How to Store Food to Prevent Wasting Food and Wasting Money
On average, we throw away a fourth of the food we buy. That’s like leaving the grocery store with four apples and throwing one out the window on the ride home. It amounts to an estimated $1,350 to $2,275 wasted by the average four-person household per year. Money isn’t the only thing going to waste when we pitch good food; we waste all of the resources — including water — that went into producing it. Food waste is a huge problem, but it’s one we can all do something about.
You can start by planning, shopping and cooking smarter. Then, make sure the food you’ve already bought or cooked doesn’t go to waste. Proper storage is the key to making sure your time and money aren’t going to waste.
Proper Storage for Fresh Food
You can make your food last much longer by storing it correctly when you get it home from the farmers’ market or grocery store.
How to Store Fresh Fruit and Veggies to Make them Last
For fresh fruits and veggies, proper storage is about ripeness, temperature and moisture. Here are some general pointers.
For produce like bananas, stone fruit, avocados and tomatoes, let them ripen, then get them in the fridge or freezer before they become too overripe. Some fruits — particularly bananas, apples, citrus and tomatoes — produce a lot of ethylene gas which hastens the ripening process of the produce stored around them. Keep them away from nearly-ripe fruit and keep them close to rock-hard avocados.
For temperature, what we’re mostly talking about is whether things should go in the fridge, sit on the counter or get placed in a cool, dark spot out of the light.
Managing temperature is a key to getting some produce to ripen just enough but then not spoil. Tomatoes are the perfect example: ripen them on the counter and then refrigerate once they’re ripe, in order to extend their lifespan. That works for plenty of other produce as well, though sometimes — as with bananas — they need to go straight to the freezer once they’re near over-ripe. If the item is cut up like diced tomatoes or pineapple, store it in the refrigerator.
Depending on the food item, water can either hurt it or make it last much longer. With all produce, don’t wash it until you’re ready to use it because the moisture and the agitation can bruise produce and can wash off coatings put on by distributors. For softer leaves and greens like spinach or arugula, it’s about keeping them dry and cool. The same is true for berries. For things that can easily wilt — like parsley, basil, cilantro and asparagus — you can keep their bases in water as you would cut flowers to prolong their life.
Your Freezer is Your Friend
Life gets in the way of our best food intentions. If you’re not able to use up all the berries you bought or know you won’t have a chance to eat your leftovers, the freezer will save them for when you can.
Freezing meat and fish is an important way to keep these high-foodprint items from going to waste. You can freeze bananas (remove peel first), hard cheese (grate first), vegetables (blanch first), bread (best if pre-sliced), yogurt (give it a good stir after thawing), milk (low fat or skim freezes better and give a hearty shake after thawing), grapes, ginger, chilies, herbs and lots more.
Find more freezer tips at Love Food Hate Waste.
How to Store Meat, Dairy and Eggs to Make them Last
Storing Dairy and Eggs
Storing these items properly is all about keeping them cold, so they don’t spoil. It’s best to keep your eggs and dairy near the back of the fridge and not in the door to minimize how much their temperature fluctuates. Write on the package the date you opened them to give you an idea of when you need to use them up.
Keep meat on the lowest shelf of the fridge where it’s coldest and try to cook or freeze them in a few days after purchasing.
How to Store Bread and Baked Goods
Bread and baked goods will dry out in the refrigerator, but keeping them there will help prevent mold from growing. If you don’t mind toasting your bread before using it, keep it in the fridge. Another option is to keep it wrapped up in a bread box for a couple days and then get it in the fridge before mold starts to show up. If you have extra that you know you can’t get to, the freezer isn’t a bad option. Or make breadcrumbs in the oven and store them. For ingredients like flour, breadcrumbs and yeast, you can really make them last by freezing them. As for other baked goods: the more fat they have in them, the more likely they are to go bad quickly, and dairy-heavy baked goods need to be kept in the fridge.
How to Store Dried Goods like Grains, Beans, Nuts and Legumes
Sustainable Methods for Storing Food
A lot of food storage systems out there rely on plastic, and even though you may be reusing these items multiple times, you’re still eventually creating plastic waste. It’s better to use glass, ceramic, stainless steel, products designed to be reused or packaging that would go to waste otherwise. Dedicating a little time and treasure to cutting plastic waste out of your life is a great idea to improve your foodprint (and save money over time).