Favorite Techniques to Make Your Groceries Last Longer
By Allison Martin
Tired of the frequent runs to the grocery store to replenish your supply of perishables?
Certain items, like bananas and bread, have a brief shelf life, so you're forced to buy in smaller portions. But with these items and many others, you can use some simple tricks to extend their useful life. By following these tips, I've been able to limit last-minute grocery runs, saving time, money and gas each week.
Take Care With Your Produce
- Before storing, examine the contents of each bag of produce and promptly remove items that are bruised, overripe or on the brink of spoiling. Items in this condition release ethylene gas that could spoil good produce. You can also purchase an ethylene gas absorber to delay the ripening process of your produce.
- Shrink-wrap the crown of bananas. It only takes a few seconds to wrap some plastic around the crown of a bunch of bananas, and it will curb the release of ethylene gas. This gas makes any other produce in the vicinity spoil faster.
- Bundle up herbs. Herbs can be displayed like a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a vase of water. Doing this keeps the herbs alive a lot longer without taking up refrigerator space. Just be sure to trim the stems first.
- Pantyhose are best for onions. Drop an onion in each foot, tie a knot in between and continue this pattern until you fill the legs.
- Don't immediately slice and dice produce. You may be planning for the week ahead, but slicing and dicing too far in advance reduces the life of produce. Of course, if you must get chopping, a little lemon juice will help produce last longer before it starts to brown.
- Poke a few holes in those produce bags you get at the grocery store. Otherwise, they'll trap moisture that will cause produce to break down faster.
- Instead of plastic containers that could expose your food to BPA, use Mason jars. Mason jars also do not stain, and your produce will last a few days longer. Mason jars work well for preportioned salads, extending the shelf life to up to 10 days.
- When wrapped in foil, broccoli, lettuce and celery will last in the fridge for a month or more.
- Tired of cheese quickly drying out? Apply a thin layer of butter to the exposed side, wrap the block in waxed paper, and place it in a plastic bag.
- Paper bags are ideal for mushrooms. Plastic bags are a haven for moisture, causing mushrooms to mildew.
- Store leftovers in airtight glass containers. Airtight lids keep air out; and with glass, you don't have to worry about any chemicals leaching into your food.
- Reseal prepackaged goods. When you keep goods sealed, air will remain in the package and items won't quickly harden.
- Aim for 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of toxic food bacteria. You don't want the temperature so cold everything is frozen. On the other hand, a refrigerator that is too warm results in spoilage. That is like throwing money away.
- Tidy up and organize the refrigerator. It may be convenient to leave expired items in the corner of the fridge until you have time to purge. However, the mold content will expand to other areas and contaminate open products. Also, too much clutter reduces the circulation of cool air and creates warm spots.
- Don't store milk in the refrigerator door. Cooler temperatures are on the middle shelf.
- All meats should be wrapped and stored toward the bottom of the refrigerator or freezer (in case they leak). To be extra safe, place meats in a bowl to catch any liquid residue. Allowing fresh produce and meats to mingle runs the risk of cross-contamination, which causes rapid spoilage.
- Frozen banana pops are my favorite for two reasons: They preserve unused bananas, and they taste great. Freezing also works well for most fruits and vegetables, as long as they are consumed within eight to 12 months. Just remember to label them so you don't find yourself eating something that's been hiding in the back of the freezer for a decade.
- Freezing bread eliminates the onset of mold, which spreads like wildfire and can quickly contaminate an entire loaf. You can also try storing half of the loaf in the fridge and the other half in the freezer.
Not all produce should be refrigerated. Here are some items that should always be stored at room temperature, preferably not in direct sunlight. It may be convenient to store melons or pears on an area of the counter closest to the window, but sunlight speeds up the ripening process. If any of these items begin to ripen and you want to keep them around, place them in the fridge.
- Mangos (in a brown bag).
- Melon (in a brown bag).
- Peaches (in a brown bag).
- Pineapple (upside down).
- Tomatoes. If the stem was removed before purchase, place the tomatoes upside down so air won't seep into the small opening, which expedites ripening.