Over the last few column’s I have been chatting about budgeting, cost-effective meals, saving money on groceries etc. As you can see I am concentrating on food and meals quite a bit as I think that is the part of the budget that you can “play around with” in terms of trying to save money, unlike other expenses such as housing and schooling which is a fixed expense.
This month’s column is all about how to get the groceries you buy to last longer. It’s important to try and use all the food you buy and avoid wasting it. If you do not or cannot use what you have bought you are just throwing your hard-earned money away!
So, without any ado, let us get straight into it! I have found a lot of these tips while doing “money saving” research on various web pages. Some of them I myself have been using for quite a while others I have “saved” to hopefully use in the future. If you have any tips you use which are not listed, please share with the rest of us
TWO GENERAL RULE OF THUMB TIPS TO LIVE BY:
Use the “first in, first out” rule – What this means is keep your older foods in the front and move the newer foods behind. Place your fresh fruits and veggies in the easiest-to-grab spot in your fridge, along with milk and other dairy products with the soonest expiration dates. Arrange your canned goods, pasta and other pantry items so that those with the soonest “use by” or “sell by” dates are in the front.
Keep track of the “use by” dates of your meat and dairy products and think about freezing or cooking to make them last longer if you find they are getting close to that date. The good news is that uncooked meat can be stored in the freezer for a fairly long period of time of four to 12 months, while cooked meat for two to three months. Milk, cheese and other dairy also freeze well.
Eat your fresh ingredients first – Any fresh fruit and veggies you buy should be eaten first. Also, storing your fruit and veggies properly will also extend their lifespan so pay close attention to how you store things. Another thing to remember is just because something starts to look wilted or mushy it does not mean it should be thrown away. Freezing or cooking produce can make it last longer.
Now onto the more specific information with regards to storing foods so they last longer.
Line the veggie drawer in your fridge with paper towel
Lining the veggie drawer with paper towel absorbs the excess moisture which would make your produce wilt therefore making your veggies last longer. An added bonus is that it also keeps your fridge cleaner!
Don’t keep your tomatoes in the fridge
Ok so call me ignorant but I have always kept my tomatoes in the fridge, so this tip was especially useful for me. The cold of the fridge kills their flavour and their juicy texture. While on the subject of veggies in the fridge, other veggies that shouldn’t live in the fridge include potatoes and onions, although they should be stored in a cool dark place away from any sunlight.
Don’t wash your produce before you put it in the fridge.
This tip sounds very strange since I always thought you should wash all your fresh produce when you get home, but when you think about it, it does make sense. Most produce should not be rinsed before it goes in the fridge because it will deteriorate sooner if it is damp, just remember you need to rinse it before you eat it later.
Put an apple in your bag of potatoes but keep them away from other fruits and veggies
I just hate it when I go to grab some potatoes to make mash and they are sprouting…so gross. A great way to keep them lasting longer is to add an apple into the potato bag. Apples produce ethylene gas, which keeps potatoes fresher and firmer. But for that exact reason you need to keep apples away from other fruits and veggies and that includes keeping them out of your fruit bowls otherwise the ethylene gas will make everything go from yummy to yucky much quicker.
Don’t keep your milk in the fridge door
Keeping your milk in the fridge door is bad news for its shelf life because it is too far away from the cooling element and also the temperature changes every time you open and close the fridge door. Instead, keep it on an inside shelf.
Eggs belong on the shelf of your fridge, not in the door either
I have never kept my eggs in the fridge door but just in case you do here is a tip for you. Eggs do not like fluctuating temperatures so they should be stored in the back of your fridge on a shelf, where the temperature is most consistent.
Brush avocado halves with lemon juice or olive oil
Do you find you cannot eat a whole avocado, but you also don’t want to waste the other half so you end up trying to give it away to someone else? Now all you need to do is brush the avocado half with lemon juice or olive oil and you can have it later. The citric acid in lemons helps keep a half-cut avocado from browning. Olive oil has the same effect—it keeps the avocado protected from oxidation from the air. Now you can keep the whole avo for yourself
Wash your berries in vinegar
I haven’t tried this one as I am not a “berry person”. I know from chatting with friends and family that berries are very expensive so you really want to try and keep them fresh for as long as possible so you don’t end up throwing any of them away. You can extend their “berry life” by giving them a bath in 1 cup of vinegar and 3 cups of water before you put them in the fridge – this kills all the mold and bacteria that turn them fuzzy. You must dry them thoroughly before storing them, so don’t forget.
Put your onions in tights/pantyhose
This tip brings back some childhood memories for me. I can remember seeing pantyhose filled with onions in my granny’s kitchen when I was young. I never knew the reason was to keep them fresher back in those days. Now do not just take any old pair of pantyhose and fill them with onions (do people still wear pantyhose nowadays?), there is a bit of a process to it. Put them in one at a time, knot between each bulb and keep them in a dark, dry place until you need them.
Keep your meat in the freezer
This tip I am sure is something you already know but I am adding it into my list anyway. If you are not going to be eating your store-bought meat within a few days of buying it, you need to keep it fresh by storing it in your freezer. Poultry and meat do not lose any of their nutritional value in the freezer and can be stored for months.
Don’t store your coffee in the freezer.
I know a few people who do this as they say it keeps it fresher but clearly they are wrong as I read that the beans are very susceptible to absorbing moisture, which can easily lead to freezer burn. The best thing is to store coffee beans in an air-tight container in a dry, dark place. To all the coffee drinkers out there who did not know this – you are welcome
Never store bread in the fridge
I must admit this is something I do (naughty naughty!). In my house we go through about one loaf of bread a day but since lockdown I have started buying a few loaves of bread at a time so I don’t have to keep going to the shop to buy bread every day. Apparently putting your bread in the fridge makes it go stale faster, so the best way to keep bread fresh is to keep it at room temperature on your counter, or better yet in a bread box. Did you know you can freeze your bread to keep it fresh for up to three months? So, look out locals, I will be buying quite a lot of loaves for my freezer in future!
LONG SHELF LIFE BUDGET-FRIENDLY FOODS THAT YOU CAN STOCK UP ON
Potatoes: If you store your potatoes correctly, they can easily keep for four to six months.
Rice: White rice has an incredible shelf life. It will keep for four to five years in the pantry. Brown rice is more nutritious but has a shorter shelf life, lasting six to eight months in the pantry and eight to 12 months in the fridge.
Peanut Butter: An unopened jar of peanut butter is fine for a year past it’s best-by date. Once you open the jar though, it will last about three months. Natural peanut butter is an exception to this rule. It is good for two to three months past the printed best-buy date when stored in the pantry or three to six months when stored in the fridge.
Apples: Under the right storage conditions, apples will keep for up to five months.
Carrots: Whole carrots (not baby carrots) are good for at least four to five weeks past the best-buy date printed on the bag if stored correctly. As long as they don’t feel soft or slimy they are perfectly fine to eat.
Pasta: Pasta is good for one to two years past the date printed on the box as long as it is sealed (so the gogos don’t get into it), so you can go ahead and confidently stock up when there is a special. This was great to read as we eat a LOT of pasta in my house.
Oatmeal: Quick oats can be kept for two to three years past the best-buy date. Instant oats and steel-cut oats have a shorter lifespan of one to two years past the best-buy date.
Flour: When stored properly, all-purpose flour is good for six to eight months past the date that’s printed on the bag. Whole-wheat flour and specialty flours like self-rising flour have a shorter lifespan of four to six months past the printed date. To stretch the shelf life even further, keep your flour in the freezer.
Canned food: If canned food is kept unopened and undamaged; it can last for several years. If for some reason it did turn bad, then you will know by smelling it when you open it.
And there you have it, my list of food saving tips! I hope all these will be as useful to you as they are to me.
Until next time.