Storing your food properly will save you money in the long run. You’ll drastically cut down on food spoiling, your groceries will last longer, and you’ll save money on plastic bags and many other kitchen products. In this article we’ll dive into how you can store fresh produce like fruits and veggies to last longer and keep bulk purchases like grain, nuts, pasta, and flour fresh for months. And let’s not forget the important savings in the form of freezing leftovers and other grocery purchases for up to multiple month storage. Storing food isn’t an art, and you don’t need to buy any Tupperware, vacuum sealers or anything of that sort; all it requires is reusing old things that many people throw out. There are even bonus storage techniques that don’t require anything other than the placement of your produce. But what’s the first step in storing food? Containers, containers, containers! But how do you get containers? The answer is reuse, save, and keep until they don’t serve their function.
When it comes to getting your kitchen ready for all the bulk purchases and saving of leftovers, you really need to stop throwing out things like plastic bags (sandwich, freezer etc), plastic take out containers and large glass or plastic containers. Old plastic bags are great for creating individual and/or multiple serving portions. Being able to grab a bag and use it for a quick meal is great when time isn’t always available to cook. From egg-rolls, to lasagna, to falafels you can wrap individual serving in plastic wrap once cooled, then triple baggie them or more and store them in the freezer.; let thaw the night prior in the fridge or remove plastic wrap and cook covered. Even with herbs like cilantro, parsley, and veggies like ginger root the options for storage are limitless. All you need to do is store them in a few zip lock bags to store them. For all storing, let the food cool down prior to storing and be sure not to use hot water when washing produce.
We only throw out our plastic bags when their seal is broken and doesn’t close or plastic is ripped, even if the bag gets stained we still keep it. Any ones that don’t look nice or are stained with flavor can be used as a secondary container around the main one. Reusing old bread, muffin, or wrap bags are excellent for providing multiple layers of protection to prevent freezer burn. I always recommend washing your plastic bags by hand with lukewarm-cold water using soap; simply leave out to dry by flipping inside out until dry, flip them back to normal and allow them to dry again. When storing food with bags, I usually use the smallest bag possible for my desired serving amount, or one that covers the product in its entirety like a gallon freezer bag. Then I seal that inside another bag and continue to cover it with another 2-4 bags or freezer bags, depending on how long it’ll be stored for. The crucial step with all of this is getting rid of as much air as possible from the bags. Then affix a twist tie keeping everything compact, you can even label each one if you want.
Keeping track of your inventory is another key for success in storing food. Placing a white board or a piece of paper on the fridge and freezer to keep track of foods plays a major role in that process of storing food. You can take that a step further by adding the quantity of each item and when you stored it to boost your efficiency. This is best for the freezer items since they’re hard to see through all the extra bags. When using this method of storage, you really never have to worry about buying plastic bags often or forgetting about something in the fridge/freezer. Using this method should result in buying plastic bags every 5-7 months, so roughly once to twice a year is suffice if you buy a box. If you want to shop even more efficiently you can time those purchases and stock up whenever your favorite item is on sale. Another great storage technique is the use of glass jars and other sealable containers; which I personally use for much of my storage needs, especially bulk purchases, meals, and various leftovers.
If you have, old glass jars, plastic take out containers, cheap mason jars, etc- you’re all ready to go for your storing needs. Those are some perfect examples of containers that we use daily in our home; all in order to save money on food cost and easy storage for our leftovers, not to mention that they’re easily stackable so we maximize the space in our cupboards, fridge, and freezer. We use old glass salsa and other jarred products that come in glass jars because they’re perfect for all types of storage. The glass jars should be used to freeze leftovers for later, I prefer glass to plastic because we like to freeze our leftovers and place them into the jars after cooking for cooling. Simply let your food cool for a few minutes, put the lids on like normal, and store in the freezer. If you want added protection you can put each jar in an old bread bag(s) and close it up, but it’s not necessary. We use our plastic containers from take out (ordering food for pick up), and left over glass jars for our bulk storage or travel containers when hiking since they’re lightweight. We use a funnel to add our pastas, quinoa, bulgur, rice, nutritional yeast, oats, and the various types of flour and nuts we buy into both types of containers as well.
Our storage techniques just aren’t for us however, we like to use large plastic containers, like the one’s from those party snack mixes when storing our cat’s food and treats. We have all of her stuff in her cat tower/litter box bench. The separate containers for her food and our own food helps us keep track of how much we have left, since we can see how much there is for each product. We tend to shop for more food when there are 1 or 2 jars left, which is usually 3-6 cups left. When using this method of storing our bulk foods and our cat’s bulk food purchases, they last fresh for months. Even the bags we purchase our bulked goods at the store get reused into our compost bags for kitchen scraps. In addition, even by saving small plastic sauce containers you end up with an excellent storage unit for salad dressings, dips, and various sauces when on the road, at sporting event, out hiking, or for lunches. When everything is stored neatly, your food inventory is easy to track, which really helps in avoiding unnecessary repeat purchases.
Shopping for fruits and vegetables really depends on usage, but many of your produce items can last much longer using a few tricks:
- Store Apricots, Avocados, Bananas, Cantaloupes/Honeydew Melons, Kiwis, Mangoes, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, and Tomatoes away from produce like Apples, Asparagus, Broccoli, Carrots, Cucumbers, Eggplants, Green beans, Lettuce/Kale, Collard Greens (leafy greens in general), Potatoes, Summer squash aka Zucchini, and Watermelon.
Some fruits and vegetables, the first ones listed, produce ethylene as they ripen; which is a gas that can be cause early ripening/spoilage in other fruits and veggies.
- Store Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti Squash (any type of large Squash in general)/Pumpkin, Onions, Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes, and Tomatoes can all be stored outside of the fridge.
Just make sure you keep them in a cool and dry place, preferably one that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. When placing these into the fridge, it ruins their flavor and may also spoil quicker. Just be sure to store your onions away from your potatoes and tomatoes as they will all ripen/sprout quicker around each other.
- Store unripe fruits like Apricots, Avocado, Bananas, Cantaloupes/Honeydew Melons, Kiwis, Mangoes, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, and Plums etc on the counter until ripened. Once they’re ripe, place them in the fridge.
As long as you aren’t storing any ethylene sensitive produce in your fridge, you should be all set. For bananas, the skin might turn brown but the flesh inside the peel will still be perfectly ripe and tasty. Storing these ripened fruits in the fridge slows down the ripening process due to the colder temperature.
- Clipping the top off of rooted vegetables will keep them fresh for longer. So for veggies like beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc.
Since they’re a root vegetable, they will send their nutrients towards the leaves if the stem is still attached, you might notice the roots will get soft/squishy. If you cut 1/2 -1 cm from the top, this will keep them fresh and sturdy for longer.
- Avoid washing your produce until you use them.
You can get away with not washing your fruits and veggies until you’re about to use them for cooking/ingestion. If there is any dirt on them, definitely brush it off, but when you wash your produce before they will spoil quicker. Especially produce like beets, berries, broccoli, , carrots, cauliflower, corn, green onions, lettuce, mushrooms, peas, radishes, etc.
- Leave space between your vegetables, especially leafy greens, to avoid proper air flow.
You don’t want your veggies touching, so give them space to breathe by removing any twist tie on them. I usually place my produce on 2 paper towels lying down, giving about 2 inches or more between each veggie.
- Store mushrooms and okra in brown paper bags
This will help them last fresh for much longer. If the bag gets damp, replace immediately. You want these to stay as dry as possible during storage.
- Cut off a little bit of the ends on herbs like cilantro/parsley and veggies like celery and store in a jar with water in the fridge. You can keep them fresh for up to 2 weeks longer than normal.
When using this method for herbs, put a plastic bag over the top of them to increase humidity. For celery, make sure there’s enough room for them to stand up straight, so bottom shelf of fridge. This allows them to stay sturdy for longer.
The last piece of advice I have for anyone is to simply plan your meals so you know exactly what you need when you’ll need to use it by. This is the ultimate tool in ensuring your food purchases don’t go bad. Just remember to save those containers and plan as much as possible when making runs to the store. Reusing bags and containers saves a lot of money down the line, and planning for meals and storing your produce properly will prevent food from reaching the compost.