Approximately 40% of all food in the United States is wasted, with the average household throwing away $640 worth of food every year! Sending food to a landfill is not only bad for your wallet, but it’s harmful to the environment since rotting food releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
So why are we throwing away so much food? A large proportion of our food waste is the result of improper storage. Each food item has a shelf life, indicating the duration of time an item remains usable and fit for consumption. The shelf life is influenced greatly by the method in which an item is stored. For example, an uncut apple can stay fresh for 1-2 months if stored in the fridge, but only 2-4 weeks on the counter. Each food item has an ideal environment, and the freshness longevity depends significantly on factors including storage temperature, exposure to moisture, exposure to oxygen, and the container in which it is stored.
Reducing food waste can be as simple as altering your food storage methods. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping different food items fresh for longer!
Apples, although commonly placed in fruit bowls on the counter, actually last the longest in the fridge! Similar to many fruits and vegetables, don’t wash until ready to eat since the excess water speeds up the decomposition process.
Bananas should be kept in a bunch on the counter until ready to eat. It helps to wrap the stems in plastic wrap which prevents the ethylene gas from being released as the fruit ripens. If they get too brown, freeze and use them for banana bread, smoothies, or other recipes.
Cucumbers and tomatoes, despite common practice, are preserved best when stored at room temperature (above 50 degrees F). Since cucumbers are highly sensitive to ethylene, keep them separate from tomatoes and bananas.
Onions and potatoes should be stored out of the fridge in a cool, dark place. However, keep them separate because they release gases and moisture that will make the other go bad more quickly.
Berries get moldy quickly! Before storing in the fridge, rinse them with 3 parts water and one part vinegar and then dry thoroughly. If you rinse thoroughly again before eating, you won’t taste the vinegar.
Leafy greens should be stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. It helps to line the bottom of the drawer with paper towels to absorb moisture.
Celery and carrots can last up to two weeks submerged in a sealed bowl of water in the fridge. Remove the green carrot tops to help them retain moisture.
Dairy and eggs should be kept in the fridge, but not in the door which is exposed to more heat!
Bread loses moisture if stored in the fridge and becomes stale very quickly. Either keep bread on your counter out of direct sunlight, or freeze for longer-term storage. If you have a whole loaf, only slice as needed.
Meat should be kept on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it remains cold and has the lowest potential to leak and contaminate other items. If you won’t be using it within two days, freeze it!