You and I have two things in common.
We both go grocery shopping.
We both throw away a good chunk of our groceries.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten.
A large portion of this is from consumers wasting food resulting in rotting landfills and burning hard earned money.
Groceries are one of the top budgeted items in all American families. The USDA shows that a family of 4 spends an average of $719.30 on a low-cost grocery budget.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are simple food hacks you can use today to store food for twice as long as you’re used to.
Tons of articles from Buzzfeed and other food blogs tell you the “how”, but no one seems to get into the “why?”
Let’s take a look at these food storage hacks and investigate why you need to store your produce, fruits and sweets differently.
1. Wrap your bananas in plastic wrap.
Thie simple trick to slow down the ripening process is to wrap the stem of the banana in plastic wrap. This will slow the ripening process allowing your bananas to last about a week.
Life Hacker recommends wrapping each banana individually for an even slower ripening process.
Bananas ripen incredibly fast because it releases ethylene gas causing it and other fruit near it to brown and mature quickly.
You can use this to your advantage by slipping a ripe banana and an unripe avocado in a zipper lock bag. The avocado will ripen much quicker thanks to science.
2. Store ripened tomatoes in the fridge and unripened on your counter.
Believe it or not, the tomato community is bigger than you’d think. There have been hefty debates on the storage and taste of tomatoes from people all around the world.
Catherine Renard, a senior researcher at the French National Institute for Agriculture recommends you store tomatoes at room temperature – between 68 degrees F and 73 degrees F.
Daniel Gritzer from seriouseats.com says “It depends.”
Gritzer has written multiple posts with hundreds of comments on tomatoes and only tomatoes.
He had regular people blind test tomatoes stored in a refrigerator versus ones that were stored at room temperature.
After 24 rounds of testing, his subjects were only able to correctly identify the difference 9 out of 24 times.
In his final article, he concludes that you should store fully ripened tomatoes in the fridge for longer storage and leave unripened tomatoes on the counter until ready.
3. Soften your brown sugar with fluffy marshmallows.
Hardened brown sugar is more of an annoyance than a sign of spoiled food. It happens in every bag left alone.
But there’s a simple fix.
Add a couple marshmallows to your bag of brown sugar and it’ll soften up nicely.
Now how and why does this work?
Let’s take a look into the anatomy of brown sugar and how your favorite campfire treat solves this problem.
Each crystal of brown sugar has a layer of molasses. When the molasses is exposed to air, the moisture in the coating evaporates causing each particle to stick or clump together.
Marshmallows contain water and gelatin. When the two are matched together in an airtight container, the water vapor molecules from the marshmallow will stick to the sugar crystals (sugar is hydrophilic) and cause the sugar to be recoated with a thin layer of water.
You can run your own experiment with sugar cubes and a piece of bread. They work the same way.
4. Wrap broccoli and celery in aluminum foil.
You can keep your broccoli and celery extra fresh by wrapping it in aluminum foil before storing it.
The trick with broccoli and celery is to keep it at its ideal humidity.
When storing it in an open bag, the moisture will quickly escape the stalk and cause it to decompose quicker.
Foil also prevents ethylene gas from getting trapped inside. Remember, ethylene gas ripens bananas at the speed of lightning. You don’t want the same to happen to your produce.
5. Microwave your leftover greens for fresh herbs.
More often than not, you have left over greens that end up finding its way to the compost.
Rather than throwing them out, you can make your own herbs with the leftovers. The best greens to use are thick, leafy and hearty herbs that grow in hot and dry climates.
Winners would include:
Using the microwave will preserve color and bring intense flavors to your pallet. The key is to cover the herbs in a paper towel or dish cloth and then microwave them on high heat.
Seriouseats has a fantastic step-by-step guide on this.
6. Keep your mushrooms in a brown paper bag.
Unlike brown sugar, moisture and mushrooms are a bad fit. By storing your loose mushrooms in a paper bag, you can reduce the amount of moisture that enters the fungi. This can allow your mushrooms to stay fresh for up to two weeks.
On the other hand, some sources recommend staying away from paper bags as it can turn the mushrooms spongy and wrinkly.
Instead, they recommend storing your mushrooms in a partially open Ziploc bag. This maximizes air flow without drying out the mushrooms and allows the ethylene gas to escape.
Last but not least are your prepackaged mushroom cartons.
These are best stored in its original container. They’ve been designed specifically to let the mushrooms breathe enough to maximize their life.
You can easily reseal them with plastic wrap – just as they came.
7. Use your pantyhose to hang your onions or a punched paper bag.
Well this looks bizarre, but it works.
Hanging onions separately in pantyhose can keep them fresh for up to 6 months. When assembling your army of onions, you’ll want to separate them with a knot between each unit.
The National Onion Association recommends storing onions in a cool, dry and well ventilated place. Storing them in a plastic bag will limit air movement and reduce their storage life.
Monica from The Yummy Life uses an easier and less embarrassing method.
She stores onions, garlic and shallots in a punched paper bag. Here’s what Monica’s onions looked like after 3 months.
The concept is the same. Let your onions breathe in a cool place and maintain its moisture. The results will speak for itself.
8. Flip your pineapple upside down
Pineapples aren’t exactly meant to be preserved. The biggest concern is this:
Will it be sweet?
Rather than throwing out your sour or bitter pineapples, rip off the leaves and store the fruit upside down until it’s ready to be eaten.
During transport and storage, pineapples are usually left with the leafy hairdo side up.
This causes the natural sugars to sink to the bottom of the fruit, which you’ll probably cut off when preparing it.
By storing it upside down, you’ll be able to redistribute the sugar throughout the entire fruit and enjoy it from top to bottom.
9. Pick the perfect avocados
When picking avocados, it’s important to know when it’s ripe. The main factors to consider are the color and softness of the avocado.
But there’s a simple trick you can use to determine if it’s just right or past its prime.
Take a look underneath the stem for a perfect yellow color. If it’s dark, then it’s not worth buying.
Keep in mind that avocados aren’t meant to be stored for long periods of time. Even the brightest Hass avocados won’t last for more than 5 days.
Plan your purchases based on when you’ll be using it next, rather than having it as a “just in case” item.
10. Water your asparagus like flowers.
It’s a myth that asparagus’ shelf-life will be extended if the ends are submerged in water. The water does however keep them fresh.
No one wants to eat slimy spears of asparagus and therefore gets thrown out even though it’s safe to eat.
To keep them fresh throughout their life, you need to treat asparagus like you do flowers.
Cut an inch off the bottom ends and store them upright in a glass. Fill the glass with 2 cups of water and cover it with a plastic bag.
If the water gets cloudy, empty and refill it with some fresh H2O.
Put it in the refrigerator and your asparagus should stay fresh for 1-2 weeks.
11. Wash your berries in this vinegar solution.
Washing your berries in a vinegar solution can last up to two weeks. Amazing right?
Here’s how Laura Fuentes from Momables does it.
What you’ll need:
- a salad spinner or strainer in a bowl.
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 8 cups of water
- 1 drop of dish soap
- Toss your liquids and berries into your bowl and give them a nice wash.
- Do a final rinse to wash out residual vinegar taste.
- Dry them on a clean towel.
- Transfer them to a clean container that will let the berries breathe.
- Store them in the fridge and enjoy your berries.
Vinegar is a well known home remedy item that kills bacteria and mold spores. Washing fresh fruit with it can keep them fresher and prevent mold from growing quickly.
While vinegar works great for me, there are the odd times that it doesn’t. The concentration levels from store bought vinegars are generally too low to kill certain types of bacteria.
12. Keep cookies moist in an airtight container with a slice of bread.
Cookies dry out really quick and can lose that fresh flavor in a day or two. Keeping cookies moist and soft follows the same principle as brown sugar.
When cookies are exposed to air, the moisture within them begins to evaporate. When adding a slice of bread with your cookies, the moisture from the bread will get absorbed by the cookies – since sugar is hydrophilic.
This redditor had cookies stay soft for a whole week with one slice of bread. The bread was rock hard, but the cookies remained soft.
You might have been skeptical whether these tricks work. Now that you can see how and why they do, it’s your turn to put them in action.
By using them, you’ll reduce waste, save money and enjoy food always at its best. Try these food hacks for smart food storage and to get the most out of your groceries every time.
Click on the image below to download a one-page list of these food hacks for your reference.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community. I’d love to know which hack you’ll be trying out.