15 Tips to Keep Your Food Fresh Longer
Dear Rich Lifer,
Since the pandemic started you probably have noticed a change in your grocery buying habits.
In the past, you might have left the house several times a week to buy groceries. Now, you limit your trips to once or twice a week, but you load up.
Buying in bulk definitely has its economic benefits. But you can quickly lose any or all savings you gain if the food you buy spoils before you can enjoy it.
Whether you’re a carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, the truth is you’re probably wasting more food than you realize.
Food Waste in America
The US is the global leader in food waste, with the average American wasting approximately 219 pounds of food per year.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans waste more than $161 billion each year on food, with dairy products being the food item we toss out the most.
The average American family of four throws out $1,600 a year in produce. If you were to multiply that by 18, the typical number of years a child lives at home, you could have easily paid for a year’s worth of tuition at any number of private colleges or universities.
But, It’s Not Your Fault
Food waste in America is a complex matter. Getting to the bottom of what causes it requires a deeper understanding of socioeconomic disparities, ingrained cultural beliefs, confusion surrounding labeling, and natural human behavior.
The number one reason people throw food away is because of spoilage, whether real or perceived. That’s right, more than 80 percent of Americans throw away perfectly good, consumable food because they misunderstand expiration dates.
Labels like, “best before”, “use by”, “best by”, and “sell by” are confusing since they mean different things for different products. Instead of learning what these labels actually mean, we discard good food because we’re afraid of potential food borne illnesses.
The good news is there are some easy ways to make your food last longer which will save you money in the long run.
We can’t solve America’s food waste problem overnight but we can make sure you’re not throwing out food you don’t have to.
Here are 15 ways to keep your food fresh longer:
1. Understand “Best-before” dates
Best-before dates are recommendations. They tell you how long a product will be in prime condition for, but in most cases the product will taste fine several days past the best-before date.
It’s perfectly safe to consume food past the best-before date but always use common sense to check what the food looks and smells like before you eat it.
2. Understand “Use by” dates
Use-by dates are different from best-before dates in that they’re when food could potentially be dangerous to eat. That’s not to say you can’t eat food past its use-by date but you should exercise more caution.
High-risk foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are best to throw away if they’re past their use-by date. But don’t feel like you have to throw all food out if it’s a day or two past the use-by date.
3. Cook or freeze meat and veggies
If you have meat or vegetables about to expire, one of the easiest ways to save them is to cook or freeze them. Maybe you have some ground beef on the way out, cook it up into a pasta sauce and then freeze it.
Or if you have some vegetables like spinach or zucchini that’s getting old, freeze it. You can use it later for smoothies or for making soup.
4. Wrap cheese in paper
A lot of people are inclined to wrap their cheese (especially stinky cheese) in cling wrap or in an airtight container.
While wrapping your cheese is a good idea, your best bet is to wrap it in some type of porous paper. Think baking paper, or cheese cloth, as the name implies.
Another trick you can use is to wrap your cheese in a kitchen towel that has some vinegar sprinkled on it. This prevents bacteria from forming on the surface of your cheese.
5. Treat herbs like flowers
Honestly, herbs are not easy to keep fresh for long. If you buy a bunch, there’s a good chance they wilt and get slimy pretty quick. However, there are some ways to make your herbs last longer.
Some people swear by wrapping their herbs in newspaper. This will keep the herbs dry and prevent them from getting too chilled.
Another option is to pop them in a glass of water and place a plastic bag over the top. Use an elastic band to hold the bag to the glass and you’ve essentially created a greenhouse environment. The same trick can be used for asparagus.
Lastly, you can always dry out your herbs. Hang them by the stems near a window or some other dry spot.
6. Wrap broccoli in foil
You can extend the life of your broccoli up to four weeks by wrapping it in tin foil.
The reason this works is because tin foil is porous enough that it allows ethylene — the ripening hormone in broccoli — to escape while still keeping your broccoli crisp and fresh.
7. Keep onions in leggins
As crazy as this sounds, trust us. By storing your onions in an old pair of leggins and hanging them in a dark pantry, they will last up to eight months!
Onions need lots of air to keep them fresh longer so tying knots in between each onion will only make this trick more effective. Also, never store onions with potatoes — they’ll spoil faster.
8. Wash berries in vinegar
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries. Whatever kind of berries you like, you can keep them fresh longer by washing them in a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water before storing them in the fridge.
Washing your berries this way kills off any bacteria that’s on the fruit, so the chances of anything growing while in the fridge is reduced. And if you stick to the solution measurements, you won’t taste the vinegar at all — we promise.
9. Rub lemon on your avocados
Avocados are near impossible to keep perfectly ripe. They’re either too hard or they skip to the brown spot stage. One trick to keep your avocados ripe longer is to let them ripen on your countertop and then put your avocados in the fridge the moment they seem ready to eat.
This will preserve that optimal stage for longer. Great if you buy more than one avocado at a time. You can also rub lemon juice on the exposed flesh of any cut avocados you have. This slows down the browning effect.
10. Wrap lettuce in kitchen towels
To keep your lettuce from wilting, pat it dry as soon as you get it home and then wrap it in dry kitchen towels.
Just remember to change the towels every few days so your lettuce stays dry. Also, if your lettuce does look wilted, you can bring it back to life by cutting it into smaller pieces and soaking it in ice-cold water for 30 minutes.
11. Store bananas alone
Bananas emit more ethylene than any other fruit, so it’s best to keep them isolated. The key to prevent bananas from browning too quickly is to keep them in a bunch away from everything else.
When you remove a banana from its bunch, it ripens faster. So you can wrap the entire bunch of bananas in cling wrap and remove one banana at a time if you’d like. Some people swear this method prevents bananas from going brown up to five days longer.
12. Freeze green onions in bottles
Green onions make for great ganish on a lot of different dishes. But they’re notoriously hard to keep from going bad. If you buy a bunch of green onions, cut them up in small pieces, leave them out to dry, then freeze them in an empty water bottle. They’ll keep for weeks without any freezer burn.
13. Get rid of roots from root vegetables
If you like buying organic root vegetables with the roots still attached, you should follow this tip. Remove the roots as soon as you get home. Roots steal nutrients from the vegetables, which can lead to your veggies drying out faster than they should.
14. Keep tomatoes out of the fridge
Similar to avocados, tomatoes ripen best outside the fridge. So, if you buy tomatoes that are already ripe, then you can store them in the fridge to preserve that ideal state.
Also, tomatoes on the vine are best stored upside down (vine side down), since this prevents more air from getting inside the tomato and moisture from escaping.
15. Store mushrooms in paper bags
The last tip is for mushroom lovers. It’s best to keep your mushrooms stored in paper bags since mushrooms like cool and dry places.
Wash your mushrooms and dry them thoroughly when you bring them home. You don’t want any moisture trapped inside the bag. This should extend the life of your mushrooms by several days.
There’s nothing worse than having to throw out rotten food. Follow these tips and you’ll instantly start wasting less and saving more.
To a richer life,
The Rich Life Roadmap Team