13 Tips to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

Photo (cc) by Energetic Spirit

If going through the fridge and tossing rotten fruit, old leftovers, and stale bread is part of your weekly ritual, you’re not alone. Here are some scary statistics from the National Resource Defense Council:

  • About 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes to waste.
  • The average American wastes about $28 to $43 in food each month, roughly 20 pounds of food.
  • Broken down, about 17 percent of dairy, 20 percent of vegetables, 15 percent of fruit, 18 percent of the grains, 25 percent of seafood, and 33 percent of the meat you buy goes to waste.

Do the math and according to the NRDC you’re throwing as much as $516 in your kitchen trashcan every year.

But you don’t have to. A little planning ahead, a few minutes of prep work and storage on shopping days, and a bit of creative thinking is all it takes to make your groceries last days (or even weeks) longer than normal. Here are 13 ways to extend the life of nearly everything in your fridge.

1. Keep fresh herbs in the plastic bag

Normally I toss the thin plastic produce bags I get at the grocery when I get home. But there’s one exception: Fresh herbs last longer when stored in the vegetable crisper section of my fridge inside the plastic bag. When I get home, I wash and dry the herbs, put them back in the plastic bag, and seal the bag closed with a twist tie. They’ll last at least a week.

2. Store onions in pantyhose

I learned this trick from my mother. She would buy a bag of onions, put one onion in the foot of a pair of pantyhose, seal it off with a twist tie, add another onion, and repeat until the hose were full. Then she hung the hose from a nail inside the pantry. Stored this way, the onions have more room to breathe and last a month or more.

3. Add rice to your seasonings

The high humidity where I live – Louisiana – causes my dry seasonings to clump together. Result: I used to toss at least a bottle per month. Then I started using an old trick from my grandmother: I add four to 10 grains of dry rice to the bottle and shake. The dry rice keeps the seasonings from sticking together and they last six months or more.

4. Invest in airtight plastic containers

I store cereal, chips, crackers, and other grains in airtight plastic containers to keep them from going stale. The containers were fairly inexpensive to buy – I bought mine at Walmart for about $6 each – and they keep the contents usable up to a year, sometimes more. On average, dry foods last two weeks longer in the containers.

5. Store bread in the fridge

A friend once told me that bread lasts longer in the fridge, but I didn’t like the idea of cold bread so I kept mine in the pantry. Then I did the math and realized I waste about half a loaf of bread a week, so I tried it. As long as you store the bread on the top shelf near the door it doesn’t get too cold and tastes fine after being out for a minute or two. Sliced bread lasts up to two weeks if stored in the fridge.

6. Keep an eye out for bad apples

When an apple goes bad, the rot spreads quickly to other apples, or even other fruit. I’ve had this happen in as little as a day, ruining 2 pounds of apples. Now I sort them as soon as I buy them. The ripest apples I keep in a separate bowl and I check the others every other day or so.

7. Store cheese in wax paper

My local cheese shop wraps their hard cheese in wax paper instead of plastic wrap. When I asked them why, they told me that the wax paper allows the cheese to breathe better, keeping it from molding or turning slimy. Now I keep wax paper wrapped tightly around the cheese in my fridge, and it lasts almost twice as long, about two weeks, before it starts going bad.

8. Make buttermilk or cream cubes

Most recipes don’t call for an entire pint of heavy cream or the half a gallon of buttermilk I have to buy to make them, and I used to toss half a container every time I made a recipe. Now I freeze the leftovers in small quantities to use later. Pour the cream or milk into an ice cube tray (each section holds two tablespoons), freeze it, and toss it in a plastic container. When you’re ready to use it, pull out just enough for the recipe and let it thaw.

9. Prep salads in mason jars

I learned this trick from a chef. At home he washes, dries, and chops his lettuce the day he buys it. Once it’s chopped, he stores the lettuce in mason jars. These little readymade salads last up to 10 days stored this way.

10. Give fruits and vegetables a bath

I learned this trick from the same chef. As soon as he gets home from the farmers market, he fills his sink with lukewarm water and ¾ cup of white vinegar. He soaks his freshly bought produce in this bath for 10 minutes before storing it. The vinegar solution removes dirt, wax, and bacteria, helping the produce last longer.

11. Wrap celery in foil

The plastic bags grocery stores use on celery don’t hold up once they’re open. My celery used to turn soft within two days. Now I wrap opened celery in aluminum foil and the stalks stay crisp for at least a week.

12. Wrap bananas before you store them

Bananas last the longest if they’re stored in a warm, dry place, but they still turn brown more quickly than I can eat them. A friend suggested wrapping the top of the banana bunch tightly with plastic wrap. I tried it and it works. My bananas last another three days or so before they start to brown.

13. Use paper towels to preserve asparagus

Fresh asparagus dries out within a few days if it isn’t properly stored. Wash and dry your fresh asparagus, then wrap the bunch in paper towels. That will keep the asparagus dry without cutting off the oxygen and the bunch will stay crisp longer.

If you like these ideas share them! And if you have clever tricks of your own, share those too! Leave a note below, or better yet, on our Facebook page.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments
10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments

Here are 10 things that could mean less money in your pocket during retirement.

5 Ways to Put an End to Junk Mail
5 Ways to Put an End to Junk Mail

Here’s how to keep unwanted mail from clogging your mailbox and trash can.

The Worst Nursing Homes in America Are Revealed
The Worst Nursing Homes in America Are Revealed

The nursing homes with a history of providing subpar care previously hadn’t been identified for a government list.

How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

In the gig economy, baby boomers are out-hustling their younger competition. You can cash in, too.

8 Secrets of an Expert Thrift Store Shopper
8 Secrets of an Expert Thrift Store Shopper

Here’s how a veteran thrift shopper scores the best deals — and turns a profit from them.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on these familiar purchases.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

8 Things That Are Free in August
8 Things That Are Free in August

As summer enters the home stretch, we’ve rounded up these sizzling freebies.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.