Updated: Apr 29, 2020
How many of us really know how to store our food properly?
What should really be stored in the fridge?
What is the best place to store potatoes and onions?
How can I prolong the life of soft berries and avocados?
We all love shopping for food, usually buying more than what we need. Normally, when we return home, we rush to unpack and store food as fast as we can, so we can get on with the rest of our chores or errands. In our current situation, storing food properly is very important, so we can really extend its shelf life and ensure limited trips to supermarkets, which will help to reduce food waste.
Spending a few extra minutes packing your food away, planning your weekly meals and placing some items in the freezer to avoid spoilage before use, especially with meat and fish, will actually save you money.
One golden rule of thumb is if you buy something that was in the chiller at the supermarket, then you should store it in the fridge at home.
It's been a struggle trying to shop sensibly and keeping food fresh for longer even in my house; so my aim here is to share all my handy tips on food storage, so you can extend the shelf life of your food.
TOP TIP: Do NOT wash your fruit and veg prior to storage, this will reduce its shelf life. Wash them thoroughly when you need to use them.
Soft fruit – raspberries, blueberries etc. These should be stored in the fridge, as they do spoil easily, usually within days.
A very handy way to stop soft fruit from spoiling it to soak it in vinegar/water (1:3 parts) for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly in cold water, leave to dry on kitchen towel, then store the fruit back in its original container. I managed to keep mine from spoiling for up to 2 weeks!
Bananas – should be kept away from all other fruit unless you’re trying to ripen some of your other fruit! Keep them in bunches and wrap cling film around the top of the bunches to stop the release of the ethylene gas. Ethylene is a gas, also known as the 'fruit-ripening' hormone. In bananas, the levels of these hormones shoot up when bananas start to ripen. By stopping the release of gas, the ripening process can be slowed down.
Apples - are normally placed in the fruit bowl but if it is stored in a plastic bag in the fridge, it will last much longer. Keep apples away from all other fruit as they give off ethylene (as bananas) which speeds up the ripening process.
Grapes/cherries – should be kept unwashed in the fridge in a perforated plastic bag
Lemons and limes - should be kept in a sealed plastic bag to keep it longer in the fridge. Or slice them and stick them in the freezer and you can always add them to drinks as a ‘lemon’ ice cube! Remember not to store citrus fruit next to butter/spreads and cheeses as these foods will pick up the citrus flavours.
Onions – should be kept in a cool dry place and not in your fridge. The best way is to use an old pair of tights and store them individually, tying a knot between each one (if you have time for this! Or just place them in a cardboard box/vegetable rack in the cupboard or garage. An old hanging basket in the garage would be ideal to store your onions. Or you could dice the onions and freeze them into portions too.
Garlic – cool place with lots of ventilation.
Potatoes – should be kept in a cool dark cupboard and NOT in the fridge. Studies have shown that potatoes that have been kept in the fridge convert some of their sugars to produce acrylamide and if these potatoes are used for frying and roasting can lead to higher levels of acrylamide. It has been advised that we should reduce our levels of acrylamide as studies have shown it to cause cancer in animals. Please read the full guidance from the Food Standards Agency https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/acrylamide
Potatoes should NOT be washed before they are stored and should NOT be kept in any plastic bags. Store them loose in a cardboard box/vegetable rack in a dark cool place. It’s essential that its kept away from sunlight, as this can trigger the potato skin to produce chlorophyll which turns the potatoes green. This is quite harmless but it can also produce a chemical called solanine which is quite toxic and can cause vomiting, nausea and diarrhoa (if high quantities of solanine are consumed).
Celery – wrap in foil/newspaper and keep it in the fridge.
Avocados - should be left out to ripen and only put in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. If you place it next to a banana in your fruit bowl, this will speed up the ripening process too, as the banana releases ethylene, which promotes ripening in fruit. Once cut, if you want to keep half, keep the half with the stone in it. Pop it into a lidded container with some slices of red onion, this should keep the avocado fresh for a few days. Onions contain sulphur, which stops the enzyme reacting with the air (stops the browning) and therefore keeps it fresh for longer.
Mushrooms - if possible, should be kept in a brown paper bag, rather than in the plastic containers that we usually buy them in. If you haven’t got any paper bags, try using newspaper or kitchen towels.
Tomatoes - should actually be kept at room temperature if you really want the full flavour of them.
Spring onions – store them in the fridge in a glass with a little bit of water just to cover the roots and these should keep longer.
Asparagus – place the stems in a glass of water and up a plastic bag over it and then keep it in the fridge, this should make it last longer.
Wilted salad leaves/ spinach leaves – lettuce should be wrapped up in a kitchen towel and then stored in the fridge. To revive any wilted leaves, submerge them in ice water for a few minutes then drying them.
In general, its also good to line your salad draw with a tea towel, it help to absorb all the moisture from the vegetables.
Fresh herbs – herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage, store in a container between layers of kitchen towel. This will last weeks in the fridge. For other herbs such as fresh coriander, basil, parsley, treat them like a bunch of flowers, cut the ends off the bottom stems, put them in a glass of water and place a plastic bag over the top. In this way, you’re more likely to use them and it will it fresh for longer. If the fresh herbs are starting to lose its freshness, chop them up and freeze them with some olive oil into portions.
Eggs - are not stored in the refrigerator in the supermarket but at home its best to store it in the refrigerator. Although fridge manufacturers have made egg storage in our fridge doors, it is actually better to store eggs in the middle of the fridge where the temperature is more stable.
Milk – again as eggs, these are usually kept in the fridge door as there seems to be space for it but it will keep longer if its kept in the middle of the fridge.
Cheese – should not be wrapped in cling film or foil, instead it should be wrapped in parchment paper and then stored in a plastic bag/container
Bread – will spoil quicker if it’s kept in the fridge due to higher moisture . Its better to keep it in the bread bin or freeze some of it and take it out as necessary.
Fresh meat/fish – if you know you’re not going to be using it straight away, the best way to store them is to freeze them and then defrost overnight in the fridge.
Cereals - will keep longer if you decant it into plastic containers.
Canned food – once a can has been opened, any left overs should be decanted into a container and not left in the can in the fridge. Usually, acidic foods such as tomato based foods (soups, beans) can react with the metal can and the metal can dissolve into the food causing the food to taste metallic. Once you’ve opened a tin of canned food, you should treat the left overs as any fresh food in your fridge, so it will last about 2-3 days if stored properly.
Hope you find these handy tips useful, have a go and you will see the results yourself!