The refrigerator, that modern device that helps keep your milk from spoiling, your lettuce crisp and let’s not forget our beer ice cold. It would be hard to live without this amazing invention for the fact that it helps us keep our food lasting much longer. But here is a scary fact, the US throws away 150,000 tons of food daily and an average of about $1500 worth of food per year in each household. Also, 39% of the food we waste is made up of fruits and vegetables. The good news is, there are a few simple tricks we can all do that could reduce the amount of fresh produce we toss, resulting in a massive impact on the environment and decrease our grocery costs.
Keeping things cold
Let’s first talk about the chill factor. Keeping food cold helps prevent the growth of bacteria and microbes, those fun little guys responsible for the not so fun food poisoning.
A refrigerator should stay 40°F or lower and freezers should stay around 0°F. However even with your fridge a perfectly chilled 40°, the temperature can vary in different parts of the fridge depending on how close to the cooling element they are. Therefore, making it important what foods you place where in your refrigerator. So, lets break down what food goes where, for the best longevity.
Upper Shelves– have the most consistent temperatures. Store ready to eat food here. Foods that do not need to be cooked, such as hummus, deli meats and tortillas.
Lower Shelves– these are the coldest shelves, so they are best for raw meat, eggs, and other dairy. Also, don’t overpack the refrigerator. The cold air needs to be able to flow to keep consistent cold temperatures.
The Doors– the warmest part of the fridge and should be used for foods that are least likely to spoil. Most of us use this for our condiments.
Crisper Drawers– meant to maintain a moist condition, helping preserve fruits and vegetables. But remember many fruits contain ethylene, a chemical that helps them ripen. So, don’t go all willly nilly and put your veggies and fruit in the same drawer. It may result in mushy apples or limp carrots.
How to store fruits and vegetables
Apples and Bananas
Buy bananas when they are still slightly green and store them away from other fruits (they release high amounts of ethylene gas, causing fruit to ripen too quickly). Keep apples in an uncovered bowl on the counter, out of direct sunlight.
Wash and dry loose leafy greens, then wrap them in paper towels and store in a food storage container. This will help them from going soggy.
Carrots and Celery
Store in a covered container of water. This will keep them firm. Be sure to change the water every 2-3 days.
After washing them, make sure to dry thoroughly. Store in a reusable vegetable bag.
Onions and Potatoes
Store them in a cold dark place, such as the cupboard. Once cut, keep onions in a resealable container where they will keep for about a week.
Wash herbs as you use them. Extra moisture causes them to spoil faster. Store in a resealable bag. Or chop the fresh herb leaves and place into ice cube trays with a little olive oil and store in freezer. When you need them, just pop out a cube and use in your favorite dish.
Meat and Fish
Place meat and fish in freezer containers with a label stating the date frozen. Frozen meat should be eaten within 6 months.
Learning how to store food properly can create less food waste and save us money. So, invest in some reusable fruit and veggie bags, a nice fruit bowl for the counter or maybe even a banana tree. We can all do our part to keep perfectly good food from becoming a mushy mess in the bottom of our trash can.