Correctly storing your groceries not only stretches your food budget – it also improves the taste and decreases waste. The following tips will help you avoid common mistakes by teaching you optimal storage practices for your food.
The average American household wastes hundreds of dollars per year by throwing out rotten food, which now makes up a staggering twenty percent of landfill waste. We consumers are largely to blame. We buy too much; we pay attention to meaningless “Best By” dates; we store our groceries incorrectly, allowing them to spoil more quickly. Correctly storing groceries not only helps to preserve flavor and nutritional value, it also helps reduce food waste.
Room Temp Is Best
Tomatoes lose their flavor in the refrigerator and can even spoil more quickly there. It’s better to keep them in a cool room, like a basement or pantry; 60℉ is best.
Even if you don’t have such a space, it’s still better to keep your tomatoes at room temperature rather than store them in the fridge. The same goes for other vegetable varieties with high water content, such as cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchinis, and eggplants.
Keep Bananas and Apples Apart
As lovely as a mixed fruit bowl looks, (ripe) bananas and apples should never be stored together. Both fruits give off ethylene gas, which speeds the ripening process. In this case, the affect is amplified and your fruit is more likely to go bad before you can eat them.
Because ripe bananas give off a disproportionate amount of ethylene gas, they should always be kept separately from other fruits and vegetables – and yes, hanging whenever possible to prevent bruising the fruit. Bananas should never be placed in the refrigerator; there they quickly turn brown.
Avoid Plastic Waste When Storing Leftovers
When it’s time to wrap up leftovers or cut fruits and vegetables for overnight refrigerator storage, many people pull out the box of plastic wrap. This is a completely unnecessary waste of plastic! It’s just as easy to put leftovers into the reusable plastic or glass containers we all have lying around.
One benefit: It’s easier to take leftovers packed this way to work the next day for lunch. You produce less waste and save money: a real win-win.
Lemons Hate the Cold
Lemons and other citrus fruits like oranges or mandarins cannot stand the cold, so never store them in your refrigerator. Storing them in the open at (lower) room temperature will keep them fresh the longest.
Even sliced lemons will last a good week without spoiling stored at room temperature. Place the lemon on a small dish cut side down to prevent spoilage.
Mushrooms Need Air
Supermarket mushrooms are always packed into plastic containers. Once home, however, they’re much happier stored in paper bags or wrapped in a dish towel in your refrigerator. Mushrooms need to breathe, and their original packaging traps moisture, causing them to spoil sooner.
It’s also important to store mushrooms away from any stinky foods, because they easily absorb nearby odors.
When it comes to mushrooms, it’s best not to overbuy and to use what you’ve purchased as quickly as possible, because they have a short shelf life.
Empty Cans Completely
Once you’ve opened a can of something, it’s best to empty the food out of it completely. It’s possible to contaminate your food with aluminum from the can itself. And while most cans today are plastic-lined, many of those linings contain the oft-criticized BPA.
Play it safe by emptying the contents of any open can into another container, such as an empty jar salvaged from another product.
Don’t Toss Those Greens!
We admit it: this tip isn’t exactly on topic. That said, it does prevent food waste all the same. Radish, kohlrabi, beet, carrot, and other greens are all edible and delicious. You can add them to soups, grind them into pesto, or use them to create fillings for ravioli or lasagna.