Globally, we throw away roughly a third of all the food we grow each year. Blame easy access to family-size packs and a ready supply of fresh produce on the one hand, and less time to actually cook meals on the other. If you want to stop the rot and make your kitchen ingredients last longer, follow these seven simple tips for preserving, storing and extending the life of your favorite foods.
1. Freezing Herbs for Later
Believe it or not, your favorite herbs can stand up to a session in the freezer. Instead of letting herbs such as rosemary, basil, coriander, and oregano turn brown in the fridge, dry them off with paper towel, chop them fine, and put them into ice cube trays. Top off with water and freeze for later. They’ll keep all their aroma and nutrients.
2. To Fridge or Not to Fridge
Many of us are refrigerating our condiments unnecessarily or leaving sauces at room temperature when we shouldn’t. Generally, any ingredient with a high salt, acid, or sugar content—such as ketchup, hot sauce, or soy sauce—won’t need refrigeration. Transfer them to an airtight container instead. Oily ingredients, however, such as mayonnaise or salad dressing must be kept cool. Bear in mind that delicate oils such as olive oil lose their flavor when refrigerated. Decant into a bottle and store in a cool, dark place.
3. Give Foods a Long Shelf Life
As any prepper can confirm, some foods will stick around for the long term — if they are stored properly in airtight containers. Dry beans, rice, pasta, and oats all have long shelf lives. Likewise, your supply of sugar, salt, honey, bouillon, and coffee will see you through a winter or two. Build out your own store with your own set of containers, bins and storage racks.
4. Store Vegetables Correctly
As long as your home’s air is kept cool and free of humidity (use a dehumidifier if necessary), you can store root winter vegetables and squashes for several months. Make sure they’re fully mature and free of soil. Store your squashes, onions, and garlic off the floor in a dark room with plenty of air circulation. Root vegetables such as potatoes and cabbages should be wrapped in paper and stored in a box or container.
5. Keep Seasonal Vegetables Fresh
Salads and leafy greens won’t last as long as your winter crop, but you can extend their shelf lives by a few days if you shake off any excess moisture in a salad spinner and wrap them in kitchen towel. For spinach, kale, and broccoli, blanch them first in boiling water to kill the enzymes, dry them in a spinner, then freeze them in a resealable plastic bag.
6. Freeze for Meal Prep
A simple way to make your kitchen ingredients last longer is to transform them straight into a soup, stew, or risotto. Use a slow cooker and you don’t even have to bring any culinary skill to the process. Once your dish is cool, transfer it to plastic containers and freeze for when you need it next. Just pop it in the microwave, stir, and it’s ready to enjoy again.
7. Use a Little Science
Tried and tested ways of preserving foods that don’t have long shelf lives include pickling and salting. You can do the former with a few mason jars and a solution of sugar and vinegar. Modern technology has also given us the potential to dry out meat, vegetables, and fruits for later using a dehydrator. We can also eliminate bacteria with a vacuum sealer, which extends the shelf life and reduces the amount of storage space needed.
Follow these tips for making your kitchen ingredients last longer and you’ll be saving money, too — The main benefit of making what you have at home last longer is needing fewer trips to the store to stock up on essentials.
Resources for kitchen storage items:
- Silicone ice cube trays
- Airtight food container
- Storage bins
- Portable dehumidifier
- Salad spinner
- Slow cooker
- Food dehydrator
- Vacuum sealer
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.