According to a report from August 2012 by the National Resources Defense Council, America wastes about 40 percent of its food supply.
Let that sink in for just a moment.
Imagine going into your kitchen and just throwing away 4 pounds of food for every 10 pounds you have. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. You’ve either spent money buying or time growing and harvesting your food. Why on Earth would you want to just toss it out?
The simple fact is we don’t throw away food that’s typically “good” – only the things that either grow hair, turn sour, or pass their expiration date. If you’ve read 40 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, I’m sure you’ll want to know these 25+ ways to keep food from spoiling.
How to Keep Fruit From Spoiling
Pull your bananas apart when you get home if they’re ripe enough it’ll slow down the ripening so they don’t get all brown.
If you don’t want a bunch of loose bananas on your counter, wrap the crown of a bunch of bananas with plastic wrap. They’ll keep for 3-5 days longer than usual (which is especially helpful if you eat organic bananas).
Bananas also produce more ethelyne gas than any other fruit, so keep them isolated on the counter.
If you have bananas that have gotten too ripe to be eaten whole, you can still use them for baking. If you are not quite ready to turn your ripened bananas into delicious banana bread or muffins, just peel and freeze them. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store several in a freezer bag. Then just thaw them out and you are ready to bake. You can also use frozen bananas in smoothies, or mush them up and eat them like ice cream!
When you buy berries of any sort take them out of the plastic container and line the container with paper towels. Prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) and ten parts water (the solution is diluted enough that you won’t taste the vinegar). Swirl the berries around in the mixture, rinse in a colander and drain. Place berries back in the paper towel lined container and store in the fridge. Most berries including raspberries will last a week or more, and strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft!
Lemons will stay fresh for months if you keep them in a covered container filled with cold water in the refrigerator. Be sure the container has a tight fitting lid, and change the water every week.
There is an old saying that one rotten apple will spoil the bunch. This is actually true. One apple that is going bad will bring the other apples down with it. You should ensure that you check your apples daily to make certain that you do not have a rotten one and if you do, throw it out to protect other apples.
Orange juice is great for keeping peaches fresh when freezing. Just slice in half using a sharp kitchen knife, remove the pit, and then dip only the fleshy side into orange juice. Place the peaches on a cookie sheet with the flesh side up and freeze. Once they are frozen hard, you can transfer them into freezer bags and date them so that you know when you froze them.
How to Properly Store Vegetables
Root Vegetables –
Don’t store onions and potatoes together – the onions will cause the potatoes to sprout eyes. Store onions, garlic and shallots in paper bags with holes punched in them. They will last for months without spoilage!
Instead of storing root vegetables and herbs in the fridge (carrots, parsnips, ginger, etc), you can store them in pots filled with sand. Just place them in a large flower pot, cover them roots with clean sand, and then take them out as you need them. Keep the pot in a cool, dark area.
Leafy Greens –
Thoroughly wash kale, spinach or other leafy greens and shake them off the best you can in the sink (or use a salad spinner). Place the washed greens in a gallon zipper bag. Put a couple of clean, dry paper towels in the bag with the veggies. The paper towel does all the work. The only effort you make is to just check on it every few days and if the paper towel is soaked, switch it out with a dry one. You can often store fresh greens for up to a month using this method.
When storing asparagus, trim off the bottoms of the stems, place in water and cover the tops with a plastic bag. Store them in the refrigerator. They’ll stay crisp for a week or longer. You can use this trick on cilantro and parsley as well.
Wrap celery in aluminum foil before storing in the fridge. It will stay crisp for four weeks or more. (Also works with broccoli and lettuce.)
Perfectly ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature, on the counter away from sunlight, in a single layer, not touching one another, stem side up. Overly ripe tomatoes should be put in the fridge, but let them come to room temperature before eating them.
Keep mushrooms in a paper lunch sack, not a plastic bag. A plastic bag will trap moisture and cause them to mildew. Put them in a paper bag in the fridge or in a cool, dry place.
If you have raw meat in the fridge that you haven’t used yet, freeze it! You can freeze any meat raw, or you can cook it and freeze it for later use. We often cook whole chickens, shred the meat, and freeze it in zipper bags. Then we pull out a bag to use in cornbread dressing, wraps, or to use as salad toppings… the possibilities are limitless.
Keeping Bread Longer
Put bread ends or scraps (if you have a picky child that doesn’t like crusts) into a big bag in the freezer to save for homemade croutons, stuffing, or breadcrumbs.
If you catch huge baguettes on sale at the grocery store, you can make homemade garlic bread! Split them lengthwise, spread them with a garlic butter spread, and freeze them! Then you can pull out some of the frozen bread and pop it in the oven as a side for spaghetti!
Keep Your Dairy from Going Sour
In order to keep milk fresh a bit longer, you can add just a pinch of salt to the carton. This also works with heavy cream. Just a pinch of salt will never be noticed when you taste the milk and it can help to prolong the freshness by up to a week past the use by date.
Before you store a block of cheese, add just a bit of butter to the cut side. This will help to keep the cheese from drying out. Just spread the butter on the end that is cut and then store the cheese as normal. The oils in the butter protect the edges of the cheese and ensure that you do not have to cut away hard, crusty cheese when you use it again.
Bacteria is what causes cottage cheese (and sour cream) to go bad. Storing the container upside down in the fridge will cause a vacuum in the container which stifles the growth of bacteria, and they will last much longer!
Miscellaneous Tips to Keep Food from Spoiling
Use ice cube trays to freeze small portions of pesto, broth, and pizza sauce. Transfer the cubes to a zipper bag or other freezer-proof container, and it will be easy to pull out the exact amount you need.
If you have fresh herbs that are about to go bad, chop them, put them into ice trays, and fill with olive oil, and put the trays in the freezer. The herbs will infuse the oil while freezing, and the ice cubes are very handy for cooking — just pop one out and use as the base of a dish. Works best with rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. Dill, basil, and mint should always be used fresh or dried.
When you open a can of tomato paste and you only need a spoonful or so, instead of throwing the rest out or putting it in the fridge, you can freeze what is left over. Just dollop it onto wax paper or into ice cube trays and stick them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can store in a freezer bag. You don’t even have to thaw them out before cooking with them.
Roast nuts as soon as you get them home, then freeze them. Nuts that are roasted have more flavor, keep longer, and can always be used in recipes that call for nuts, roasted or otherwise. Spread them in a single layer on a sheet pan, bake in a 350ºF oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant.
If something in your fridge spoils, it can leave behind mold that will find its way to other food. Clean out your refrigerator regularly (at least twice a month). If you do happen to have food go bad, be sure to clean it up immediately. Keeping a clean fridge will ensure that all of your food stays fresher longer.
If you use fresh ginger, you can store it in the freezer which makes it much easier to grate with a hand grater or box grater. The peeling will also grate so you won’t have to peel it before you use it. Storing it in the freezer also helps to preserve it so that it will last much longer than if you store it in the fridge or the pantry.
If you buy up flour and sugar than you need, you can keep them in the freezer to preserve their freshness. Seal the bag in a gallon freezer bag, and sit the entire bag in the freezer and you can keep it there for up to six months or longer. There is no need to thaw it out because it won’t really freeze but it will help to keep it fresh.
Reuse leftovers! Use leftover pinto beans for refried beans (or chili). Chop up extra hamburgers into spaghetti sauce (or chili). Mix some flour and an egg with leftover mashed potatoes and fry up some potato patties! Leftover soup or stew (or chili) can be frozen and reheated another time.
Don’t buy more food than you think you will use. I know sometimes we’re tempted to buy an extra head of lettuce when it’s on sale. If you can’t properly store it for long enough to use it before it goes bad, it’s not worth “saving the money” — in the end, you’ve wasted more than you saved.
Eat your food! When you buy something, eat it. I know that sounds dumb, but seriously, don’t buy fresh veggies and fruits with the intentions of eating healthier, then eat McNasty’s every other day. Not only are you wasting the good fresh foods, you’re wasting your money on hyperprocessed garbage. I know we all do it from time to time, but the less you do it, the better your health will be, too.