Grocery shopping can be frustrating, especially if you love fresh produce and other perishables. Certain items, like bananas and bread, have a brief shelf life. So, you’re forced to buy in smaller portions.
But with these items and many others, you can use some simple tricks to extend their useful life. Instead of wasting time, money and gas each week, here are some ways to make your groceries last longer:
1. Toss spoiled produce
Before storing, examine the contents of each bag and promptly remove items that are bruised, overripe or on the brink of spoiling. Items in this condition release ethylene gas that could spoil good produce.
You can also purchase an ethylene gas absorber to delay the ripening process of your produce.
2. Ditch plastic for Mason jars
With glass Mason jars, you won’t have to worry about being exposed to the BPA that can be found in plastic containers. Mason jars also do not stain, and your produce will last a few days longer. Mason jars work well for preportioned salads, extending the shelf life to up to 10 days.
3. Butter and wrap sliced cheese
Tired of cheese quickly drying out? Apply a thin layer of butter to the exposed side, wrap the block in waxed paper, and place it in a plastic bag.
4. Puncture plastic storage bags
Poke a few holes in those produce bags you get at the grocery store. Otherwise, they’ll trap moisture that will cause produce to break down faster.
5. Consider the freezer
Frozen banana pops are my favorite for two reasons: They preserve unused bananas, and they taste great. Freezing also works well for most fruits and vegetables, as long as they are consumed within eight to 12 months.
Just remember to label them so you don’t find yourself eating something that’s been hiding in the back of the freezer for a decade.
6. Shrink-wrap the crown of bananas
It only takes a few seconds to wrap some plastic around the crown of a bunch of bananas, and it will curb the release of ethylene gas. This gas makes any other produce in the vicinity spoil faster.
7. Bundle up herbs
Herbs can be displayed like a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a vase of water. Doing this keeps the herbs alive a lot longer without taking up refrigerator space. Just be sure to trim the stems first.
8. Store counter items away from windows
It may be convenient to store melons or pears on an area of the counter closest to the window, but don’t do it. Sunlight speeds up the ripening process.
9. Pantyhose is best for onions
Drop an onion in each foot, tie a knot in between and continue this pattern until you fill the legs. According to Lifehacker:
Apparently keeping the onions dry, able to breathe, separated, and suspended in the air maximizes their shelf life.
10. Don’t immediately slice and dice
You may be planning for the week ahead, but slicing and dicing too far in advance reduces the life of produce. Of course, if you must get chopping, a little lemon juice will help produce last longer before it starts to brown.
11. Wrap greens in foil
When wrapped in foil, broccoli, lettuce and celery will last in the fridge for a month or more.
12. Stabilize the refrigerator’s temperature
Aim for 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of toxic food bacteria. You don’t want the temperature so cold everything is frozen. On the other hand, a refrigerator that is too warm results in spoilage. That is like throwing money away.
13. Paper bags are ideal for mushrooms
Plastic bags are a haven for moisture, causing mushrooms to mildew.
14. Place tomatoes upside down on the counter
If the stem was removed before purchase, place the tomatoes upside down so air won’t seep into the small opening, which expedites ripening.
15. Tidy up and organize the refrigerator
It may be convenient to leave expired items in the corner of the fridge until you have time to purge. However, the mold content will expand to other areas and contaminate open products. Also, too much clutter reduces the circulation of cool air and creates warm spots.
16. Don’t store milk in the refrigerator door
The cooler temperatures are found on the middle shelf.
17. Segregate produce and meats
Allowing fresh produce and meats to mingle runs the risk of cross-contamination, which causes rapid spoilage. All meats should be wrapped and stored toward the bottom of the refrigerator or freezer (in case they leak). To be extra safe, place meats in a bowl to catch any liquid residue.
18. Reseal prepackaged goods
When you keep goods sealed, air will remain in the package and items won’t quickly harden.
19. Freeze bread
Freezing bread eliminates the onset of mold, which spreads like wildfire and can quickly contaminate an entire loaf. You can also try storing half of the loaf in the fridge and the other half in the freezer.
20. Store leftovers in airtight glass containers
Airtight lids keep air out; and with glass, you don’t have to worry about any chemicals leaching into your food.
21. Maximize pantry and counter space
Not all produce should be refrigerated. Here are some items that should always be stored at room temperature, preferably not in direct sunlight:
- Mangos (in a brown bag)
- Melons (in a brown bag)
- Peaches (in a brown bag)
- Pineapples (upside down)
If any of these items begin to ripen and you want to keep them around, place them in the fridge.
I’ve tried the bulk of the suggestions on the list and they work. Most importantly, I’ve been able to limit last-minute grocery runs.
What tricks do you use to extend the life of groceries? Share your ideas in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.