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There are some foods with unexpectedly long shelf lives. But for every can of beans or jar of honey, there are the foods that seem to spoil the moment you bring them home. Use these tips, tricks and leftover ideas for extending the life and use of your fresh produce, milk, meat and more.
One of the most important things you can do is make sure your fridge is cool enough to keep your meat, produce, dairy and condiments chilled. According to the Food and Drug Administration, fridges should be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and freezers should be at zero degrees or below. Use a thermometer to make sure your fridge is at the right temperature. Doing so is one of the top tips for avoiding food poisoning.
If you happen to have half an avocado left after using some to top your burger or chopping some avocado into your perfectly scrambled eggs, you can save the other half from oxidizing. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on the exposed portion of the avocado. The citric acid acts as a natural preservative. Wrap the avocado tightly with plastic wrap and store it upside down in your fridge.
Lettuce can quickly go from fresh and crisp to sad, wilted and slimy if not stored correctly. As soon as you get home from the store, make sure to transfer the lettuce to a suitable storage container — a plastic bag or plastic storage container will work wonderfully. Add a few sheets of paper towels at the top and bottom before zipping up the bag or sealing the lid. The paper towel should effectively absorb any excess moisture that would ordinarily result in lettuce going bad before you can use it, allowing you to turn that seasonal produce into crispy, satisfying salads.
Ever wonder why lettuce wilts? It's because it loses water. In order to bring that sad, old lettuce back to life and make it last a bit longer, revive it by soaking the leaves in ice water for 30 minutes. This is just one of those kitchen hacks we learned from our parents.
Soup is one of the best foods to make ahead and freeze, and one of the basic ingredients for soup, stock, is easy to make at home. If you notice your veggies and herbs are starting to turn, freeze them in a plastic bag and then repurpose them for some homemade vegetable stock. Avoid using starchy vegetables like potatoes and turnips for stock, but know carrots, onions, garlic, leeks, thyme and parsley all make for flavorful options.
You may be tempted to keep your cookies in that pretty decorative cookie jar, but that won’t keep them fresh. Keep your chewy cookies from turning dry by storing them in a zip-lock plastic bag with half a slice of bread inside. If you're insistent on that cookie jar, you can place the baggie in the jar. And while you're thinking about creative cookie hacks, bake your next cookies with these unexpected ingredients.
Fresh herbs can make or break a number of recipes. To keep them fresher longer, store cilantro, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme wrapped up in damp paper towels, which you then place in a zip-lock plastic bag. If you’re just keeping your herbs in the grocery bag they came in, they are among the groceries you’re storing wrong.
Croutons are one of those items you should stop buying at the grocery store and just make instead. Simply cut your old bread into half-inch cubes, toss with olive oil and your choice of seasonings and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
You can also repurpose stale bread into breadcrumbs. Cut your bread into 1-inch pieces, pulse it in a food processor for about 15 or 20 seconds and bake in a 300-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Combine these breadcrumbs with defrosted chicken to make chicken parmesan, one of the best meals you can make from the freezer.
Fresh eggs in their shell will last for three to five weeks in the fridge, but if week five approaches and you still haven't used those eggs, don't pitch them just yet. Hard boil your eggs and they will stay fresh for one more week. Just make sure you know how to cook and peel hard-boiled eggs perfectly.
Your fridge has different zones: a cold zone in the back of the top and middle shelves, a moderate zone in the front and a humid zone, which is better known as the crisper drawers. To keep milk fresh for longer, avoid putting it in the door and move it to a cold zone in the back of your fridge. If you want to continue to not waste milk, consider these recipes to finish off that gallon of milk.
Most vegetables will be fine when left in their original packaging, but they thrive in the fridge and last longer when placed in the crisper drawer. Keep your broccoli, beets, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, greens, radishes, squash and more in this part of your fridge.
Bananas are a great fruit to eat and one of the foods that will help boost your immune system. The only issue is by the time one banana is ripe enough to eat, the whole bunch will become too ripe in a matter of days due to the release of ethylene gas. To slow down the process, wrap some plastic wrap tightly around the crown of the bunch, which should extend the shelf life of the bananas by a few more days.
You may be tempted to wash your fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery store, but that just adds moisture to your produce, which can lead to the growth of mold and bacteria. Wash your produce right before you intend on eating it to keep it fresh.
The one fruit you want to make sure you do wash early, however, is berries. To extend the fridge-shelf life of this heart-healthy food, give them a quick dip in a vinegar solution (one part vinegar to three parts water) then drain them, thoroughly dry them in a salad spinner lined with paper towels and put them away. The vinegar-water mixture helps kill any bacteria or spores that might turn berries into mush.
Think of your asparagus like you would a meaningful bouquet of flowers. To keep this vegetable fresh, trim the bottoms and stand asparagus upright in a jar with an inch or two of water. Cover the tips with a plastic bag so they don’t pick up any strange fridge odors.
You may be tempted to pluck your grapes off the stem for easy, healthy snacking, but keep that fruit where it came from. Removing grapes from the stem will cause them to rot quicker since the portion of the fruit that was attached to the stem is now exposed, leading to mold and bacteria growth.
If you have made a big batch of something delicious and are struggling to finish it, don’t leave it to linger in the back of the fridge for days until it is thrown away. Instead, put it in a suitable container, label it with the content and date, and pop it in the freezer. This saves you from eating the same thing for days on end and also means that on those days when cooking is just out of the question, there is something delicious you can just heat and eat.
If you buy pre-packaged mushrooms that come wrapped in plastic, you can keep them in the container they come in. If you buy mushrooms individually, transfer them from a grocery produce bag into a paper bag when you get home to prolong their shelf life. With those extra days, add some mushrooms into an egg scramble — they’re one of those unexpected ingredients that go great in eggs.
Have you noticed that your carrots, with their fabulous flower-like tops, often go from deliciously crunchy to sad and wilted in no time at all? That’s because carrot tops suck precious nutrients from this springtime vegetable. To make your carrots last longer, simply remove the tops and store them in the fridge.
You may be tempted to keep your tomatoes in the fridge, but that's doing this product a massive disservice. Tomatoes should be kept at room temperature; anything below 55 degrees results in a lesser flavor. And while storing tomatoes stem side down may make them look more appealing, this actually bruises them, causing the fruit to go bad quicker. Oh, and spring for heirloom tomatoes. They have a bolder flavor and are one of those grocery items worth the splurge.
Moisture is the worst thing that can happen to whole grains like barley, popcorn, oats, quinoa, wheat and wild rice. It can make them go bad before you get to use them in all those salads that aren’t salad. To keep these dry goods better for longer, they should be stored in airtight containers with tight-ﬁtting lids. Glass, plastic and plastic bags with zippers all will do the trick, so long as your container is secured tightly.
Don’t store onions, potatoes, garlic or winter squashes in the fridge. Instead, store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space like the pantry. Keeping them in their original packaging can also help keep them better for longer. Oftentimes, the bags have holes in them meant to prevent spoilage.
While herbs may seem like one of those foods that don’t freeze well, they can if you do it right. Fill an ice cube tray halfway with cut herbs, then top it off with some olive oil and place the ice cube tray in the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, you can store the oil-herb cubes in a sealed plastic bag or container and use them to add flavor to dishes on a whim.
If butter is more your style, you can also mash together herbs, a sprinkling of sea salt and some softened butter, roll it into a log, wrap it in parchment paper and store that in the freezer. Use this compound butter to baste meat or vegetables toward the end of cooking. Cooking with tons of butter is one of those reasons grandma's food was better than yours.
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