When you have all your beautiful, nourishing food purchased and at home for the week, do you know how to store it all to maximize freshness and lifespan? There are simple things you can do to add days onto the life of your fresh food.
Buying fresh, whole food is an important part of healthy living but can be a real hassle if it goes bad quickly or gets pushed to the back of the fridge. Maybe you stay away from fresh food for this reason.
This post is all about how to store your food when you get it home. You may be wasting hundreds of dollars a year by throwing old food out. Store your food like a champ and save money!
This is by far the biggest category, so I wanted to get it out of the way. If you buy produce once a week, you may be losing some by the end of it. There are ways to store produce so that they can stay fresh longer – no chemicals needed!
I used to store herbs in the fridge the way I purchased them. They were in plastic bags or plastic containers and they would go soggy and moldy pretty fast. I disliked buying herbs because I knew I couldn’t eat them all in time, but then I learned this little trick.
Treat the bundle of herbs like a bouquet. When you get them home, take off the packaging and pull out any pieces that are wilty, soggy, or yellow – compost these. Then you will remove any leaves from the bottom 3” (about) and use them for a meal that day. Prepare a cup with about 1-2” water, cut about ½” off the bottom of the stems, and place them directly in the cup. Then cover the herbs with a plastic bag.
This will help the herbs stay fresh a significant amount of time longer. Keep your eye on the water and top up or refresh whenever necessary, and cut the bottoms every 5-7 days.
Lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens – anything with a stem. When you get home with your greens, remove the leaves from the base and rinse. To dry, use a salad spinner or tea towels. Line a container large enough for all the leaves with a tea towel, and when they are completely dry, toss them in. The tea towel helps to soak up excess moisture that could cause them to go bad sooner. I also store homemade sprouts this way.
The added bonus with this method of storing greens is that you now have greens ready to go as you need them. Any green whose stem is thick and fibrous, eg. kale, remove prior to storing.
When you cut open the avocado and you are not using it all, leave the pit in the side you are not using and store it in a container or bag. The pit prevents it from browning. You can place a pit in guacamole to store and serve this way.
Mushrooms need to be stored in a paper bag. They are naturally moist and if stored in plastic, they will soften and mold really fast. If you cannot buy mushrooms in a paper bag, you will need to transfer them into one when you get home.
These veggies can be kept out on the counter if you are using soon or stored in a cold room or even fridge if you want to keep them longer (3 weeks+.) Potatoes (regular and sweet), onions, squash, etc.
Bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, any root veggies – beets, turnip, carrots, ginger, etc. These can stay in the fridge as is. When you do cut into them, store in a container or bag to keep the air away from the cut edge, and make sure to use them within a few days because they tend to go bad faster after they are sliced.
Nuts & Seeds
Both of these foods are best in the fridge, if you have room, and store them in a glass container. These do go bad, so only buy what you need to help with storage. If you have a cold room, excess can be stored there as well.
If you need to buy large bags of nuts or seeds and you are not going to eat them soon, they can be frozen.
Nuts will get a smell when they are no longer fresh. Do not eat them. The smell means that the good oils in them have gone rancid and are no longer good for you. If they have a paint-like or grassy odour, throw them out. If they smell or taste bad at all, it is best to get rid of them.
Delicate oils like flaxseed, walnut, and hemp should be kept in the fridge in a glass container. The only oils that do not need to be stored in the fridge are coconut oil and olive oil.
All oils should be kept away from light, air, and heat to maximize freshness and to not give them the chance to go rancid. To learn more about oils, click here.
Oils are like nuts. Check the best before date when purchasing, smell the oil before you use it, and taste to make sure it hasn’t gone bitter.
These should be stored in a glass container with a liquid if you need to keep them for a longer period of time. If buying in bulk, try to ladle enough liquid to cover the olives and transfer to a glass container when you get home.
Dried Beans & Grains
When you purchase these in bulk, be sure to move them into a glass container when you get home and keep them in a cool, dry area to store. These are great to have on hand any time of year.
Spices & Dried Herbs
Buying whole spices is a great way to get the most flavour out of each seed. Spices and dried herbs have a shelf life of 6 months to 1 year, so be sure to use what you have and buy the amounts you can use in that time. Little glass bottles that allow you to sprinkle spices on a dish are great and can be kept in a cool, dark cupboard.
If your spice rack is near the stove, move it to a different location. The heat from the stove and oven makes them go off faster.
As foods sit, they naturally lose nutrients, so saving your food from going bad will make sure you are eating as many nutrients as you can as well as saving money. That’s a pretty good deal.
Some other points to consider:
- Notice how much food you throw away each week and adjust your shopping as necessary. If you always have to throw out a bell pepper or head of lettuce, consider not buying it the next time. This tip is on-going. Also make a note of why you haven’t eaten it. Was it that you just couldn’t get to it or is it that you do not enjoy that food right now. Knowing this will help you in the grocery store.
- Purchase only the freshest food from the store. Look at best before dates on oils and other processed foods; check for wilting, bruising, or discolouration on fresh foods; and if you buy something ripe, make sure you plan on using it soon. My exception to this are those yummy brown bananas that are perfect for the freezer!
- Buy only what you need. This goes for produce but also for spices and dried herbs, nuts and seeds, dried beans, and grains. This will ensure that nothing will sit for too long before eaten.
- Create an anything-left-in-the-fridge meal as you get closer to grocery day.
- Rotate fresh food to the back of the fridge, pantry, cold room, and keep the older stuff to the front. If you put things in jars, remove the older stuff first, pour in the new, and return the old on top of that. This will ensure you are using the older food first, before it gets pushed to the back of the fridge only to be found covered in mold or slime. That’s always a fun find!
- As a general rule, most whole food doesn’t like heat, air, or light, so keep all food away from them.
- There are certain containers and bags that say they keep food longer than regular storage, and some actually work. Before trying anything out, maybe just ask around to see how others like them. This step can save you money and save more garbage from going to the landfill.
- On that note, consider what you are putting in plastic bags at the store. There are some foods that are naturally packaged like bananas. For those times you need bags because you need a lot of something, my wife and I found cool reusable produce bags that we use so that we can minimize the amount of garbage that comes into our house.
Cheers to your health!
Do you want to learn more? Join my new Facebook group, Vivacious Vegan Women. Click here to be whisked away! If you have any more tips, join us in the group and let us know. I love hearing about this stuff!