22 Unusual Tips, Tricks, and Tests to Make Your Food Last Longer
~by Rachel Grussi
Wasting food feels horrible. Whenever I find old, moldy food in the fridge and toss it, unused into the trashcan, I feel like I’m A) pouring money into the garbage, and B) wasting things like a true American. Food spoiling and being thrown away is a total privilege that is used way too often! So try these tricks to keep your uneaten food out of the landfill:
1. Cook vegetables as soon as you buy them. To keep veggies longer and prevent wasting food, chef and food writer Tamar Adler suggests the intriguing idea of cooking your vegetables immediately after buying them. You can prepare and refrigerate a week’s worth of precooked food beforehand, which can be warmed to room temperature and dressed with vinaigrette for a salad, baked into a mid-week casserole or tossed into vegetable curry at the end of the week.
2. Store your onions in pantyhose; they will last as long as 8 months (because they feel fabulous, most likely!). It’s as simple as putting onions in nylons, and tie knots between onion.
3. Wrap lettuce in tinfoil to help it stay crispier longer. Make sure it’s dry, though, and freshly salad-spinned. Moisture is the cause of lettuce wilting.
4. Did your bread go stale before you could finish it? Rub an ice cube over stale bread, and then bake it for 12 minutes to revive it.
5. Keep tomatoes out of the fridge; instead, store at room temperature. Same for bananas!
6. Get an ethylene gas absorber for the fridge. Ethylene really makes or breaks the freshness in your foods, so it’s wise to invest. It’s not too expensive, either; a set of 3 costs $16. These little pods absorb the ethylene emitted by fruits and vegetables to keep them fresh up to 3x longer. Here’s a handy list of ethylene-producing and ethylene-sensitive foods.
7. Tired of your cilantro rotting before you can make your fourth batch of salsa? Store delicate herbs like you would flowers, then cover with plastic, secure with a rubber band, and refrigerate. This is the best for delicate herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro, and chives.
8. Oily herbs cannot be stored the same way. Herbs like thyme can be tied loosely together with string and hung in the open air.
9. Use a vinegar solution to make your berries last longer. Prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) and ten parts water. Swirl the berries around in the mixture, drain, rinse, and put them in the fridge. The solution is diluted enough that you won’t taste the vinegar. Raspberries will last a week or more, and strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft.
10. Don’t store onions with potatoes. It makes them sprout and spoil faster. Instead, put your potatoes with one apple in the bag to keep the sprouting from happening. Low levels of ethylene gas, such the amount an apple omits in a well-ventilated bag, suppresses the elongation of the potatoes’ cells, preventing sprouting. Store them carefully, preferably in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. They can last up to 2-3 months this way!
11. One rotten apple can spoil the bunch. Apples in general can make other fruit ripen faster, so keep them away from the rest.
12. Tired of fridge burn on your cheese? Add a dab of butter to the cut side of cheese to keep it from drying out. You also want to wrap in cheese paper or wax paper (NOT plastic wrap) and then place in a plastic baggie. Keep in the warmest part of the fridge (vegetable or cheese drawer).
13. Freeze and preserve fresh herbs in olive oil. The herbs will infuse the oil while freezing, and the ice cubes are very handy for cooking: just pop one out and use as the base of a dish. Works best with rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. Dill, basil, and mint should always be used fresh.
14. Wrap the crown of a bunch of bananas with plastic wrap. They’ll keep for 3-5 days longer than usual, which is especially helpful if you eat organic bananas. Bananas also produce more ethelyne gas than any other fruit, so keep them isolated on the counter.
15. Clean your fridge. Once something goes bad in your fridge or cupboards, it leaves behind a lot of fellow mold friends ready to eat up your new food. Disinfect the fridge — it’ll make everything last a little longer.
16. Tomatoes are a tricky bunch. Don’t store them in plastic bags! The trapped ethylene will make them ripen faster. Unripe tomatoes should be kept stem side down, in a paper bag or single layer in a cardboard box in a cool area until they turn red in color. To ripen faster, store with fruit. The gases emitted will help ripen the tomatoes. Perfectly ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature, on the counter away from sunlight, in a single layer, not touching one another, stem side up. Overly ripe tomatoes should be put in the fridge, but let them come to room temperature before eating them.
17. Keep your ginger in the freezer. If you want to make Yogi Tea on the regular, you need to freeze your ginger. It’s easier to manage this way, and it will stay good for a much longer time. It grates much more easily, and the peel grates up so fine that you don’t actually need to peel it.
18. Keep mushrooms in a paper bag, not a plastic bag.
19. Keep your milk and dairy products in the middle of the fridge instead of in the door. This way, it has longer access to cooler temperatures.
20. Making popcorn? Cook it in a bowl with a microwave-safe plate on top. This reduces the amount of unpopped kernels (and waste!).
21. Waste not, want not, even with lemons. If you only need a tiny spurt of juice, don’t slice the whole thing up. Instead, use a skewer or fork to pierce the skin and squeeze a bit of juice out.
22. Freeze flour for the first few days to kill bugs. In case you missed our FDA Regulations post, you never know what’s in your food. So stay on the safe side and store the bag in the freezer for several days to kill weevils and insect eggs (yuck!). Female weevils lay eggs in the grain kernel, and larval weevils feed from within making them difficult to detect. Super heating or cooling will kill these pests easily. Just make sure to wrap your flour well or pack it in a freezer bag to prevent it from picking up food odors. You can continue to freeze or refrigerate flour if fridge space is not an issue