Saving on Groceries: How to Make Food Last Longer
Are you worried that you're losing money when buying fresh groceries? Eating healthy is important, but waste can prove troublesome. On average, Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day, and around 40 percent of groceries get thrown away every year. That equates to families losing up to $1,500 per year on spoiled food.
Fortunately, the right practices can make a difference. Here's how to make food last longer once you've gone grocery shopping.
Frequently Clean out Your Fridge
A clean fridge may help more than you think. Mold, old produce, and grime that linger in your fridge can make new groceries expire at a faster rate — remember that the "bad apple can spoil the bunch" analogy is scientifically accurate. Help your food by regularly cleaning your fridge and tossing unwanted items.
Know What You Can Freeze
You can freeze many foods to ensure they last longer as long as you have room in your freezer. For example, ginger, chopped green onions, and even certain meats can last in the freezer for months without damage. You can also chop and freeze fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, or basil in an ice cube tray.
Adjust Temperatures and Use Ethylene Gas Absorbers
If you're like many fridge users, you don't pay much attention to temperature settings, but these can make a big difference. Consumer Reports analyzed refrigerators and found that 37 degrees Fahrenheit was the sweet spot — bacteria grow faster at around 40 degrees.
Another factor to remember is that vegetables expel ethylene gas as they decay, which can speed up the spoiling process. Solutions like Bluapple gas absorbers are only around $10 and can remove this gas to keep food in your vegetable drawers crisp. Banana stems also produce a lot of ethylene gas, so be sure to wrap the stems in foil to ensure freshness.
Keep a Supply of Rubber Bands and Cotton Bags
Simply sealing your plastic bags back over the vegetables can help them last longer. However, grocery twist-ties and bands are easy to lose. To help, keep a box of rubber bands by the fridge so you always have a way to rapidly seal bags again.
You can also stall wilting and other problems by using alternative storage. For example, a Salad Sac is a 100 percent cotton bag that you slightly dampen before storing lettuce inside, allowing moisture to easily seep out of the bag instead of staying inside and rotting your veggies.
Treat Your Cheese Right
Cheese can be expensive, and subject to mold problems which can quickly ruin a block of cheese that you hoped would last much longer. To help your cheese survive, remove the store plastic wrap completely and wrap it in a paper towel sprinkled with vinegar (to help fight the mold). Then wrap the cheese in plastic wrap or wax paper, and store it in a crisper drawer in your refrigerator — preferably not in the door, which can experience varying temperatures.
Make More Smoothies
Fruits that are a little too ripe to eat (think about bananas, pears, strawberries, etc.) still make excellent and entirely safe ingredients for smoothies. Consider making smoothies for breakfast or snacks to put that fruit to use rather than throwing it away.
Canning is a traditional and highly effective method to store vegetables for many months, without taking up fridge space. You can use canning to preserve corn, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, fruit, and many other types of produce. Mason jars and canning kits are affordable and long-lasting, so once you master this practice it can help ensure you always have a supply of fresh food at the ready.