People of the past seemed to make their food last if possible. They had to, and they had to do it all without fridges and freezers. Now, our food doesn’t seem to make it through a week without starting to sprout or taste like we’ve left it to rot.
While the treatment of food is partial to blame, there are things that we don’t do that our ancestors had to. Many people on farms and in the countryside, find these hacks useful daily to prevent too much driving around. We’ve just become complacent because of how easy access everything is now.
The problem is we’re wasting more than we should. It’s time to make some changes to the way we look after and store our food. With these top life hacks, you will be able to prolong the shelf life of your food.
Freeze More Food than You Do
While our ancestors didn’t have freezers, that doesn’t mean we can’t make use of the technology. In fact, we should. One of the easiest ways to prolong the life of your food is to freeze as much as possible. Storing it below -18C will help to prevent the formation of bacteria and organisms. Your food will last weeks and even months.
In some cases, you can completely kill the organisms that do grow your food. You can kill the bacteria that are already there.
You will have to follow safety tips for freezing your food. Once something has defrosted, you will need to use it in your cooking. Defrosted food will start to collect organisms and bacteria. You can’t refreeze them safely. Once you have cooked the food, you can certainly then freeze the creations.
It’s surprising just how much you can buy and store in the freezer. You can get food that is close to the use by date without worrying about getting through it. The freezer will prolong the life naturally and effectively.
There are some foods that freeze better than others. Certain foods do lose some of their consistency and texture when you freeze (well, when you defrost) because of the ice melting. However, most of foods in the freezer will not taste any different afterward. Tomatoes will be goopy when you defrost, so use a container to help collect it all.
You’ll need to be creative with the way you freeze some foods. Peel bananas and wrap them in tin foil or cling film. Store whole or chopped up. You’ll find them much easier to peel afterward! You can add frozen bananas straight to your green smoothies for a cool and creamy taste.
If you buy butter, you’ll want to put it in the freezer. You can freeze it in individual chunks to help make it easier to use it daily. This doesn’t work with margarine and vegetable butter.
Store Inside Glass
Put your nuts, cereals, and pasta in glass jars for storage. You will taste the difference in the long term.
When these types of foods are stored in the cupboard, air gets to them. Even if you wrap up the packaging as tightly as possible, the air will still get in. They also absorb the moisture. Even the containers will absorb the humidity and moisture in the air. You may notice that the ingredients tend to taste stale and even moldy. This is the humidity that’s collected, causing molecules and some organisms to grow.
If you want to avoid the humidity completely, you’ll need airtight containers that won’t absorb anything. Glass is the best option and something that has been used for centuries for storage. Just look at jams, preserves, and spreads. They all tend to be still sold in glass jars. Look at the labels on your glassed products in the cupboard. Most of them will last for months before their opened and weeks once they are opened.
You will need to make sure the lids fight tightly to keep the air out. Think about the placement of the jars, too. Opt for somewhere that is free from moisture. Avoid cupboards near the stove, sink, and kettle. You’ll be surprised at where some of the moisture comes from!
There’s no need to spend a fortune on jars for storage. Opt for mason jars with screw on lids. You can get them from the dollar store!
Remove the Plastic Bags
Our ancestors didn’t have fridges, but they also didn’t have plastic. Did you know it’s the plastic that can cause some of the foods to rot or taste off? While you’ll want to use plastic bags to make getting your vegetable home easier, you’ll want to remove them before storing them.
Plastics will pull in and trap the humidity. They cause more organisms and bacteria to grow in the fruit and vegetables, leading to rotting and moldy tastes.
You can avoid plastic bags altogether. There’s nothing wrong with taking reusable bags for carrying your fruits, vegetables, and another produce home. The plastic has just become an ease but is harming the environment and effecting the longevity of your food.
When you store out of the bag, the food has the chance to breathe. It won’t collect as much humidity as it would in the bag, as nothing is trapped. You’ll get fresher fruit, and that’s without choosing the organic options. Of course, if you want to improve the freshness and life, you’ll want organic fruits and vegetables that don’t have the plastic bags.
Stop Storing Everything in the Fridge
Now that we have the use of fridges, we have this feeling that everything needs to be stored here. That’s not the case. It’s time to look at other methods of storing for some food.
Sure, there are certainly foods that are better stored in the fridge. Pasteurised milk will need the coolness of the fridge. However, foods like your apples, root vegetables, and other similar ingredients do not need the fridge. It’s the fridge that is causing them to go off! Storing them is also causing the rest of your food to go off.
Foods like apple give off ethylene gas when stored in the fridge. They will wilt while there and then spoil the rest of the food in the fridge. If you store them out of the fridge, you don’t get the gas and the rest of the food in your fridge remains fresh.
Store your apples, carrots, and parsnips in paper bags in a dry and cool cupboard. Opt for one furthest away from any humidity; preferably the same cupboard as your glass jars of cereal and pasta!
If you have a cellar or pantry, this can help you even more. You can store your food here in layers, packing finesandbags around them. The sand will absorb all the moisture, drawing it away from the root vegetables and fruit. You don’t even need the sand to be in bags. Layer a wooden box with fine sand and place your fruit and vegetables in paper bags on the top. The moisture will be pulled from around the bag and into the sand, keeping your fruits and vegetables dry and tasty for months!
For best results, cover your fruit and vegetables with sand. This will help to protect from the moisture completely. You’ll just need to wash your ingredients before use in case sand has gotten through.
Don’t Refrigerate Too Soon
The fruit that you do refrigerate needs to be placed in the fridge at the right time. Don’t put it in the fridge as soon as you get home. Fruits are best stored in the fridge when they’re ripe. If you put the fruit in too soon, it doesn’t ripen anymore as the development process is halted. You’re left with mangoes and papayas that are rock solid and don’t taste that nice at all.
The only fruits that you want to store right away are berries. They already fully ripen when they’re picked. If you leave them out, they will start to deteriorate and go off.
When storing in the fridge, wrap your fruits tightly. If they’re left loosely wrapped, there is more space for bacteria to grow, causing botulism to grow on them. The tight wrapping will keep the oxygen out and prevent the growth of any mold.
However, strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits that give off a lot of moisture will need to be kept loose in wrapping. Wrapping tightly will cause issues with the moisture release. It has nowhere to go and leads to the development of bacteria. Your berries become spoiled and slimy. Leave them in the containers they come in or slight the plastic bags to give them the chance to air a little..
Know How to Use Your Fridge
Stop overfilling your fridge. This is not going to help with the shelf life of your food. Instead of trying to pack as much into your fridge, think carefully about the items you’re putting in there. Not everything has to be stored, remember! You can get a better life out of foods when they’re stored in cellars, pantries, and cool cupboards.
When you are storing in the fridge, make sure your fridge is at the optimum temperature. There’s no need to put it on the coldest setting. In fact, this can cause food to spoil! You may as well put it in the freezer.
Keep your fridge below 40F but not cold enough to freeze. 38F is considered the best temperature. Anything higher than 40F and your food will spoil. Bacteria can grow, causing your food to go off and illnesses to spread.
When you place items in the fridge, don’t have everything touching. You want space between food to make sure moisture and air can circulate.
Your fridge won’t cool to the same temperature throughout. There will be hot spots and cold spots. You’ll need to find them.
Avoid the door for anything that needs to be kept at a constant temperature, like your eggs. This is the most fluctuating part of the fridge. The coldest spots tend to be at the back and are a good place for eggs. Just avoid anything crystallising and this spoils eggs. The bottom and closer to the walls are also the colder spots. Put your meat and food less likely to freeze around these sections.
Place your meat at the bottom to avoid ruining the rest of your food. The blood from the meat can drip, even if stored well. This blood will drop onto the food underneath it and cause bacteria growth. If you store raw fish for a day, make sure it’s wrapped and use ice on top. This will help to keep it tasting fresher when you pull it out and use it.
Use Whiskey for Your Cheese
Do you buy a lot of beautifully expensive cheeses? You don’t want them to go off overnight. Sure, some of them can taste strong, and they do have some molds, but they’re not supposed to taste like they’ve gone off. It’s time to use some whiskey.
Soak a cheesecloth in some whiskey and then wrap that around your cheese. You can then put it in a plastic bag (the only time plastic is useful here) and put that in the fridge. The whiskey helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, while the cloth and bag will help to keep the cheese moist. You get the optimum treatment.
If you don’t have a cheesecloth and whiskey, you can try a slight variation. Opt for some waxed paper instead. This can act similarly to the whiskey and cheesecloth to protect the cheese from drying out. Use some aluminum foil and wrap it tightly to store.
You can do this with any cheese, not just the expensive ones. You’ll find all types of cheese will last much longer when you buy it from the store.
The trick with the whiskey doesn’t quite work as well with other alcohols. The cheese will absorb some of the taste, and other alcohols just don’t work out right. Brandy is the closest, but you want whiskey preferably.
Dry Your Leftover Fruit
The fruit and vegetables can eventually go off, but that doesn’t mean they need to be thrown out. You can keep them with the right storing method. It’s time to start drying some of your food!
While the drying process isn’t the best for the diet, it’s better than wasting your food and your money. It’s an excellent preservation method and has been used for centuries. You can then use the foods in all your cooking or just as a snack.
There are a few ways that you can dry your food. If you have the money, invest in a dehydrator. This is quick, hygienic, and easy. However, you can also use your oven to suck out the moisture from your food. Make sure you put it on the right setting and keep an eye on it. Did you know you can also use the sun? This is a little trickier, due to pests, but is effective in drying out the fruit and making it taste good.
Store your dried fruits in glass jars, like you would with your pasta and cereals. This will help to prevent the issue with the moisture, as we’ve already considered. Dried fruit can last for a year when it’s stored at around 60F. If it’s stored at 80F, you can keep it for about six months. Vegetables aren’t as good, but you’ll get about three months when stored at 80F. You can freeze for a longer life span!
How Will You Preserve Your Food?
Stop wasting food and money. It’s time to look at some of the best ways to store your food and help prolong the shelf life. Take advantage of the technology we have today, but also look at the ways that our ancestors stored before the use of fridges and freezers.
Make sure you store food in the right places. Not only do you prolong the life of those ingredients, but the rest of the food around them. Everything will taste fresher, and you’ll be excited about everything you pull out for dinner.