Fresh food just tastes better — so long as it stays fresh, of course. Proper storage techniques can help you extend the lifespan of all of the food you buy, whether it’s fresh produce, frozen items or pantry-based edibles. And, by ensuring your menu lasts long enough to eat it, you’ll save yourself cash, too. So, take the following 11 tips into account to ensure your food is always at its freshest.
1. Bathe Your Berries
A basket of berries is one of the summer’s sweetest treats. However, buying a carton full of blueberries, strawberries or blueberries can end in disappointment the next day when mold seemingly grows overnight on your freshly picked fruit.
As soon as you get your berries home, give them a hot bath to prevent this growth from happening. A 30-second soak in 125-degree water will kill any mold spores that have taken root on your fruit. Be sure to wash the basket, too, in case it’s hiding anything unsavory. Then, let your berries air dry and breathe before popping them back into the fridge.
2. Add an Apple to the Potatoes…
Potatoes can last for five weeks in your pantry, but that’s still not a guarantee that they won’t start to sprout roots — and, once that happens, you won’t want to eat them. One way to prevent any unwanted spud-based growth is to stick an apple in your tuber storage container. Apples produce ethylene gas, which helps potatoes stay firm and fresh until it’s time for cooking.
3. …But Store Them Solo
The same ethylene gas that keeps potatoes fresh will ruin everything else in your fruit drawer or bowl, as it’s a ripening agent. So, keep apples in a separate storage container to safeguard all of your produce.
4. Keep Herbs Watered
Dried herbs can’t hold a candle to the flavorful punch packed by their fresh counterparts. If you’ve purchased parsley, basil, cilantro or any other green ingredient, store it as you would a fresh bouquet of flowers. By placing your herbs in a cup of water, you’ll prevent them from becoming wilted and mushy. Once you’ve used what you need, you can store the leftover stems in a freezer-safe bag or container. Chop them up and use what you need for recipes to come, and you’ll still get the flavor you want.
5. Wrap Lettuce Well
Fresh salad goes with just about every meal unless, of course, your leafy greens have become wilted. To prevent your future salad from prematurely perishing, wrap your greens in a paper towel before storing them. As leaves cool, they create condensation, which is why they go bad so quickly. A paper towel will soak that all up and keep your lettuce crisp. You can even pop a paper towel into a bagged salad or line your produce drawer with them to maintain a condensation-free environment.
If lettuce, herbs or any other leafy greens go limp before you have a chance to eat them, you do have one option to revive them. Fill a bowl with ice and water, then plop your greens into the frigid pool for a minute or two. The cold should bring them back to life just in time for dinner.
6. Cleanse the Pantry of Crumbs
In general, it’s easier to keep pantry-based items fresh — they’re designed to last longer than fresh produce, after all. However, leaving the pantry unattended to can leave you with a whole lot of inedible food. Crumbs accidentally left on the shelves as they fall from boxes — or, of course, from hands — can attract pests to take residence within your cabinets or closet.
This will force you to throw away all of the contaminated containers. So, prevent them from stopping by in the first place by regularly cleaning your pantry. Vacuuming and washing the shelves should do the trick.
7. Refrigerate Your Butter
Storing butter on the counter is a USDA-approved practice. Everyone’s favorite bread topping is mostly fat and water, which doesn’t attract much bacteria. However, too much time spent on the counter can leave your stick of butter moldy, especially in a kitchen that’s regularly hot or humid. To extend the life of your butter, then, store it in the refrigerator instead. Leave it out to thaw pre-meal so it’s as soft as it would be if you left it at room temperature 24/7.
8. Let Bananas Stick Together
To make mornings simpler, you might snap bananas apart so you can grab one and go. But keeping bananas bunched together is the key to maintaining their ideal ripeness. To that end, you can extend the shelf life of your bananas by wrapping the top of their stems in plastic wrap. If you do this and wait to break off a banana ’til you’re ready to eat it, your fruit could last up to five days longer than it usually would.
9. Freeze Meat the Right Way
Freezing meat, chicken and other proteins ensures that you’ll always have a main dish at the ready when you’re in a pinch for dinner. That is, of course, unless you don’t know how to properly freeze your meat — finding a freezer-burned steak or filet will ruin the meal you have planned.
So, carefully wrap everything before you stick it in the freezer for future use. The key to preventing ice from forming on your food is to keep air away from its surface. Start with either plastic wrap or freezer paper and wrap your slices. Then, either use a second layer of that or aluminum foil to really seal it. Finally, pop your packaged proteins into a plastic bag and chill them until it’s time to eat them.
10. Don’t Chill Tomatoes
For many foods, it’s true that the refrigerator will extend their lifespan, especially if they’re already sliced or opened in some way. This is not true for tomatoes, though, fruits that thrive when left to ripen at room temperature. The same goes for onions and garlic, although they do better when stored in a dark place, like the pantry. Tomatoes, on the other hand, can bask in some sunlight.
11. Opt for Glass Containers
Finally, whether you’re storing dry goods in the pantry or leftovers in the fridge, consider replacing plastic containers with glass ones. Many plastics contain BPA, a chemical that can affect children’s growth and development. Glass containers are just as convenient, and come in a variety of shapes to store everything from dried linguini to cereal to sauces. And, of course, they don’t contain harmful additives like some plastics. Storing leftovers saves you money, but this tip will safeguard your health in the process.
Save Your Food and Your Money
By carefully storing your food, you’ll have more time to eat and enjoy it. This means you won’t have to spend extra cash to replace rotten ingredients, either. These 11 tips are just the beginning, too — treat your food well and it will do the same in return.