Well done – you survived the shopping! Now that you are home, let’s make sure you store your food in a way that keeps it fresh for as long as possible.
When it comes to storing your food, it is helpful to consider the foods that you waste regularly – maybe storing these differently might help. If you are not sure of these we have the information on the main foods that are typically wasted.
Beware of the bread bin!
Many homes have bread bins and, while handy for storing bread, can be places where half loaves go to die. The main problems with bread is that it goes stale, mouldy or both! In order to prevent this happening it is useful to know why both of these occur:
Bread goes stale through a chemical process called starch retrogradation. This happens faster at cooler temperatures so refrigeration doesn’t help. Unlike homemade breads most commercial breads have preservatives in them to slow this process down. However, freezing bread works great as the moisture is trapped as ice and this prevents the bread from going stale. When freezing bread make sure it is cut into slices first and remember, you can toast straight from the freezer.
The other problem, mould, grows best in warm, moist conditions where there is little air circulation. It’s a fungus so light has nothing to do with it but circulating air helps reduce condensation, depriving mould of the moisture it needs. That’s why commercially made bread kept in a sealed bread bin in its plastic wrapping goes mouldy very quickly.
These are the foods that often go off quickest and most of us store them in the same way and in the same place all the time. But is this the best place for them? Should they actually be stored together?
Some key points to remember are:
- In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster this produce will go off so the best way to keep fruit and veg fresh is by using refrigeration or cool temperatures.
- Never seal fruit and veg in airtight containers – this will actually speed up their decay.
- Do not store certain fruits and vegetables together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) (e.g. apples, tomatoes, bananas) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables, and other fruit.
- Most fruit and veg are best kept in the bag they come in as it keeps it fresher for longer. If you buy your fruit and veg loose they can also last longer if stored properly in a bag that is lightly tied in the fridge.
- Before storing vegetables, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends (leave about an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out). Make sure the bag you store the vegetables in has some holes punctured to allow some air through. If you have space don’t pack all the veg close together because the closer they are, the quicker they will go off. Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water (and then dried), while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.
- Fruits like apples, tomatoes, pears, avocados, mangoes, melons, peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like peppers, grapes, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, etc.), and berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.) will begin to go off so should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly (especially if with citrus), and will also speed up the ripening of any nearby fruits (back to ethylene!).
If you are ever unsure where to store your fruit and veg copy the shops – they try to preserve their produce for as long as possible. But remember, while their produce may not be in a dedicated refrigerator it may be in a cooled section of the shop.
For more information check out our Fruit and Veg Storage information sheet.
Modern packaging can help
From ziplocks on cheese packs to breathable fruit and veg bags, the packaging food comes in has been cleverly designed with all sorts of smart features. These will help the food you buy both before, by protecting it, and after, by preserving it.
- The best thing to do initially is store your food in its original packaging and then, once opened, follow the on pack instructions to keep it at its best.
- Many bagged foods (e.g. salads, pre-prepared veg) are stored in bags with modified air that keep it fresher for longer in your fridge. While this preserves it before opening, as soon as you open these you need to use the food quickly or remove them from their bag, wash them and then re-store them.
- Depending on the amount of food you may want many foods now come in different packaging to help you get what you need. Half loaves of bread, split packs of meat and resealable packs of beans all help you get the food you want.
- There are a variety of different products available that can help you preserve your food for longer. Things like stayfresh bags, ziplock bags, vacuum packing, etc. all help keep food fresh and minimise waste.