This overwhelming wastefulness is not only a massive misallotment of resources but also a disastrous environmental issue. Preventing food waste can reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills and contribute to a more sustainable food system.
One way to prevent food waste in your own home is by storing food properly. Proper food storage is a crucial aspect of maintaining the quality, safety, and shelf life of perishable items. With the right knowledge and techniques, it is possible to extend the shelf life of fruits, veggies, pantry items, and other food products, thereby reducing food waste and ensuring that your family has access to safe and nutritious food.
Here, we will delve into the science of food storage, exploring different methods and strategies for preserving food items for extended periods.
Fruits and vegetables are an essential component of a healthy diet, but they are also highly perishable. Proper storage can help to prolong the shelf life of these items, preserving their nutritional value and flavor. Here are some tips for storing fruits and vegetables:
Keep them dry: Moisture is one of the main culprits of spoilage for fruits and vegetables. It can lead to mold growth and accelerate the breakdown of the produce. To keep produce dry, store it in a perforated plastic bag or a container with a lid that allows for air circulation.
Keep them cool: Most fruits and vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator, which slows down the process of decay. However, some fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and tomatoes, are sensitive to cold temperatures and should be stored at room temperature.
Store them separately: Fruits and vegetables produce different gases that can accelerate the ripening process and cause spoilage. Some fruits and vegetables, such as apples, bananas, and potatoes, emit ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen and spoil more quickly. To prevent this, store ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables separately from other produce.
Consider the ripeness: When storing fruits and vegetables, it is important to consider their ripeness. Fruits and vegetables that are already ripe should be consumed as soon as possible, while those that are unripe can be stored for a longer period.
Refrigeration is one of the most effective ways to extend the shelf life of perishable items. The cold temperature slows the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause spoilage.
However, not all foods should be stored in the refrigerator. Here are some guidelines for refrigeration:
Keep the temperature consistent: The temperature of the refrigerator should be between 35°F and 38°F (1.7°C and 3.3°C) to ensure that perishable items are kept at a safe temperature. It is important to avoid frequent temperature fluctuations, which can cause food to spoil more quickly.
Store raw meat separately: Raw meat should be stored in a separate container or on a plate on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination with other foods. It should be consumed within two to three days of purchase or frozen for longer storage.
Use proper containers: Storing food in airtight containers can help to keep air and moisture out, which can cause food to spoil faster. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are ideal for storing leftovers or prepared meals.
Freeze excess food: If you have excess food that you can’t use before it spoils, consider freezing it for later use. This works well for meat, bread, and vegetables.
Cover food: Food should be covered before placing it in the refrigerator to prevent contamination and odor transfer. Use plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or airtight containers to cover food.
Keep the refrigerator clean: The refrigerator should be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria. Use warm soapy water to clean the shelves, drawers, and interior of the refrigerator.
Store meat in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) in its original packaging or in airtight containers for up to 5 days. For longer storage, freeze the meat in airtight containers for up to 6 months. Meat should be wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
Store poultry in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) in its original packaging or in airtight containers for up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze the poultry in airtight containers for up to 6 months.
Store fresh fish in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) in its original packaging or in airtight containers for up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze the fish in airtight containers for up to 3 months.
Store milk, yogurt, and cheese in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) in their original packaging or in airtight containers. Milk and yogurt can last up to a week, while cheese can last up to a month. These products should be placed on the top shelf of the refrigerator, away from raw meat and poultry.
Store eggs in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) in their original packaging for up to 5 weeks. They should be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, away from raw meat and poultry.
Storing your perishable foods correctly is just the first step to reducing food waste in your household. Learn how to organize your pantry and shelved items here!
Learn more about living sustainably by checking out our blogs or check out these 5 tips for organizing your refrigerator and pantry to reduce food waste!