We have all spent lots of money on food only to have that food go bad and end up in the garbage! No one gives us a handbook on food storage when we purchase food at the supermarket; we either learn from past experience or by watching many hours of the Food Channel if we’re lucky. With that in mind here are 10 Top Foods You’re Not Storing Properly.
10. Fresh & Dried Herbs
We all buy some of these aromatic herbs and spices, whether it is fresh or dried, for that fantastic Bolognese sauce or to spice up a perfect Margherita Pizza. The mistake we sometimes make is to throw it in the vegetable drawer still wrapped in the little plastic supermarket baggies! Stop right there. Within a few days, your basil and parsley will be drowning in muck. Instead, try this; trim the ends and wrap your fresh herbs in loose paper towels, place them in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag and store them in the vegetable crisper. The paper towel keeps the herbs just moist enough so they won’t dry out, and the container or resealable bag keeps oxygen out. Never store directly into plastic bags as the condensation levels are too high and they will rot or mold. Storing them on the countertop in a glass of water will do for a few days, but they will yellow within 48 hrs. Herbs like chives, thyme, sage, and rosemary require a slightly different approach. Wrap them loosely in plastic wrap and place them in the warmest part of the refrigerator; inside the fridge door works perfectly. Do not rinse the herbs until just before using them. Dried ground spices will lose their flavor over time too, especially when exposed to light, air, and heat. It’s best to keep them in a dry, dark cupboard.
We all store our tomatoes in the fridge along with our lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables to be able to make that fresh garden salad or meal by the end of the week. However, sometimes when we’re ready to eat them, we reach for them in the fridge and they have turned to mush. What most of us don’t know is that tomatoes are not meant to be refrigerated. Studies have found that because of their genetic makeup, cold storage temperatures alter their consistency, ultimately affecting both a tomato’s aromatic flavors, texture, and complex scent. Technically a fruit, tomatoes thrive best at room temperature. Chilling in the fridge is not suggested. The best way to store tomatoes is by placing them in a single layer on the counter away from sunlight so they can be allowed to ripen to a bright red. They will not only taste better with time but they will also be juicier with a robust deep flavor. Here are a few of the best practices for storing tomatoes depending on how ripe your tomatoes actually are. Keep unripe green tomatoes, stem side down, on a paper towel or in a cardboard box in the pantry until they turn red in color. Fully ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature on the counter away from sunlight and should be eaten within a few days. Buy small quantities and only what you can eat in a week. If they are having a big sale at the market, consider preserving and canning your tomatoes to make a delicious sauce for your spaghetti all year round.
8. Garlic and Onions
These two aromatic staples of the kitchen will actually keep well for months if properly stored. There are three important things to remember when it comes to the proper storage of garlic or onions. Leaving them intact, leave the entire head of garlic together and keep skins on the onions. Think dry and dark by keeping them in a dark pantry at room temperature, away from sunlight and avoid the fridge at all costs. If you follow these simple rules, under the right conditions, they will keep for months. Like tomatoes, these pungent bulbs do not like to be refrigerated, the humidity in the refrigerator will make them wet and turn them moldy. Allow air to circulate around them, by placing them in an open paper bag, burlap sack, or basket made of wired mesh. If you want to keep them on the counter use a garlic jar made of ceramic or terracotta, but if you don’t have one, a paper bag will do just fine. Light and moisture are garlic and onions worst enemies. Never peel a whole head of garlic if not using all of it. But if you are an eager beaver, store extra cloves in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator with some olive oil. You can even press them through a garlic press and use it to make quick garlic bread, or use for cooking during the week. The same applies to onions. Store unpeeled dry onion bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place with proper airflow and not in plastic bags.
7. Potatoes & Root Vegetables
Potatoes and root vegetables such as beets, turnips, rutabagas, and even ginger are best kept in a cool dark pantry and not the fridge. The temperature in the fridge is too cold for these spuds. Cold temperatures tend to increase the sugars in root vegetables, making them brown quicker especially during cooking. Ideally, store all unwashed root vegetables in a perforated brown bag out of the light. Avoid kitchen hot spots like underneath the stove. Potatoes keep best when placed in a well-ventilated container. Store in a dry dark location at temperatures ranging between 45-55 degrees F. The basement garage or cantina are optimal for longevity; your spuds will love you and survive for up to 3 months. Never store them in a plastic bag as they naturally emit carbon dioxide, which makes them and other nearby produce rot faster. Always keep in mind to shop in small amounts; a 20 lb. bag may sound enticing, especially when on sale, but unless you will be making fries for an army, you will not eat all those potatoes in just a couple of weeks. This will save you money and reduce food wastage. Prevent cut and peeled slices from browning by covering them with water or vacuum sealing before cooking. You can also make your own fries by freezing peeled, washed and cut potatoes in an airtight bag in the freezer.
6. Nuts & Grains, Flour & Bread
For all those nutty friends, the best way to preserve their quality is to keep them away from the smelly friends. Nuts tend to take on the smell of items situated near and around them, so never store them in the bottom of your pantry with onions. Remove them from their packaging and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6-9 months. Natural oils found in nuts become rancid at room temperature and if stored for long periods of time. Shelled nuts can go in the freezer. For grains and flour, heat, air, and moisture are not conducive to their survival. All whole grains should be stored in airtight containers made of glass, plastic or aluminum, kept in a cool, dry and dark place like the cupboard. Store any type of flour also in airtight containers, at the back of a cupboard. You can expect a shelf life of one to three months for whole grain flour stored at cool room temperatures. As for bread; never store it in the fridge as it loses its softness and goes stale faster, it will also mold faster. Instead invest in a good bread box. Storing in the freezer until ready to eat will extend longevity. You can place bread in a paper bag and wrap with plastic, a perfect environment to extend your bread life for a day or so.
5. Oil & Peanut Butter
With the cost of oil these days, it has become a precious commodity. How many of us have purchased an expensive olive oil, just to find out after a month it’s rancid. Many of us store cooking oils at arm’s length next to the stove, for quick and easy access; it’s not such a hot idea. Exposure to heat will turn any oil rancid and bitter at a faster rate. Instead, you can save yourself lots of money and stick to your grocery budget by following this easy step. Keep any oil in a dark cool place, like the pantry or a cabinet close by that has moderate room temperatures. Any type of oil, even olive oil should last for 1-2 months when it is stored properly. If you want to keep your oil fresh, it should be kept in a dark glass container for optimal flavor. The ideal temperature for storing olive is 57 degrees F, but you should make sure the temperature doesn’t get too cold either, as it can congeal, especially if you store it in the fridge. Peanut butter is a different beast, it can stay fresh for three months in the pantry, after that time you must refrigerate it or it will go rancid and the oils will separate.
4. Maple Syrup and Honey
To refrigerate or not? That is the question! According to the Vermont Maple Sugar Maker’s Association, pure maple syrup which is free of preservatives can be stored safely in your pantry as long as the bottle or can has not been opened. Once opened, it must go in the fridge or mold will begin to grow on the surface. The delicate maple flavor is best preserved over a long period by storing in the deep freezer, in its natural habitat. Once opened, store maple syrup in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator or place the unused portion back in the freezer. The same with molasses. It is recommended that you store it in an airtight container, either in a cool area or in the refrigerator. An opened container has a six-month shelf life, while unopened jars can last up to one year. Honey is the opposite; it is best stored in your pantry along with other syrups. Simply keep it in a cool location away from direct sunlight and in a tightly sealed jar. It’s recommended that you use the original container, though any glass jar or plastic container will do. New unopened bottles can be expected to keep about six months past the date on the label. After opening, keep the honey or syrup up to four to six months then discard or make a honey cake.
3. Meat, Fish & Dairy Products
This should be an easy one, but we all make this mistake. Avoid keeping raw meat or defrosting meats on the top shelf of your refridgerator or on the counter. This is the first and basic rule of Cooking 101, to avoid cross-contamination. If the package leaks, raw meat juices will spill all over and onto lower shelves and onto other foods like fruit and vegetables. Instead, keep meats on the lowest shelf wrapped in a plastic bag just in case. Only refrigerate meat that will be eaten within 24 hrs or else it goes in the freezer. Never defrost meat or fish on countertops, as this attracts bacteria. Thaw it out by using a microwave, or thaw out in the fridge the night before. The same principle goes for fish. Shrimp and scallops can be thawed under warm water in minutes. Store dairy products and eggs in the coldest part of your fridge at the back and never on the side doors. Avoid the built-in egg tray and keep them in their original cartons. The refrigerator door may seem ideal, but the truth is the door shelves are not the coolest place in the fridge to keep any of your dairy products as the temperature fluctuates. Every time someone opens the fridge to grab a drink or a snack, you’re exposing the food sitting inside the door to the warm room temperatures. This means that the door shelves are actually the warmest part of your refrigerator, and the constant temperature fluctuation puts all of your dairy products at risk for the growth of harmful bacteria and spoilage.
2. Avocado, Mangoes, Bananas, and Berries
We all love our Mexican food, that delicious guacamole and mango salsa. But did you know that mangoes and avocados do not need to be refrigerated? The best way to store them is on the counter at room temperature, along with bananas which darken in the fridge. Lemons, limes, and oranges do better at room temp as well. Buy smaller quantities or just one at a time to save yourself some money. Get yourself a colorful wire mesh basket and they will make a wonderful center piece. If you want to speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag along with an apple or banana—the gases they emit will help them ripen faster. Once ripe, they can be moved to the fridge for two to three days. Tropical fruits will lose lots of their water after being picked, therefore, all tropical fruits should be stored in the refrigerator to delay further deterioration. Place all fruits in plastic bags and seal and store in the vegetable crisper in the fridge for up to a week. You can wash berries in one-part water and vinegar solution, bag them in an airtight resealable bag, and place them in the freezer for your daily smoothies.
1. Coffee & Tea
We all think that coffee and tea will last forever, but in fact, they lose their flavor over long periods of time. Whether ground or whole, coffee beans can get bitter and lose flavor if not stored properly. You may think that refrigerating or freezing your coffee beans will preserve some of its flavor, but this is an old wives tale. It actually does more damage, as coffee of any kind needs to stay dry. Keep coffee or loose tea in an airtight, dark glass or ceramic container in the pantry, at room temperature and away from heat, light, and humidity. Avoid storing coffee and tea in clear containers or bags, and protect from overexposure to light. If you purchase coffee beans in bulk at the local Costco you can store small portions in an airtight canister in the pantry and the rest can go in the freezer for 1 month only. Never refrigerate tea of any type since it has been dried to obtain maximum flavors, and refrigeration makes it wet and moldy. Air, moisture, heat, and light are the worst possible conditions for coffee or tea. The best way to ensure a good cup of java or a finely brewed tea anytime is to make sure they are protected from all these elements.