Photo: Set your fridge at a temperature that’s a few degrees above freezing so you can have it as cold as possible to keep the bacteria away. Shutterstock.
As you’ve learned, it’s always a good idea to keep your kitchen a bit stocked up just in case there’s an emergency. The problem that many people have is knowing how to safely store their food so they don’t find their meat becoming freezer burned or food turning bad before you can use all of it.
When food goes unused, you become frustrated because a lot of your hard-earned money goes into providing groceries for your family. Understandably, you can’t save everything – children will refuse to eat certain foods or won’t finish their plates. Sometimes your eyes are even bigger for your stomach. But, you try to do everything you can to not waste. While this article doesn’t give you advice on getting your children to eat their food, it does help you learn how to store food for as long as possible safely.
How Much Should You Store?
Before you found yourself hunkered down for the current crisis, you were told that you should at least have enough food in your home for up to two weeks. However, the situation seemed to drag on and on… and on. You quickly learned that if you wanted to stay out of public, two weeks wasn’t long enough.
In general, you should ensure that you have enough food to last for at least one month. However, there are also the medium-level and long-term emergency options to look at. Medium-level means that you have enough food to last for three months. Long-term food storage focuses on over three months to years.
Bananas are usually a favorite for many people, especially children. Not only do they make a healthy and tasty snack, but you can add them to your oatmeal, some cereal, and even on your peanut butter toast. They’re also great to put in salads, but they tend to go bad quickly. Fortunately, there is a way to extend their lifetime.
You don’t need to wrap the whole banana in plastic wrap, but you should package the stem tightly, so ethylene gas doesn’t escape. By taking this step, you’ll extend the life of your bananas for up to four days.
When it comes to sliced cheese that’s already pre-wrapped, you don’t need to worry about this so much. But, when you buy block cheese, it tends to go back quickly in regular plastic bags, plastic wrap, or storage containers.
The best way to store unwrapped cheese for the longest time is by packaging it in parchment paper. You can buy “cheese paper” for this, but you’ll save money by safely wrapping up the cheese in parchment paper. The main reason is that parchment paper allows the ingredient to breathe better than any other storage method.
You can’t store the whole egg in your freezer, but you can separate the egg white from the yolk to store it in your freezer. All you need to do is mix the yolks up in a bowl with a little salt and add them into a freezer bag. While you might want to keep them into a container, you’ll likely get air in the container, which can cause frost burn on the yolks. A freezer bag allows you to get out as much air as possible while closing the bag.
Before you place the eggs in the freezer, write the date on the bag. You only want to keep the yolks in the freezer for about a year. This hack will always allow you to have eggs on hand, just in case you run out of fresh eggs.
Sometimes people will keep their fridge at a temperature that lowers their electric bill, even if it’s just a few cents. Other people want to find a temperature that’ll keep their fridge a certain coolness without freezing any of its contents.
While you don’t want your fridge to freeze items, keeping it up at a temperature near freezing is ideal. For example, set it at about 38 or 37 degrees Fahrenheit. This action won’t freeze your items, but it will keep them cold enough, so bacteria doesn’t start to grow. Because of this, you can keep the food for a more extended period.
You have an idea of how much your family can eat in one meal. You usually judge this when you’re cooking as you don’t want to make too much. Even though this isn’t always easy to decide (the growth spurts can throw off your portions), you do your best and know that you save money this way.
But another way to start saving money is to pre-divide the ground meat into portions before you package it in the freezer. You’ll save much money by buying meat in bulk, but some don’t do this because they worry it’ll go bad. All you need to do is divide the meat into different baggies or vacuum-sealable bags, ensure as much air as possible, write the date, and put them into the freezer.
Studies show that you want to keep your dairy products, such as your milk, in the back of the fridge where it’s coldest. Even though it’s easy to have your milk, cheese, and eggs in the doorway or front of the refrigerator as you can grab them easier, they’ll stay fresh for a longer period if they’re in the coldest part of the fridge, which is in the back.
It might be more convenient to grab your milk from the door when you’re getting cereal ready for your kids in the morning, but you’ll save money over time if you place them in the back of the fridge.
As you learned before, one of the biggest reasons many foods, such as fruit and vegetables, go bad quickly is because ethylene gas leaks from them quickly. You can easily find one of these absorbers from Amazon at a reasonable price. You don’t need to buy more than one, but keep it around the fruits and vegetables in your fridge.
If you put your fruits in a crisper drawer, put the absorber in there with them. If you keep fruits and vegetables in little baggies, poke a few holes in the bag so the absorber can work its magic.
You know that as meat thaws, it can leak. This notion is why you usually put meat in a container, plastic bag, or even on a plate to thaw out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that it won’t leak unto other foods. Therefore, it’s best to place the meat on the bottom shelf, which will ensure the safety of your other foods.
Another piece of advice is to place your meat away from other foods. You don’t want to cause cross-contamination, which can happen from thawed meat, even if they’re just close to other foods. Bacteria from the meat can make its way to your fruits, vegetables, or cooked foods. So, keep the rest of your foods away from your uncooked meat.
You probably have many berries in your home. They’re great to have as a snack, make into a pie, add in salads, and have as a side for your meal. Plus, they help keep your immune system healthy. You can’t go wrong with berries.
The trouble is, they don’t always last long. For example, you buy blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries but then find that your children aren’t eating them like they said they would. Because you ended up throwing so much away, you wonder about repurchasing them. If this sounds like you, take the dive and buy them. The trick to making them last nearly a week longer than average is to soak them in 3 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar for at least 5 minutes.
What is the first thing you do when you get flowers? You will trim the base, add water to a vase, and put the flowers in water. You know to do this as soon as possible because it’ll keep your flowers fresh for a longer time.
But you shouldn’t just do this with your flowers. You can also do this with your fresh herbs with just a couple of additional steps. Once you have the herbs sitting upright in the water, you want to add some plastic wrap around them. Then, you want to place the herbs in your fridge. This store hack should keep them fresh for a few days longer, if not close to a week.
Chances are you have celery in your home for many uses. Your children might like to eat celery with peanut butter as a snack, or you enjoy making casseroles and soups. The problem is, celery tends to start turning brown and rotten before you know it. On top of this, you usually have to buy more celery than you need.
One tip to follow to make your celery last as long as possible is to wrap it up in tin foil. Making sure that all the celery is wrapped up tightly and placed in the fridge can make them last nearly a month! Keep your children healthy by feeding them celery as often as they’ll eat without worrying about it going bad for a few weeks.
Fruits and vegetables can be tricky foods to store correctly for the most prolonged survival. Some you should store in the crisper drawer or other places in your fridge. Then, there are some that you should save at room temperatures, such as potatoes, onions, bananas, peaches, tomatoes, pears, avocados, nectarines, and citrus.
However, you shouldn’t store onions and potatoes together because they can make each other spoil faster due to the different ethylene gasses that each produce releases. The further away they are from each other, the longer they’ll stay fresh.
Do you love cottage cheese, but not everyone in your family eats it? Even if you have peaches to add on top and love lasagna, it’s easy to buy too much cottage cheese. If you find that your cottage cheese goes bad before you can eat it all, turn the container upside down when you store it.
The reason why the food goes bad so fast is because of bacteria that get into the container. When you set it upside down, the bacteria aren’t able to grow in the container, allowing it to stay fresh longer.
You probably didn’t worry about needing to keep ginger longer because it already has a pretty good shelf life when kept in a dry and cool place, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want some of it to last a bit longer. While you don’t want to store whole ginger in the freezer, but you can grate it and store it in the freezer so it’ll stay fresh longer.
All you need to do is grate some of the ginger into an airtight container and place it in the freezer. Your grated food will last around six months in the freezer, giving your ginger whenever you need some.
It happens to everyone. You’ve made a nice meal and find that you have scraps leftover, and you’re not sure what to do with them. Usually, you’d toss them away without giving them a second thought, but because you need to stretch pennies due to the current crisis, you start wondering if there’s something you can do with the scraps.
There is a step that you can take, which is freezing the scraps so you can add them to soups for extra taste. It’s best to keep the ends of onions, herb stems, mushroom stem, stray cloves of garlic, carrots, and celery. Keep them all in a freezer bag, and when it’s full, add it to some soup or broth.
It’s easy to buy beans in a can because it seems like less work to make them. However, you can purchase dry beans in bulk (which always saves you money) and make them merely boil. Of course, you’ll probably add little herbs and spices for flavoring, but you don’t need to worry about it.
Even if you boil too many beans, you can dry them and store them in the freezer. Just get some airtight containers and keep them until you need them again. Not only do you get more for the price, but they taste better and last longer than canned beans.
Do you ever feel like the fruits and vegetables in the store last longer than in your home? Part of this reasoning is because the store doesn’t wash the produce when it enters their facility, which keeps it fresh for a longer period.
Once you clean your fruit and vegetables, mold has a better chance of growing. This action can easily lessen the shelf life. Therefore, if you wash your produce as soon as you bring it home, try changing your routine. It’ll help you increase the presence of these foods for a few days.
It seems that apples seem to have the most extended lifespan of all produce. They do tend to last a long time, up to 6 months, if you keep them in the right type of environment. This idea means that you want to store apples in a humid place. The best place to choose is the crisper drawer in your fridge.
But there’s another step that you’ll want to take to ensure your apples have a long-term lifespan. You should also remove any rotten or bruised apples right away as the bacteria from the damaged ones can infect the healthy apples.
You live a busy life and probably think about meal prepping from time to two, but wonder if it’s something you can do. Well, hearing that roasting your vegetables can extend shelf life might change your mind. Not only will this make your vegetables last longer, but it’s also a great meal prep tip.
All you need to do is roast the vegetables, let them cool, place them in an airtight container, and put them in the fridge can make them last a few days. Some, such as cauliflower and broccoli, will last a bit longer and may taste better.
You know that dried herbs and spices, like Mrs. Dash, will last a long time. However, you probably want some fresh herbs in your home as well. The problem is they don’t last as long, and you can’t always make the batch before it starts to rot.
One of the biggest keys to extending the life of fresh herbs is to freeze them in olive oil. All you need to do is chop up the herbs, toss them into ice cube trays, pour in the olive oil, and freeze. Then, when you need the herbs, just pop out as many olive oil cubes you need and either thaw them or toss them right into your dish.
One of the most significant food items that many people struggle to keep fresh is lettuce. People have tried so many different steps to extend their shelf life and found that there’s very little they can do. But, there is one step that works excellent, and that’s wrapping lettuce leaves into paper towels. The trick is that you don’t want to wash it before because this will help mold grow faster.
Usually, people want to use up the lettuce immediately because it starts to welt within a couple of days because of the moisture. But wrapping each leaf in a paper towel, the moisture is soaked up, and your lettuce will last a few more days.
Many people won’t freeze milk because they’re afraid of what it’ll do to the taste and consistency. However, freezing milk is a great way to make it last longer. In fact, you won’t even know that it was frozen because it tastes fresh.
The key is not to open the milk jug. You don’t need to worry about the milk becoming too much for the container because there’s not enough milk to cause too much of a problem. Plus, the pitcher is meant to expand a little, which helps the freezing process.
You might live in a house where leftover cake doesn’t seem like a problem. If you ever find yourself with too much cake or don’t want your family eating cake for a few days in a row, you can let them have their piece and then freeze the rest.
All you need to do is place a slice of bread on each end cut and place it in the freezer, where it will last for months. You can also set the cake in the fridge, but it’ll only last a few weeks.
Okay, this article should probably end on a healthy note. You know that you shouldn’t store your onions and potatoes next to each other because the gasses will cause them to go back faster. However, one way to extend your potatoes’ shelf life is to store them next to apples. This hack will cause the potatoes to keep from sprouting for a longer period.
Plus, it won’t hurt the apples, and you don’t need to keep a lot of them next to the potatoes. For instance, you can save some apples in your crisper drawer and a few next to the potatoes. Just ensure you eat the ones by the potatoes first.
“28 Ways to Store Food and Extend Its Shelf Life and Save Money. #11 Was Brilliant.” Winkgo.
“12 Food Storage Tips to Make Your Groceries Last Longer.” Paige Smith, OpenFit. July 2019.
“50 Food Storage Tips to Make Your Groceries Last as Long as Possible.” Tess Rose Lampert, Cheapism, April 2020.