Not much is worse than purchasing your favorite foods, only to watch them spoil before you have the chance to eat them. While buying in bulk can boost your savings at the market, you must know how to store your food once you get home. Otherwise, an extensive shopping spree could result in wasted time, food and money. So, how can you ramp up your savings and also ensure that your groceries don't spoil? Our Bob's Red Mill Food experts came together to create this guide to keeping food fresh. From fruits and veggies to essential pantry items like flour, these tips will help you waste less food and save money in the process!
Check Your Fridge Temperature
Have you ever opened the fridge and noticed that some of your liquid items are freezing? Or maybe your yogurt and milk are a bit warmer than you'd like? If this is the case, then your refrigerator might not be set to the right temperature. Ideally, your fridge should run at 38-40°F. This temperature range will keep your food as fresh as possible, without freezing it. If your refrigerator is not equipped with built-in monitoring, then we advise purchasing a thermometer and checking it every so often to assure that things are running as intended.
Prep Your Food Beforehand
When you're busy and trying to throw a meal together in a short amount of time, the last thing you want to do is prep the food. Cleaning and preparing your food after a grocery store visit is a great way to keep ready-to-eat food on hand at all times. When preparing your food, fix it according to how you'd usually use it. This way, you're much more likely to reach for it before it spoils. Taking the time to learn more about how to meal prep, can help you prepare meals more quickly and keep your food from spoiling.
Keep Apples at a Distance
While apples may look beautiful when mixed with other foods in your fruit bowl, you shouldn’t store other fruits near apples if you want them to last. When ripening, apples give off ethylene gas. Though this gas is not harmful, it can cause other foods to ripen/rot more quickly. To keep your fruits fresh, we recommend storing apples at a distance. If your apples do start to over ripen or get soft, don't throw them out. Cook them instead! Soft apples taste delicious when baked into an Apple Pie recipe like this one, or when turned into applesauce!
Wrap Cheese in Baking Paper
Most people think that the best way to keep cheese fresh is to wrap it up. They're not wrong. However, when we say wrap it up, we're not talking about in a ziplock or with a film. Instead, bundling your cheese up in a porous paper can help keep it fresh for longer. Covering cheese in a porous paper, like cheese paper, baking paper or parchment paper, allows the cheese to breathe while also protecting it from drying out. This means that your cheese will last longer and keep the same great flavor!
Use Bay Leaf in the Pantry
To help keep pests at "bay" store your grains with a bay leaf in the container. Adding a bay leaf to containers of goods like gluten free flour, brown rice, quinoa and cornmeal will help deter any pests from entering. Bay leaves can be used to repel moths, roaches, mice, and flies. What is it about the bay leaves that the pests don't like? The smell! The bitter smell of these leaves has bug-repelling properties that many store-bought formulas can't match.
Store Bread on the Countertop
Have you ever gathered up all of your favorite sandwich ingredients just to realize that the bread has spoiled? We've been there, and it's not fun. Though you might be tempted to store your bread in the fridge, doing so can actually cause it to spoil more quickly. The moist environment of the refrigerator is not ideal for the porous nature of the bread and can lead to unwanted mold spores. Instead, when storing bread, it's best to keep it on your countertop in a tightly sealed bag or container. Doing so will help keep it fresh longer!
Store Dry Foods in Airtight Containers
If you notice your packaged food going bad before the expiration date, then it may be time to invest in food storage containers. Depending on where you live, weather, temperature and humidity levels can play a significant role in the freshness of your food. When storing pantry staples like pasta, quinoa and gluten free flour, it's best to store them in an airtight container rather than the packaging they came in. Doing so will help keep these foods fresher for longer. From Mason jars to Tupperware, many different containers work well to keep food fresh and ready to use.
Treat Your Herbs Like a Bouquet
Looking for a way to keep fresh herbs from spoiling? When it comes to fresh herbs, the sooner you use them, the better. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make them last longer. Treating herbs much like you would a bouquet of flowers is a great way to help maintain their freshness.
Create an At-Home Herb Greenhouse:
- Place your fresh herbs in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top.
- Add an elastic band around the plastic bag to hold the bag to the glass. Doing so will act as a mini-greenhouse, which will keep the herbs fresher for longer.
While this method works great, it is still recommended that you use fresh herbs quickly. Over time they will eventually spoil. To prevent the shelf life of herbs even further, you can also dry them out. To do so, simply tie the herbs together at the stem and hang upside down near a window until they are thoroughly dried.
Wash Berries in Vinegar
Who doesn't love berries? Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are just a few of our favorites. No matter which berries you love most, it's crucial that you wash them before eating. Yes, even if they’re organic! When washing berries, it's best to soak them in a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water. Using vinegar to wash fruit before you place it in the refrigerator is a great way to kill off any bacteria that's already on the fruit, and keep new bacteria from growing. Remember, when making this rinse, keep it at a 1:3 ratio. Doing so will ensure that you use enough vinegar to kill off harmful bacteria, and enough water to rinse off the vinegar-like taste. Note: do not wash berries until right before you plan to eat them, or they may break down.
Looking for a tasty way to use your fresh berries? Try out this sugar free and wheat free berry bar recipe!
Don't Over Pack Your Refrigerator
To ensure the food in your refrigerator stays as fresh as possible, you mustn't pack the food in, or stack it too high on top of each other. If the food from one shelf is touching the shelf above it, then it is a sign that your fridge might be overpacked. A refrigerator that is too full will prevent the cold air from circulating, which can cause the temperature in your fridge to rise. Warm temperatures can cause food to spoil or rot very quickly. If, after a grocery store run, you find that your refrigerator is quickly filled, then it may be beneficial to purchase foods that freeze well, to create extra space.
Store Tomatoes Depending on Their Freshness
Did you know that depending on how ripe a tomato is, it may need to be stored differently? If you've ever purchased an unripe tomato and placed it in the fridge, then you might have noticed that it took a very long time to ripen. This is because the refrigerator slows down the ripening process. When storing unripened, green tomatoes, it's best to store them in a paper bag with the stems facing down. Doing so will keep them fresh and help them ripen. Fully ripened tomatoes should be stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight. If you notice that one or two of your tomatoes look a bit overripe, then it may be time to put them in the fridge—this will prevent them from ripening more. When adding tomatoes to the fridge it's best to use them as soon as possible. When kept in a refrigerator for too long, tomatoes can lose their flavor as well as essential nutrients.
Use your tomatoes before they go bad in this Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce Recipe!
From vinegar fruit rinse to stocking your pantry with bay leaf, we hope this list of tips on how to keep produce fresh has given you insight on how to keep your food from spoiling before you can eat it. Whether you choose to apply one of these tips or all of them, we're certain that you'll notice a difference in the shelf life of your food! Have a favorite fresh food hack of your own? We'd love to hear about it in the comment below.