In the busy world that we live in, keeping an eye on the contents of one's fridge and pantry can slip to the bottom of a long list of priorities - somewhere below social media, online shopping, competitive workplaces and trendy workout classes . If can be incredibly frustrating when, after a busy week, you turn to the avocado that you've been looking forward to, only to discover that it has gone past the point of no return. How disappointing is it to open a drawer in the fridge and discover that expensive cheese purchased just a week ago has gone moldy? And what about that mushy cucumber that lies forgotten in the crisper?
Throwing away food is not just a waste of money; it's part of a much bigger problem. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, between 30 and 40 percent of food in our country is wasted, ending up in landfills, while simultaneously, one in eight Americans struggles to put enough food on the table. Food waste is a huge global issue, but there are some simple steps that everyone can and should take in an effort to reduce their own household's contribution to the problem.
Freezing ingredients before they go off, arranging food in the refrigerator correctly and storing certain fruits and vegetable separately or together, in the correct pairings can help prevent food going moldy and being thrown away, which is a great first step everyone can take in an effort to cut down on waste. Read on to discover 27 tips that will make food last longer.
Add Marshmallows to Brown Sugar
Don't you hate it when you grab that bag of brown sugar only to find that it has turned into a solid, unyielding lump? Store brown sugar correctly and you won't have to smash and scrape a sugar boulder in order to bake. Store brown sugar in an airtight container and put a marshmallow or two (or a slice of bread) in with it. Brown sugar dries out because of its high molasses content; as the sugar loses moisture, the molasses hardens. Adding marshmallows (which retain moisture) and storing the sugar in an airtight container allows the sugar to absorb some of the moisture from the marshmallow, which will prevent it from becoming solid as a rock!
Brush Avocado Halves With Lemon Juice or Olive Oil
Nothing beats a hunk of avocado drizzled in olive oil and a sprinkling of salt - but as soon as you slice into an avocado, the clock starts ticking. It is now a race against time, how long before the uneaten piece of avocado turns brown and ends up in the rubbish?
Luckily there is a solution. Brushing the cut side of an avocado with olive oil and placing it cut side down in an airtight container can delay the inevitable browning by effectively creating an airtight seal. Lemon juice also works, as the high levels of citric acid slow down the rate of oxidation. Rub the cut side of the avocado with lemon juice and then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to keep it as airtight as possible.
Check the Temperature of Your Fridge
This is an easy way to prolong the life of your food; just make just your fridge is set to the correct temperature. It is so easy to knock the temperature setting in the day-to-day in-and-out fridge activity. To keep things as fresh as possible, the optimum refrigerator temperature is around 37 degrees F
Don't Keep Cucumbers Cool
Most people probably keep their cucumber in the fridge, but that is not the best place to store them! Cucumbers should actually be stored at room temperature. Below 50 degrees F, cucumbers can actually deteriorate more rapidly. Cucumbers are also very sensitive to ethylene, the naturally occurring gas that causes some fruits to ripen quickly, so they should be kept away from melons, bananas and tomatoes - fruits that emit high levels of ethylene.
Don't Put Bread in the Fridge
Putting bread in the fridge may seem like a good idea, but will actually cause the loaf to stale faster. Instead, there are a couple of different ways to keep your bread fresh for longer. First of all, buy whole loaves of bread rather than the pre-sliced kind. if you do buy sliced bread, the best way to keep it is in the freezer. Simple wrap it well in a plastic bag and take out as many sliced as you need, pop them in the toaster and voila-perfectly fresh. If you do not want to keep your loaf in the freezer, a bread box is a great thing to buy. If you don't want to buy something that is just for bread, then tightly wrap your whole loaf in a plastic bag. It won't be quite as effective as the freezer method, but it will certainly buy you time.
Don't Wash Your Produce Before You Put It in the Fridge.
It might seem to make the most sense to wash your fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home, but you shouldn't! When you wash produce, you usually end up with fruits and vegetables that are slightly damp. In the cool environment of the refrigerator this excess moisture cause more delicate produce to spoil, develop mold and generally go bad faster. Store your fruits and vegetables unwashed in the fridge and only wash as you need them!
Freeze Avocados You Thought Wouldn't Ripen so Fast
Avocados can be tricky things. They sit out on the countertop, hard as nails for days. Then you look away for one minute and suddenly they've gone bad. It can be incredibly frustrating, but there is a way to put those slightly-too-soft avocados to good use even if you're not in the mood for guacamole that day. Avocado freezes surprisingly well. Though you won't want to use previously frozen avocados in a salad or any sliced or diced application, they do make for fantastic guacamole, dressings and spreads!
Freeze Herbs in Oil
Herbs seem to go bad unbelievable quickly. You buy one of those small packets for a specific recipe, use what you need and put the rest back in the fridge knowing they'll be sad and wilted before you can figure out how to use them. Instead of throwing them away, chop up any leftover herbs you have and fill up an ice cube tray with the cuttings before topping it up with some olive oil and placing in the freezer. Once they're frozen solid, you can store the oil-herb cubes in a sealed plastic bag or container and use them to add flavor to dishes on a whim.
If butter is more you style, you can also mash together the herbs, a sprinkling of salt and some softened butter, roll it into a log, wrap it in parchment paper and store that in the freezer. Use a compound butter to baste meat or vegetables towards the end of cooking, throw it into a pasta to add richness or use it to top a steak as it rests for extra flavor.
Keep Things Like Garlic and Onions in Ventilated Bags
Don't store onions and garlic in the fridge. Instead, store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space. Make sure also to store them away from potatoes, as onions will cause the potatoes to rot! Onions and garlic have a very dry outer layer that protects them. Storing them in the fridge, which is cold and lacks air circulation, is a surefire way to end up with soft, moldy onions. Paper bags provide a perfect environment for onions and garlic, allowing them to breathe while keeping them out of direct light.
Never Put Honey in the Fridge
Have you ever had to throw away a jar of honey because it has transformed from silky honey into a big lumpy, crystalized mess? If you have, then you probably keep your honey in the fridge alongside other jars of jam, jelly or chutney. There is no need! Free up some fridge space and store your honey at room temperature, maybe near the spice rack. Honey is a natural antibacterial, so it absolutely doesn't need to be refrigerated.
Place Asparagus Upright in Water (Like Flowers)
Stand asparagus upright in a jar of water (an inch or so is all you need) to keep it fresh for longer. Cover the tips with a plastic bag so they don't pick up any strange fridgy odors. In lieu of a jar of water, you can also simply wrap the bundle of asparagus in a lightly damp paper towel, which will also help the spears maintain their freshness.
Put Your Greens in a Storage Container With Paper Towels
Whether you use those convenient (though not at all eco-friendly) bags of lettuce or opt for a whole head at a time, lettuce can go from fresh and crisp to sad, wilted and even slimy if not stored correctly. As soon as you get home from the grocery store or farmers market, make sure to transfer the lettuces to a suitable storage container - a plastic bag, a glass container, whatever you prefer. Add a sheet or two of paper towel at the top and bottom before zipping up the bag or sealing the lid. The paper towel should effectively absorb any excess moisture that would ordinarily result in lettuce going bad before you can use it.
Rinse Berries in a Vinegar and Water Bath
Remember when we said don't wash your produce until you intend to use it? Well, forget about that when it comes to berries! To extend the fridge-shelf life of berries, give then a quick dip in a vinegar solution (one part vinegar to eight parts water) then drain them and put them away. The vinegar-water mixture helps kill any bacteria or spores that might turn berries into mush.
Store Dairy Products at the Back of the Fridge
Most people store their milk in the door of the fridge, but it's actually a really terrible place for milk to live? The door of the fridge is actually the warmest part, which makes sense when you think about how often you open and close your fridge. The best place to actually store milk and other dairy is the back of the fridge, which is furthest away from the door and therefore remains cooler even if there's a whole lot of door-opening and browsing going on.
Store Grains in Airtight Containers
With dry goods like whole grains, rice, beans, oatmeal and lentils, you really want to keep the moisture out. To make sure those pantry items stay good for longer, invest in some airtight containers to keep things fresh. As well as keeping things fresh, airtight storage keeps things like household pests away from your food.
Store Tomatoes With Their Stems Down
Storing tomatoes upside down apparently makes a huge difference in how long they keep before spoiling. The area where the stem connects to the fruit is called the scar of the tomato; when the stem has been removed, air gets in to the tomato through the scar, moisture leaves the tomatoes through the scar, and all of that causes the tomato to spoil faster. If the stems are no longer attached, store your tomatoes upside down and they should last longer.
Store Your Nut Butters Upside Down
When nut butters have been hanging about in the pantry for a while they tend to separate, which causes the oil to end up in an annoying layer over the hard and not-so-creamy bottom layer. To prevent this from happening, simply store nut butters upside down. The oil will slowly work its way to the bottom of the nut butter jar and you'll find that it stays deliciously spreadable for much longer.
Wrap Celery and Broccoli in Aluminum Foil
Broccoli and celery tend to go limp if not stored correctly because they release lots of ethylene. Wrapping them in foil will help them stay fresh for longer! Make sure you reuse the foil for multiple uses to be more eco-friendly.
Wrap Cheese in Porous Material Like Cheese Paper or Parchment
Cheese needs to breathe. Don't just wrap your cheese in plastic wrap and call it a day. Plastic causes too much moisture to build up, and this could lead to mold. Instead use wax paper, which will let the cheese breathe but also keep enough moisture in and stop the cheese from drying out. You can also wrap your cheese in parchment paper and then loosely wrap that bundle of deliciousness in plastic to keep the parchment in place.
Wrap the Tops of Bananas With Plastic Wrap
The trouble with a bunch of bananas is that by the time one for them is ripe enough to eat they all become too ripe in a matter of days due to the release of ethylene gas. To slow down the process, wrap some plastic wrap it tightly around the crown of the bunch, which should extend the shelf life of the bananas by a few more days. If all else fails, either freeze any too-ripe-to-eat bananas and use them in smoothies or make a batch of banana bread, which will have your home smelling divine in no time.
If you have made a big batch of something delicious and are struggling to finish it, don't leave it to linger in the back of the fridge for days until it is thrown away. Instead put it in a suitable container, label it with the content and date and pop it in the freezer. This saves you from eating the same thing for days on end and also means that on those days when cooking is just out of the question, there is something delicious you can just heat and eat.
Keep an Apple With Your Potatoes
Do your spuds begin to sprout in just a few weeks? Stop any spontaneous sprouting by storing an apple alongside potatoes. The ethylene gas produced by the apple (which causes some fruit to ripen more quickly) actually prevents potatoes from sprouting.
Keep Lemons Refrigerated in a Plastic Bag
You can certainly store lemons and other citrus in a fruit bowl on a counter, but they will last longer if you keep them refrigerated. Make things even better for the lemons by storing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to keep them juicier for longer.
Keep Mushrooms in a Paper Bag
If you buy those prepackaged mushrooms that come wrapped in plastic, remove them from their plastic prison as soon as you get home. Instead, keep mushrooms in a paper bag, which will absorb any excess moisture and make sure the mushrooms don't get slimy or moldy.
Remove Carrot Tops
Its great when you go to a local farmers market and come home with baskets full of fresh, local produce. But have you noticed that your carrots, with their fabulous flower-like tops, often go from deliciously crunchy to sad and wilty in no time at all? That's because the carrot tops suck precious nutrients from the carrots themselves. To make your carrots last longer, simply remove the tops and store them in the fridge.
Store Milk in Old-Fashioned Glass Bottles
Glass stays colder than plastic or paper, which means that if you tend to leave your carton of milk on the counter, even for a few minutes, keeping your milk in a glass container could help it last longer. As well as temperature, light-proof containers made of glass are thought to prevent the vitamins in milk from degrading.
Store Things in Glass Containers, Not Plastic
Overall, storing leftovers in glass is a safer bet, and not just because it keeps colder longer. Some plastic containers can leach chemicals into stored food, and many people find that food tastes better out of glass containers. If glass helps you enjoy your leftovers, then it's a great way to prevent waste - not to mention that the containers themselves are a more eco-friendly option.
More From The Daily Meal:
25 Lazy Ways to Save the Planet
Can I Eat That? How to Tell What's Still Good in Your Fridge Gallery
Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar at Costco, BJ's, and Sam's Club
Forgot Milk? 10 Ways to Get Same-Day Groceries Delivered