We all know the feeling of buying groceries at the beginning of the week, and soon rushing to finish the slimy spinach, the browning bananas, the limp celery, and so on. Especially during COVID, when we are trying to stay at home and limit our trips to the grocery store, learning some tried and true food storage tips can make your food last longer, help you save money, and help you waste less.
Making food last during tough times is not new, and food storage knowledge has been passed down through families and shared with communities for generations – so share the things that work for you with your family and friends, and continue learning from your neighbors and communities!
General Food Storage Tips:
· Freezing is your friend! Freeze leftovers that you can’t eat within the week, freeze extra fruit for smoothies, and freeze vegetable scraps to make homemade veggie broth.1
· The length of time your food lasts depends on its freshness when you bought it: “Local, in-season produce will last longer than something that has been shipped a long way”.2
· When produce is past its prime for raw eating, it can usually still be cooked!2 Fruits can be made into sauces or baked goods, and vegetables can be cooked in soup or stew.
· Try storing your food without plastic. Instead use glass or ceramic containers, wooden bowls, baskets, or cloth bags. “We are learning more and more about the toxicity of plastic and the dangers of storing or heating food in it”2. If you have to store in plastic, try to avoid heating the plastic container and instead transfer the food to a plate or bowl before heating.
Food Storage A-Z:
Apples: Store in fridge to extend shelf life.2
Asparagus: Trim the base of the stalks and place upright in a jar filled with an inch of water and store in the fridge.2
Bananas: Store bananas on the counter away from other fruit – they release ethylene gas which speeds the ripening of other produce.2
Basil: Store on the counter in a glass of water like flowers.2
Berries: Remove any spoiled or crushed berries and store unwashed in an airtight container.2
Bread: Store bread in a cotton bag or wax paper in a bread box/metal tin on the counter. To freshen up old bread, sprinkle cold water over it and put it in the oven for 10 minutes.2
Celery: Store celery in the fridge in a container of water.2
Cereal: Store cereal in a dry place in an airtight container. If cereal is stale, lay it on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for a bit to remove excess moisture.2
Cheese: Store cheese in wax paper, butcher paper, or parchment paper to allow it to breathe and not get moldy.2
Citrus: Keep citrus loose or in an open container in the fridge. If you have a cut lemon or lime, wrap the cut end in a damp paper towel.2
Dairy: Avoid storying dairy like butter, cream or milk in the fridge door because it’s often warmer than other parts of the fridge. Instead store it on the main shelves.2
Eggs: To test if an egg is still good, drop it in a glass of water. If the egg:
· Stays at the bottom (flat or at an angle) it is FRESH.
· Stands on its pointed end at the bottom it is SAFE but is best used for baking or hard-boiled eggs
· Floats it is STALE and best discarded.2
Garlic: Store in a cool, dark place away from other produce.2
Greens: Store in the fridge in an airtight container with a damp paper towel.2
Fresh Herbs: Store in the fridge in a jar of water like flowers, with stems facing down. Freeze leftover herbs in olive oil in an ice cube tray for cooking later.2
Mushrooms: Store in a paper bag in fridge so they don’t get slimy.2
Nut Butter: Store upside down in fridge to lessen separation and extend shelf life.2
Onions: Store whole onions in a cool, dark place without stacking them.2
Potatoes: Store in a cool, dark place like a box in a dark corner or a paper bag because moisture and exposure to light cause spoilage.2
Ripe Fruit: Most fruit can be stored at room temperature until it’s ripe, and then it can be moved to the fridge.2
Tomatoes: Store on the counter until very ripe, then they can be moved to the fridge. Store separate from other produce because they produce ethylene gas.2
*See the full “A-Z Food Storage Tips”
If you’re looking for more content about food storage and cooking, check out these two episodes from Netflix’s show Chef’s Table:
Volume 1, Episode 6, Magnus Nilsson
“Far from any city, far from most fresh ingredients, chef Magnus Nilsson has created one of the world’s great restaurants in frozen Järpen, Sweden”.
Volume 3, Episode 1, Jeong Kwan
“In South Korea, Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan approaches cooking as a spiritual practice. But her meals have left some of the world’s best chefs in awe”.
1. James, Danielle. (2020, May 14). “Store Food Like a Pro With These Tips From My West Indian Grannies”, Essence. https://www.essence.com/lifestyle/food-drinks/food-storage-tips-grandmother/
2. “A-Z Food Storage Tips” (N.d.). Eureka Recycling. https://eurekarecycling.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/A-Z_Food_Storage_Guide-web.pdf
Franny's Bio: Franny McLarty is an Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major at Western Washington University whose passions include food justice, waste management, and social justice planning. Through her work at WWU’s Recycle Center and her time as an officer for the club Students for Sustainable Food, she has been inspired by community-based organizing and aims to advocate for community interdependence. While spending her summer in the Wenatchee/Leavenworth area, she began volunteering with WasteLoop as a way to support and learn from a community-based recycling organization aimed at locally transforming the concept of waste.