As the seasons change, you get to enjoy a bounty of new fruits and vegetables. Nothing is worse than buying fresh produce from the farmer's market or the grocery store and finding that once you open the container that the rest of the veggies or fruit are no longer in great condition. After a few days, the produce may have developed mold, soft spots, or it may have gone completely rotten.
This is a terrible waste of money, especially if you spring for organic foods or imported produce. Of course, preserving the life of your food doesn't stop at fruits and vegetables. Poultry and meats are even more expensive. However, if you do all of your grocery shopping on Sunday and don't get around to making the chicken until Wednesday, you don't want to pull it out of your fridge only to find out that it smells because it's gone bad already.
These five little-known food storage tips can help you in these cases and more. If your hard-earned money has to go into the groceries every week, make the most of your dollars and your food. Think outside of the box and try these storage tips to preserve your vegetables, fruits, meats, herbs, and dairy products.
1. For Vegetables, Use Unique Storing Vessels
Most vegetables call for time in the refrigerator or another cool, dry place throughout the week. However, lumping all your veggies together in one shelf in the fridge can make them go bad faster. Various veggies can go in different storing vessels that you probably never thought of before. For example, Mercola suggests mimicking fresh blooms when you buy asparagus. Cut the bottoms, grab a vase, fill it with water, and place the asparagus inside. Put the vase in the fridge until you're ready to eat the vegetable. Whole onions will be preserved if you tie them up in unwanted pantyhose. Your mushrooms can go in a dry paper bag, while green onions can fit into a water bottle if you cut them. In this case, make sure that you dump the water first.
2. For Meats, Double-Wrap
When you buy your ground meat, raw chicken, steak, and even seafood like lobster or salmon, it often comes shrink-wrapped in a foam container. While your fist inclination may be to transfer the meats and seafood elsewhere, Real Simple recommends that you refrain from doing so. Simply place the wrapped meats or seafood in another plastic bag and then put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook. If you have leftovers or want to save that steak and lobster for another night, use a freezer bag or plastic wrap and then store it in the freezer. If you do use a freezer bag, make sure that it vacuum-seals; you don't want any air or moisture to get in. Seafood does best when it's iced as well.
3. For Herbs, Use Liquids
Whether you grew them yourself in your garden or bought them from a specialty store, herbs require gentle care and treatment to keep them fresh. An addition as simple as olive oil or water can help preserve their lifespan so you have fun flavors for your meals anytime. When cutting your herbs, first grab an ice cube tray. Instead of using water, add olive oil. Sprinkle your herbs on top of the olive oil and freeze. These can thaw when cooking fast. The best herbs to use for this are oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage. If you've cut chives, parsley, cilantro, and basil, just use water. Fill up a glass and add your herbs; use plastic wrap and a rubber band to cover the glass so air can't get in, and then refrigerate.
4. For Dairy, Watch Your Temperatures
The temperatures of your dairy products can be the difference between milk that tastes fresh and delicious or milk that is curdled and sour. It's possible to freeze milk, but never do so in the plastic or glass container where you bought it. Instead, move it to a freezer-proof bottle. The same applies to yogurt. If you want to preserve harder cheese, always store it in cheese paper and then double-wrap it in a plastic bag. If you have softer cheese, skip the cheese paper and instead put it in a freezer-proof container that doesn't allow any air to get in.
5. For Fruits, Use Oils and Vinegar
Nothing is more unfortunate than rotten fruit, especially when you just bought it yesterday or the day before and you were only beginning to enjoy it. Avocados (which do count as fruit) will last longer if you cut them open but don't remove the pit. Instead, place some olive oil or lemon juice in a spray bottle and apply it to the whole avocado. Then put some plastic wrap on the fruit and refrigerate until you're ready to eat. Strawberries are known to go bad very quickly, sometimes only the next day. These too can be saved, but this time use vinegar. Apple cider or white vinegar are the preferred kinds. Distill it in 10 parts water to one part vinegar. Don't dump the strawberries in the mixture entirely, but run each berry through the liquid, giving each one a nice even coating. This works with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries as well.