If you're on a schedule, you'll know you've got to eat all
you've purchased prior to the next trip, which is a pretty helpful tool for
staying on a healthy diet. If you're a once-a-week shopper, read on. We'll
provide some tips for squeezing a few more days out of your
your shopping. By shopping early or late in the day, when
temperatures are cooler, you can expand the life span of fresh foods. This is
particularly useful if you use your local farmers' marketwhich you
should, because these foods tend to be fresher, cheaper, and of better quality.
Getting to the market early gives you the pick of the litter and expands the
time the foods will stay fresh.
aren't just for beer. If your schedule demands midday
shopping, you can minimize its effects by keeping a cooler in your car. Keep an
ice pack in your freezer and remember to grab it before you head to the market
and toss it in the cooler. Sure, this makes it hard to hit the store on a whim
but it will force you to plan better, which has no downside. If you need
another reminder, shop with reusable bags. If you have two things to remember,
you'll lessen your odds of forgetting. Plus, some markets reward you for using
parts of the fridge are not created equal. Unfortunately,
all those cool compartments in the doors are not the most efficient way to
store most things. It's colder in the deep recesses, so store the most
sensitive items in the back. This is especially true for eggs because the
"special" egg slots are almost always in the door. Don't use them. Store your
eggs in their original carton in the deepest corner of the fridge. (Click here to
read more about eggs.) Separate your foods in the fridge, too. Fruits and
veggies should not touch one another. In fact, it's best if nothing is touching
each other. But fruits and veggies should be stored in different drawers
because fruits emit ethylene, which causes veggies to rot
your food. Some foods do better if you prepare them,
others not, but taking a few minutes when you get home to organize your
groceries will help you get the most for your money. Think of it as a coupon
you don't have to remember to bring to the store.
Most plants are better left in the state you bought them until
ready to use, but there are some exceptions. Salad greens, for one, should be
prepped prior to storage. Wash thempreferably in salt waterand then spin them
dry in a salad spinner. Then separate the leaves with paper towels and store in
zip-lock bags. This can keep your greens fresh for up to a week.
as well, benefit from some prep work. For leafy herbs, unbind them and separate
and toss anything soft or discolored. Then place them in a glass jar, stems
down in water, as if you were arranging flowers. Then cover loosely with a
Buy cut fruits and vegetables only when ready for use. Cutting
produce too far in advance exposes it to air-accelerating bacterial
- To wash or not to wash? Contrary to what
your market does for aesthetics, don't wash most fruits and veggies prior to
storage. And if they are wet from the market, dry them off and then store them
in your crisper drawer between layers of paper towels. This will keep them
fresh for up to 10 days. If you leave them wet, they'll mildew in less than
half that time.
- What to
leave out of the fridge. Some items do better at room
temperature. Potatoes are one. Tomatoes are another, though this is debated.
What isn't debated is that you should store them stem down no matter where you
put them. Most fruits should be taken out of the fridge a day or two prior to
eating them, since they are generally sold just short of ripe and they ripen
more quickly at room temperature.
- Containment. Science is your friend when it
comes to maximizing the life of fresh foods. Here are a few examples. Glass
stores dairy better than the cartons they come in. Transferring your milk to
glass containers will both improve its taste and double its life span. The same
goes for cheese. And we've vastly improved upon the traditional Tupperware and
Saran Wrap storing methods. New storage bags and plastic containers extend life
by allowing produce to breathe. Some are even designed to absorb ethylene
gases. There are also other devices that you can place in the fridge to absorb
ethylene. Taking a few minutes at the market to study the latest technology can
make it easier than ever to maximize your food's potential.