Do you feel like you’re always throwing away food? Letting food go bad before you have a chance to eat it drains your pocketbook and results in more time-consuming trips to the grocery store. Before you head to the supermarket again, check your fridge and your cupboards and make a note of ingredients you have for future meals. Picking up a few more items to complement those ingredients will help you use up everything you already have. It’s always important to make a grocery list and, if you can, plan out a few meals in advance, so you hit the market with a goal in mind rather than wander the aisles picking up whatever happens to catch your eye.
In addition to being a smarter shopper, learn how to make food last longer. Here are some tips to get you started.
Make Condiments Last
It’s frustrating to have to throw out condiments like sour cream, mayo, yogurt, and mustard because you didn’t use the entire container before it spoiled. However, you can easily combat this by changing containers as you use up the item. Using a smaller container exposes the condiment to less air—and fewer bacteria. The trick, of course, is making sure you successfully transfer every bit of mayo possible from the jar to the tiny Tupperware. We usually do our container downsizing right before we’re about to use the condiment on something. That way, we can scrape out what we don’t transfer for our sandwiches.
If you find that your bread often goes stale before you use it, slice it and store in the freezer. Separate out slices and let them sit for about five minutes at room temperature to defrost, or stick them directly in the toaster. Frozen bread is also great to use for grilled cheese sandwiches—it’s much easier to butter, and it will defrost as it cooks in the pan.
Store Dairy Properly
It’s better to store milk on an inside shelf toward the back of the refrigerator, not on the door. Why? All dairy products are very perishable. The optimal refrigeration temperature is actually just over 32°F; however, few refrigerators are ever set at or hold that low a temperature. Most home refrigerators remain around 40°F, and the temperature rises every time the door is opened. Store cheese near the bottom of the refrigerator, where temperature fluctuations are minimal.
Know Which Produce to Refrigerate
Refrigerating your produce can help it last longer, but not all produce does well in the cooler temperature. The majority of fruits and vegetables handle cold fairly well, but naturally enough, the exceptions are tropical fruits, whose cells are just not used to the cold. Bananas will suffer cell damage and release a skin-browning chemical, avocados don’t ripen when stored below 45°F, and citrus fruit will develop brown-spotted skin. These fruits, as well as squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, bell peppers, and pineapples, are best stored at 50°F—so keep them out of the fridge. Most other vegetables, including lettuce, carrots, and cabbage, will do better in your refrigerator. Potatoes, however, should be stored outside of the fridge and away from light.
Save Your Spices
Spices and dried herbs keep their flavor better if stored in a cupboard away from heat, light, and moisture, all of which impair flavor, change color, and shorten life. Make them last longer by putting half into a sealed, airtight container when you purchase them. Label the container and keep it in your dark cabinet, or better yet, your freezer. When the spice on-hand loses its aroma, replace it with some from your stash, and you’ll never have to be irritated about throwing away an entire container of mustard seed or marjoram again.
Do you know great way to make food last longer? Share it with us in the comments section below!