With holiday planning in full swing, your grocery list is starting to look bigger than your wish list to Santa --and is now three times more expensive. With food prices on the rise, it's more important than ever to make sure that the food you buy lasts.
It’s happened to all of us. You’ve had big ambitions to make that over-the-top meal and then you got sidetracked… and then sidetracked again… Only to remember your failed plans when you spot a few ingredients decaying in bottom drawer of your refrigerator.
A moment of silence, please. At this time, The Daily Meal would like to take a moment to honor of the fallen food products who were victims of time, neglect, and poor storage. From the mold-riddled fruits in the back of the fridge to the milk so sour it makes your stomach turn, this one is for you.
In all seriousness, wasting food is a shame and can be easily avoided — plus, it will save you money in the long run.
The good news is that there are everyday grocery tips and tricks you can utilize to prolong the life of your refrigerator’s contents. The better news is that you already have most of the tools you'll need to preserve your groceries, you just have to think outside the box.
Paper towels, your freezer, and even your Tupperware can save a product from reaching the bottom of the trash bin before its time.
Your freezer is no longer just home to ice cream and TV dinners — it can actually serve as a great preservation tool. If you want fresh herbs to last longer, simply cut, clean, place in sealed plastic bags, and store in the freezer. When ready to use, simply chop and watch them instantaneously defrost once they hit the hot pan. Butter or bread on sale at your local supermarket? Take advantage of the deal by stocking up and storing it in the freezer. Freezing flour for 48 hours helps to kill any insect eggs that may be present, while freezing brown sugar will keep it from hardening. Generally speaking, your freezer with extend the life of most products, but take care not to overdo it and let them become victims of freezer burn.
In an age where it is easier to run to the drive-thru window then to plan your meals in advance, this tip may seem impractical. However, using a meal plan in a simplistic way can really help your food last longer. Once you've returned from your ritual food-shopping trip, take stock of the day's purchases. Cook the most perishable items first, rather than forgetting them in the back of the pantry.
Waste Not, Want Not
Many a grocery item has been lost by not following this cardinal rule. We are all guilty of thinking in extremes — using two packages of pasta instead of one, cooking the whole bag of edamame rather than the appropriate serving size. Measuring out what you need rather than using the whole item will help you save product and time. For instance, if you don't need to use a lot of lemon juice, simply puncture the lemon and use what is required rather than cutting it up completely. Hack off one small portion of ginger at a time, keeping the rest sealed tightly in a plastic bag and visible in the refrigerator door.
Invest in an Ethylene Gas Guardian (E.G.G.)
Baking soda isn't the only thing that should be in the back of your fridge. Fruits and veggies omit ethylene gas, causing them to spoil more quickly and damaging surrounding produce. Stash this baby in the back of your fridge and keep veggies fresh for a much longer time then you would have thought. With a small up-front investment of less than $25, enjoy longer shelf life and crispier greens year-round.
Count Your Losses
One bad apple can really spoil the whole bunch — think of rotted fruit as a contagious virus. If you spot an unsightly fruit, mercilessly remove the culprit before it spoils the surrounding foods. Keep this in mind when returning from a farmers market: If you picked up ripened fruit and unripened fruit, they should be kept separate. The ethylene from the ripened fruit will attack the unripened fruit before it ever has a chance to flourish. Also, remember that storing the same foods of different consistencies (i.e. chewy cookies and crispy cookies) will cause each product to cancel out the other's freshness.
Add This and Get That
Sometimes, a little extra something does go a long way. There are plenty of unlikely pairs when it comes to preserving food. The addition of rice in the saltshaker and sugar jar will prevent clumping, a bay leaf inserted slyly in flour or pasta will ward off infecting bugs, and add a dab of butter to the cut side of cheeses to prevent them from drying out. Though small additions, these tricks will improve the longevity of some of your kitchen's staples.