Lets just do a little hypothetical (pretty much my routine and thoughts on paper!)….Okay so you’ve made it to the farmers market or the supermarket. You race up and down the aisles trying to rack your brain as to what to feed the household for a length of time (depending on how often you attend). You’ve made your decisions and collected the necessary items. You’re now at the checkout; you unpack the trolley, reload the trolley, handover the magical money card and then walk to the car and offload again. You think to yourself you’ve probably forgotten something but cannot think what it is, hoping it will enter your brain while you are still in the vicinity! You start the car and begin the drive home. You get home and you unpack the car. In my case, you try and minimise movement to and from the car so endure the pain of attempting to carry every bag in at once! You dump it down, and begin to unload your produce into the fruit bowl, the pantry or the fridge/freezer. You do this based on habits – the way you have always done it, without much thought or patience.
Fastforward a couple of days and you have squashy avocados, floppy greens, soft apples, stale bread and brown herbs.
You think to yourself (or say to these less-than-appealing foods often to no real avail)….I spent a good amount of time and effort (and money!) to get you from the shelf to the home and given you a sense of purpose!….So, why won’t you keep up your end of the bargain!!
Well I’m here to the rescue. I am all about food storage and getting the most out of my food. I think it is safe to say that my biggest pet hate is food wastage. I know in our fast paced, often distracting home environment the last thing we want to do is spend more time doing food prep after enduring the shops, but a little goes a long way my friends!
FRUIT AND VEGGIES
For the most part, I keep my fruit in the fridge. This helps reduce ripening and also helps preserve the important nutrients within the fruit. BONUS: I prefer my fruit cold. Bananas often remain an exception to my rule however and often hang in the fruit bowl. If I purchase items that need to ripen – such as avocados and stone fruit – I put them in the fruit bowl until they are where I want them to be and then I place them in the fridge to halt the ripening process. It is important to remember to keep your fruit and veggies separate (including in the crisper). This is because fruit give off ethylene, a ripening agent, which acts like a catalyst to make your veggies and greens prematurely spoil.
Greens need space to breathe and don’t like to be held in close confines. Greens are best kept cool and dry. This little technique will lengthen their lives so we can enjoy them for longer! Remove your greens from their bunch, rid of any bad leaves, soak your greens in some fresh water, drain and separate into a thin layer on a tea towel. Roll the towel tightly, securing each end with an elastic band. This allows the leaves to dry independent of the rest of the bunch, helping them retain their freshness. Then, unroll the greens as you need them. While I can’t say I do this often, it is best done if you only make it to the shop once per week say and are relying on your produce to last.
A little tip…It is best to sequence your meals around the shelf-life of your greens. By this I mean, fresh greens should be used for a salad or smoothie and older greens are best sautéed or curried.
FOODS WITH AN AVERSION TO THE COLD (like me!)
Tomatoes, banana and, melons are probably the main fruits who dislike the cold temperatures of the fridge and are more suited to your kitchen bench or pantry. I always think of a fruit bowl as an accessory within the home – you want it to be aesthetically pleasing. Of course, once any of the above fruits are cut open they are best stored in the fridge to avoid drying out.
Potatoes and whole pumpkin are also best kept out of the fridge. The cold can cause the conversion of starch in potato to sugar more quickly, causing them to change in taste and texture.
Herbs should be stored like plants with their stem sitting in fresh water. Change this water often and if you can, place a bag over the leafy part of the plant, leaving the bottom open for air flow and moisture control.
Fresh bread is best stored in a cool, dry place tightly wrapped or sealed in a bag for around 2 days. After this, to avoid any further moisture loss, it is best wrapped in foil or placed in a freezer bag and frozen. I always like to warm my bread in the oven or pop it in the toaster if its been sitting around for longer than a day.
Garlic and onions are high-allium containing foods which fare better in a cool, dry place. In the cold confines of the fridge, the tend to lose their flavour and texture.
Baked produce such as whole cakes, should keep their freshness for up to a week if wrapped tightly and left on the kitchen bench or in the pantry. Anything that has been sliced will have a shorter shelf life of around 2-3 days in a cool, dry place and after this, they are best stored in the fridge.
Dry packaged foods have a long shelf life of around 6 months. Of course, once they have been opened, they are best moved to an airtight container to retain freshness.
Nuts and seeds contain high amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can become rancid quickly when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. Rancid nuts/seeds taste bitter, can be toxic and are not pleasant to digest. If you have a go-to nut/seed or mix, I would recommend keeping them in airtight jars or containers on the kitchen bench or pantry. If you buy in bulk (which is often cheaper), nuts/seeds are best stored in the freezer in airtight containers/bags. This prolongs their freshness and keeps them nutrient dense. Six months is probably the longest to leave them frozen so buy according to your use.
Spices have several enemies – heat, light, oxygen and humidity. Whole spices have a longer shelf life (up to 2 years) than crushed or ground spices (~ every 6 months). Airtight containers or small spice jars are the best to maintain freshness.
FOODS THAT LOVE THE COLD (i.e the fridge and freezer!)
Eggs are best kept on the cooler bottom shelves of the fridge, rather than the door as it is the warmest part of the fridge.
Whole mushrooms are best stored in a brown paper bag with the top of the bag folded over. They fare much better in the main compartment of the fridge as the crisper environment is too moist. The bag acts as a moisture trapper to ensure that your shrooms don’t become soggy and inedible. Mushrooms can freeze, but it is best you cook them before you do this as it stops enzymatic ripening action and preserves their quality.
Cheese is best wrapped in a porous material for longevity with a good example being wax paper or cheese paper. It is best to then cover this package in a loose plastic bag/wrap to keep it together. Plastic or cling wrap alone will suffocate your cheese. It is best that this you change the packaging after each use of the cheese. If you are prone to having a few different types of cheese on the go, label and date each cheese after they have been wrapped for easy identification when the cheese craving sets in! Cheese is best kept where the temperature of the fridge is consistent but not overly cold. Good examples include the vegetable drawer or the cheese compartment, if your fridge is into cheese appreciation.
Meat is best kept in the coldest section of the fridge i.e. the bottom shelves if its a fridge-freezer or the top if you have an ice-making compartment up higher. I’ve also heard that if you wrap your fresh meat in foil, it will preserve it for longer….but I am yet to do that experiment.
Like meat, fish is best kept in the coldest section of the fridge. For longevity, dry your fish and wrap it in waxed paper before placing in the fridge. This should keep for around 2 days. Always smell your fish and check its colour before you cook it. It it smells too fishy or has turned into the rainbow fish somewhat, it is best to pass on it. Another little trick you can do, is to fill a shallow dish/bowl with a bed of ice and place your fish on this in the fridge, remembering to change as needed.
Ground coffee loves the cold environment of the freezer. Here, they keep for longer and maintain their flavour.
Stock and leftover wine can be frozen as ice cubes or in muffin trays for bigger serves. Once frozen, these can be transferred to containers of freezer bags.