We’ve all been there before — tossing fuzzy raspberries, wilted parsley, and mushy apples into the trash bin with a heavy heart thanks to subpar food storage. Proper food storage prevents unnecessary waste (and sudden bouts of frustration), lessens your grocery bill, and minimizes the risk of a contracting a food-borne illness.
These 12 simple food storage tips will help ensure your food stays fresh as long as possible.
Store Dairy Products At The Back Of The Fridge
Take your 2% out of the fridge door. That location might make it easy to grab quickly for your bowl of cereal, but it can make it spoil faster because of the temperature.
Put Meat On The Bottom Shelf
Nothing ruins a container of broccoli faster than a soak in pork juice. Meats should be on the bottom shelf so juices don’t drip on other food. If you’re out of precious lower shelf space, put the meat in a tray with a raised lip to catch any liquid that might try to escape. You should also keep cold cuts separate from raw meat to prevent cross-contamination.
Treat Herbs Like Flowers
Fresh herbs, asparagus, and green onions can all be stored upright in a tall glass of fresh water. Just trim the stems and place them in the fridge, making sure to change the water frequently.
Know Where To Store Fruits And Vegetables
Not all fruits and veggies need to live in the fridge. Avocados, citrus, bananas, nectarines, pears, peaches, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes can all be stored at room temperature or in a cool pantry. One caveat: don’t store onions and potatoes together. These veggies release ethylene gas which can cause accelerated spoilage.
Wrap Your Greens In Paper Towels
To prevent slimy residue from accumulating in your bag of lettuce, spinach, or other leafy greens, stick paper towels inside to soak up excess moisture. You can do the same with leftover salad greens in food storage containers.
Cover Your Bananas
Cover the crown of a bunch of bananas in plastic or beeswax wrap to slow the release of ethylene gas. This will prevent them from ripening too quickly if you’re not going to use the whole bunch right away. If you do find yourself with some bananas that are past their prime, that doesn’t mean you have to toss them into the trash. There are a number of tasty recipes, other than banana bread, that call for overripe bananas. You can also freeze them for later use – smoothies anyone?
Wrap Celery In Foil
Wrapping the entire bunch of celery in foil helps it stay fresh and crunchy for up to four weeks in your crisper drawer. The foil helps to keep just the right amount of moisture in, and the ethylene gas out.
Wash Produce As You Go
If washing fruits and veggies is the first thing you do when you come home from the grocery store, you might want to switch up your routine. Unless you plan on freezing your food, only wash the things you’re going to eat right away or very soon after. This lessens the chance of mold growing on damp produce. If you’re the kind of person who chops up your food in advance to save time, wait to wash it right before you eat it.
Soak Berries In Vinegar
Everyone says you shouldn’t wash berries until just before you eat them because moisture shortens their shelf life. The truth is, berries carry mold spores that cause them to go bad very quickly, and that mold can spread through a whole basket of berries in a flash. Good news: You can easily kill off mold and bacteria with a quick vinegar and water bath. Give your berries a quick soak in a three-parts water, one-part vinegar solution which can help kill bacteria and prevent molding. Rinse the berries thoroughly and pat dry before putting them in the fridge.
Store Grains In Air-Tight Containers
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money when grocery shopping, but you want to store items correctly so the extra food doesn’t go to waste. If you buy grains in bulk, be sure to transfer them to an airtight container to maintain freshness, as well as keep bugs away. Go a step further and label your containers with the purchase dates so you know how long you’ve had your grains.
Double-Check Your Fridge’s Temperature
Finally, after you’ve wrapped and placed all your perishables in the refrigerator, be sure that it’s set at the right temperature. Bacteria grows most quickly between 40° F (4.4° C) and 140° F (60° C) so it’s important to make sure your fridge thermometer is working correctly to prevent spoilage and reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
The ideal refrigerator temperature is 35° F (1.6° C). You’re not hugging the danger zone like you would be at 40° F (4.4° C), and you’re distancing yourself sufficiently from 32° F (0° C) so you don’t accidentally freeze half the stuff in your refrigerator. That being said, the temperature within your fridge can vary rather significantly with normal usage. The coldest parts of your refrigerator are the back, and the bottom. The back because the cooling element is there, and the bottom because warm air rises. If items you don’t want frosty are getting frosty, move them away from the bottom of the fridge.