I love to cook… and eat. There’s something completely satisfying about taking a bunch of fresh food ingredients and creating beautiful, delicious meals.
Shopping days usually include a stop at the local Farmer’s Market as well as Trader Joe’s and the big market. And keeping food fresh for as long as possible is a challenge. Not only do I want to protect my investment, I want to make sure everything my family and I eat is as fresh as possible. So I put together this list of tips to keep food fresh longer and I thought you might find it helpful, too.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
1. Line the bottom of crisper drawers with a cotton dish towel. They will absorb excess moisture that causes veggies to wilt and rot.
2. Wash blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries raspberries and strawberries in 10 parts water to 1 part cider vinegar (it’s okay to rinse if you think you’ll taste the vinegar), then drain well and place your berries in an airtight container before popping them into the fridge. Store in the back of the refrigerator.
3. Wash and thoroughly drain excess moisture from lettuce. Then wrap it in damp paper towels and store in a plastic bag (or green bags if you have them). If lettuce begins to wilt, soak it in ice water to crisp it before using.
4. To keep celery crisp, wash and dry, then wrap in aluminum foil and place in the crisper. It will stay crispy for weeks.
5. Prevent mushrooms from getting slimy by storing them in a brown paper bag and refrigerate.
6. For tomatoes that are about to spoil, slice or cut into chunk,s roast in the oven, place them in olive oil and store in the fridge. They should keep for at least a week.
7. Trim the ends of kale, collards and Swiss Chard, place stalks in a jar or glass of water, loosely cover with a bag and store in the refrigerator.
8. Rub whole summer and winter squash with olive oil and store in the pantry. It will keep for several months.
9. Keep apples away from other fruits and veggies. Apples give off ethylene gas, which causes foods in close proximity to spoil. If they get soft, cook them or use in smoothies.
10. Don’t separate bananas until you want to eat them – they’ll keep longer in a bunch. Store bananas at room temperature until they ripen. Freeze over-ripened bananas for use in banana bread, other baked goods and smoothies.
11. Triple the life of green onions by storing them in a jar of water on the counter. They will keep growing as you snip the tips for fresh eating.
12. Asparagus will last longer by storing the thick ends in cold water.
13. Do not store garlic in a sealed container. Fresh bulbs can be stored in a wire or mesh basket or even a brown paper bag.
14. Store ripe avocados loose in the refrigerator.
Meat, Fish and Eggs
15. Store eggs in their original carton or re-sealable plastic container. If you’re unsure of freshness, test eggs in a cup of water – fresh eggs sink… bad ones float.
16. Meat and poultry should be kept in the original package if you use it within 2 days. (Re-packaging increases the risk of exposing it to harmful bacteria.) If you keep it longer than 2 days, wrap it in zip lock freezer bags and freeze. Wrap smoked meats (bacon, ham, etc.) in a vinegar soaked dish cloth, then in parchment paper. Store in the fridge. Bacon can be frozen for up to a month.
17. Fish should be kept on ice and eaten as soon as possible. You can also wrap fish in parchment paper and place in a zip lock freezer bag to refrigerate or freeze.
Bread and Cereal
18. 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.
19. To keep weevils away, try placing a bay leaf into your storage container. The scent of the bay leave will help repel the bugs.
20. Contrary to popular belief, storing bread in the refrigerator makes it spoil more quickly. Your best bet is to store bread in a tightly sealed bag or container inside a bread box.
21. Prevent stale snacks, pasta, cereal, pretzels and other dry foods by transferring into air-tight containers. Mason jars are great air-tight pantry storage.
22. To revive stale muffins, mist them with a little water, place in a paper bag, and pop in a hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes. The steam created by the water will restore moisture.
Dairy and Cheese
23. Keep milk inside the main refrigerator compartment. Milk stored in the door rack stays warmer because the refrigerator door is opened and gets exposed to kitchen temperatures. It also freezes well.
24. Wrap all cheese securely in wax or parchment paper before storing it in the refrigerator because it allows it to breathe without letting in excess moisture or odors from the fridge. After cutting, rub butter on the cut portion to prevent it from drying out. Cheese can also be kept in the freezer.
25. In order to prolong the life of cottage cheese or sour cream, store the container upside down. Inverting it creates a vacuum that inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil.
26. Store butter in its original packaging. Butter can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, so stock up when it’s on sale.
27. Store coffee in an airtight, opaque container to preserve 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.
28. Anybody who lives where the humidity is high has likely experienced clogged salt shakers. If you put a little bit of dry rice in the shaker it will stop the salt from hardening.
29. Honey is a nonperishable food, so don’t get rid of the stuff if it crystallizes or becomes cloudy. Place container in hot water until crystals disappear and the honey becomes clear again. Never microwave – it will destroy all of the beneficial properties of the honey.
30. The best way to keep herbs fresh is to by storing them in whole bunches. First wash and dry 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.
31. 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.
32. Keep your refrigerator at the right temperature. It should stay between 38 and 40 F. to keep your foods as fresh as possible without freezing them.
33. Keep your eye on expiration dates when you shop.
34. Grow your own food. If you find your garden is producing more than you can eat, family, friends or your local food pantry would love to share with you. What’s left over can go to the compost pile or other little critters around your place.
35. Buy locally. If you can’t or don’t want to grow your own food, the next best option is the local Farmer’s Market. Food you buy locally will last much longer than what you find in supermarket because chances are that food has traveled a long distance before it gets to market.