Food waste is a massive problem in western countries. It’s happened to all of us, we go shopping with good intentions of eating lots of fresh produce and we gradually watch it rot before we end up throwing it out. My big tip for reducing food waste is to freeze your vegetables. I chop up potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, green beans and kale, blanch* them and then freeze them. It’s annoying if you’ve bought lots of vegetables in one go as it’s a lot of cooking and freezing to do on one day, however it does mean I have lots of veggies always available. There are loads of other fruit and vegetables you can blanch, the ones listed are just my go to vegetables! Of course, blanching is not always necessary because if you know how to store food properly, it can last a lot longer than usual.
* “Blanching is a cooking process in which a food, usually a vegetable or fruit, is scalded in boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocking or refreshing) to halt the cooking process. Blanching foods helps reduce quality loss over time.” – wikipedia
How To Store Food Properly
Before fridges and freezers became commonplace I feel like food waste wasn’t so much of an issue. Much of this is due to people only buying the food they needed for the next 24 hours so it was less likely to even have a chance to go off. Knowing how to store different types of food can really improve the length of time food is good for. I think this is a basic piece of knowledge we’ve all lost due to relying on fridges and freezers.
How to store Root Vegetables
If you’re growing your own vegetables don’t dig up your root vegetables until you intend to eat them. Most of your vegetables will survive just by leaving them in the ground. I’m going to go through some of the most popular root vegetables, not all of them. Many of them can be stored in a very similar way but there are a few differences to be aware of.
Store potatoes in a cardboard box (with air holes), in a basket or other container which allows airflow, then keep them in a cool, dry, dark place. Potatoes need airflow to prevent moisture building up and spoiling them. Well stored potatoes can last for months, but do check them, because if one potato starts to rot, they all could. Blocking light prevents them from sprouting. Avoid storing potatoes too close to onions as this can make them go bad a bit quicker.
Onions need good airflow around them, so storing them in bowls is not the best. If possible hang them in mesh bags (or something similar) to give them as much airflow as possible.
Carrots & Parsnips
Both carrots and parsnips should be kept cool. They can be stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Ideally they should also be kept moist, so wrap them in a damp towel in the crisper drawer for best results.
Garlic can be stored in either a bowl or a basket. I’ve had garlic last for months! Just keep an eye on it to check for sprouting or if they’re getting a bit soft.
For longevity store radishes in a bowl in the fridge covered with a damp towel.
Apples & Pears are also best stored in dark places.
Food to Store at Room Temperature
There are certain foods which shouldn’t be kept in the fridge, instead just leave them on the side or in bowls.
- Tomatoes – tomatoes ripen when not in the fridge and retain their flavour
- Citrus Fruits – can lose some of the flavour in the fridge
- Bananas – bananas are likely to get brown spots quicker in the fridge
- Avocados – avocados ripen better at room temperature
- Some herbs – some herbs, like basil, will wither in the coolness of a fridge
Food You Should Store in the Fridge
- Meat, Fish, Dairy
- Open Foods, like jams, dressings and sauces
- Open Drinks, especially fruit juices
- Salad vegetables (except tomatoes) and most vegetables
- Always refrigerate your leftovers after allowing to cool
Dry Foods That Can Be Stored in Cupboards
The following types of dry foods can be kept in kitchen cupboards for a long time. Keep an eye on best before dates, but also be aware that these are generally a guide and not the be all and end all. Do ensure your dried foods are stored where rodents can’t get to them. If the packaging it came in is cardboard, it’s certainly worth transferring it to an airtight container that isn’t as easy to nibble through. I store all my nuts. rice, pasta and lentils in glass jars on the worktop. It keeps them safe from small creatures and I like how it looks.
- Dried Beans
- Tinned Foods
- Preserved Foods (Pickles & Jams)
- Tea & Coffee
- Biscuits & Crackers
- Nuts (How Eco-Friendly Are Nuts?)
No matter how careful we are with how we store food, there’s bound to be some food waste. One way I reduce food waste is to cook in bulk, another is to blanch my fresh vegetables (as mentioned earlier). But for the food that does go off, I compost as much of it as I can, as we all have to do our bit to reduce waste going to landfill.
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