Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

 The average American wastes more than 20 pounds of food every month. This is because 40% of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Not only is this a shame in terms of the energy needed to produce that food (manpower, water, electricity, etc.) but it’s a tragedy that so many people go hungry while the rest of us throw away perfectly good food!

What’s really tragic is that more fruits and vegetables are wasted in the U.S. food system than are actually consumed (52% are wasted vs. 48% consumed). I hope at least the mice and cats are eating their veggies!
Let’s face it, many of us buy more food than we need. Either because of impulse buying (we see it, it looks good, we want it), or by trying to avoid multiple trips to the grocery store each week, we buy too much and then just don’t get around to eating everything before it spoils.
I’ve written about it before, but this is one reason why planning your meals is so important: you can cut down on food waste. When you invest the time and money into a trip to the grocery store, you want to be sure the foods you purchase last as long as possible. Below are more than two-dozen tricks I recently found out about to do just that:
1.  Store onions in old pantyhose to keep them fresh for up to eight months (tie a knot in between each one to keep them separate).
2.  Chop dry green onions and store them in an empty plastic water bottle. Put the bottle in the freezer and sprinkle out what you need when you’re cooking.
3.  When storing potatoes, keep them away from onions (this will make them spoil faster). Storing them with apples will help keep the potatoes from sprouting.
4.  Asparagus should be stored in your fridge upright in a glass of water (like cut flowers, cut the asparagus bottoms off first), and covered with a plastic bag.
5.  Store salad greens in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and add a paper towel to help absorb moisture. A salad spinner will also help remove excess moisture -- a key culprit in wilting leaves -- from your greens.
6.  Mushrooms should be stored in a paper bag in a cool dry place, or in the fridge. Avoid storing mushrooms in plastic, as any trapped moisture will cause them to spoil.
7.  Swirl berries in a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) to 10 parts water. You won’t taste the vinegar but the solution will help keep your berries from getting moldy and soft.
8.  When storing chopped avocado or guacamole, leave the pit in, spritz it with some lemon juice or olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. This will help keep it from turning brown.
9.  If you spot a rotten apple, remove it right away, as one rotten apple really can spoil the whole bunch.
10.Put plastic wrap around the crown of a bunch of bananas to keep them fresh for days longer (and be sure to store them away from other fruits, as they emit a lot of ethylene gas which accelerates ripening).
11.Store tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight, in a single layer with the stem side up (don’t put them in plastic bags, which will cause them to spoil faster).

12. Store delicate herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro and chives upright in a glass of water (like you would arrange cut flowers) in your fridge. Put a plastic bag over the top and secure it around the glass with a rubber band for optimal freshness.
13. Bunch oily herbs like thyme loosely together, secure them with a string around the base and hang them in your kitchen for storage.
14. Fill an ice cube tray with olive oil, then add chopped herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme or oregano) to each cube. Pop one out when you’re cooking for instant herb-infused oil.
15. Store fresh ginger root in the freezer. You can grate it frozen (peel and all) when cooking.
Dairy and Nuts
16. Rub the cut side of a block of cheese with butter to keep it from drying out.
17. Cheese should be wrapped in cheese paper or wax paper, not plastic wrap, then put in a plastic baggie.
18. Store cheese in the warmest part of your fridge, such as the vegetable or cheese drawer.
19. Nuts can be stored in the freezer to keep them fresh longer. Ideally put them in Mason jars that have the air vacuumed out with a Food Saver and attachment.
Organization, Gadgets and Other Tips
20. Keep milk and other highly perishable items on the middle shelf in your fridge, NOT in the door where temperatures fluctuate.
21. Avoid mixing produce and meats in the same drawer, as cross contamination can lead to food waste.
22. Avoid over-stocking your fridge, as a crowded fridge will keep air from circulating properly leading to warm spots that can cause spoilage.
23. Avoid chopping up your fruits, veggies and meats before storage, as this will make them spoil faster.
24. Glass mason jars make a great food-storage option, and you can seal them with an automatic vacuum sealer like Food Saver for even more freshness.
25. Remove spoiled food from your fridge promptly to keep mold from transferring to fresh food.
26. Get an ethylene gas absorber for your fridge; they’re available online and can keep your produce fresh up to three times longer than normal. There are many types of bags that can do this. They are typically called “green bags.” One example would be Debbie Meyer Green Bags.
27. A gadget called the Herb Savor, which has a well for water and a plastic cover to keep herbs fresh, claims to make herbs last for up to three weeks.

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