How to Store Food for Freshness
1.4 billion tons of food go to waste yearly. Overconsumption, diversity of choices, and pure forgetfulness play a large part in the production of food waste.
One way to combat your own personal waste is to store your food correctly.
Freezing is one of the best food preservation methods available due to its convenience. However, make sure the food that is put in the freezer is revisited before its expiration.
Fruits: Fruits last anywhere from around 6-9 months in the freezer. Place cut fruits into freezer safe bags or storage containers until ready to use.
Vegetables: Vegetables last in the freezer for about 8-10 months. Freeze prepped vegetables in freezer safe bags/storage containers until ready to be used.
Rice: Cooked rice can last up to a month in the freezer. After the rice is cooked, let it cool completely and portion it out in sealable bags or tupperware. When ready to eat the rice, heat it in the microwave. If it is a little dry, add some water to the rice before it's heated.
Bread: Freeze loaves of bread when bought in bulk. Bread stays fresh in the freezer for 4-6 months. Once ready to be eaten, take it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. Frozen sliced bread can also be eaten immediately from the freezer if toasted.
Dairy: Dairy can be frozen, but the texture changes, so keep that in mind. Frozen dairy should be consumed within one month but can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months. Frozen dairy should be defrosted in the fridge to avoid bacterial growth.
Soup/Broth: Once cooled, put soups/broths in freezer safe containers and freeze. Freezing soups with dairy like sour cream, and cream as well as noodles, rice, and mayonnaise are discouraged. Once ready to be eaten, take the soup out from the freezer and let it thaw for about a day or so, and then place it in a pan and heat it in the stove. You can also place the frozen soups/broths in a water bath to quicken the thawing process. They can last up to 3 months in the freezer.
Meat: Many different types of meats, whether processed or unprocessed, can be frozen. Meat should be sealed very well, with as little air intake as possible to preserve freshness and prevent freezer burn. This list has been compiled by Coleman Natural Foods:
Bacon – 1 month
Sausage (pork, beef, chicken, turkey) – 1-2 months
Steaks – 6-12 months
Pork chops – 4-6 months
Pork butt or roast – 4-12 months
Whole chicken or turkey – 1 year
Cut chicken or turkey – 9 months
Ground beef, chicken, turkey, or pork – 3-4 months
Pork or beef hot dogs – 1-2 months
Whole ham – 1-2 months
Half ham – 1-2 months
Poultry – approx. 4 months
Pork and beef – 2-3 months
Ground poultry, beef, pork: 2-3 months
Seafood: Seafood can be frozen to preserve its freshness. Raw frozen fish can be frozen from anywhere to 3 to 8 months while shellfish can be frozen for 3-12 months. Cooked fish can be frozen for 3-4 months. Like meat, freezing seafood with as little air as possible is preferred to preserve the food for longer.
Canning is another food preservation method that allows food to last well beyond its proposed consumption date.
Fruits/Vegetables: Home canned fruits and vegetables can last 1-2 years. Fruits are often canned with simple syrups. Vegetables are often canned using brines.
Meat: Home canned meat can last 12-18 months if properly sealed.
Seafood: Home canned seafood lasts up to 1 year if proper storage measures are taken.
Pickling is a well-known food preservation technique that is long lasting and is relatively easy to do at home.
Fruits/Vegetables: Pickled fruits and vegetables can last for 2-6 months. Fruits and vegetables are pickled using a “brine” which usually consists of sugar, vinegar, water and spices.
For fresh produce, the way in which it is kept can change how long it remains fresh.
Apples, bananas and avocados release ethylene, a gas which can quicken the ripening process of other produce that are sensitive to ethylene exposure (like cabbage, lettuce, leafy greens, onions and cucumbers), so it is crucial that these remain separate from one another.
For a more in depth guide on what should be kept separate learn more here
Apples: stay fresh at room temperature, but last longer in the fridge
Bananas/avocados: stay fresh at room temperature, but once they begin to ripen, put them in the fridge
Citruses: last longer in the fridge, but can be kept at room temperature
Melons: leave melons out at room temperature until they have fully ripened. Once fully ripened, place them in the fridge.
Berries & Grapes: last longest when soaked in water and vinegar bath, dried, and placed in airtight containers. To make the vinegar bath, add about ¼ cup vinegar (either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar) to a large bowl filled with water. Soak the fruits for about 5 minutes and then rinse them off. Pat them dry and place them in containers in the fridge.
Root vegetables like beets, turnips, carrots: cut the leafy tops off the vegetables before storing them in airtight containers/bags in the refrigerator
Onions: onions are best kept in a dark, dry and cool area, preferably in a basket/bin
Potatoes: potatoes are best kept in cool, dry areas with lots of air to let them breathe
Garlic: is best kept in ventilated bags in cool and dark areas
Leafy greens: leafy greens are best kept when rinsed and wrapped in a towel and placed in a container in the fridge
Herbs: storing herbs depends on the type of herb. Thicker herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and chives last longest when they are lined up on damp paper towels and then rolled up and placed in airtight containers. More delicate herbs like tarragon, mint, cilantro, parsley, and dill are best stored in containers/glasses with water filled at the bottom.
Keep these tips in mind when dealing with leftovers or fresh produce!