Love Food Hate Waste Blog

The clever food storage guide

Category:

Tips and Tricks

Date:

Friday, December 22, 2017 12:00 PM

store cupboard

 

Have you ever planned a delicious meal for dinner tonight only to find when you get the ingredients out, that one of them has developed a fuzzy, mouldy coat? And it hasn’t even reached it’s Use By date yet.

Where and how you store your food can drastically impact its shelf life. While some foods are happy soaking up some warmth in the pantry, others prefer a cool shelf to chill on. 

And there are plenty of misconceptions and old wives’ tales out there that are a recipe for a ruined dinner and a bin full of wasted food. 

So it’s worth getting to know where your food would prefer to live. Particularly in the heat of summer when food can spoil much faster. And especially when you’re prepping for a major feast like a Christmas dinner.

So here we’ve compiled the low down on how you should really be keeping your chow.

But first, some storage basics…

Some fruits and vegies don’t play nice together. 

Many fruits produce ethylene gas as they ripen, which can speed up the ripening of other fruit and vege nearby. That means shorter shelf lives and more shriveled food. 

Bananas, avocados, apples, pears, stone fruits and melons are high ethylene producers so keep them in a separate bowl especially when ripe. And as a general rule, store fruit and vegies in separate crisper drawers or shelves. 

A word on food packaging.

Some food packaging is unnecessary and wasteful, but often food packaging is designed to protect the food during transport which can help to limit food waste. 

If your food comes in packaging, it’s often the best way to store it at home too. Egg cartons protect shells from breakage and absorbing other flavours, potato bags limit light, berry punnets keep them dry, etc etc. 

As with any good rule though there are exceptions (bread in a paper bag will go stale faster than in plastic) but if it comes in packaging its often best to leave it in packaging. 

Storage containers and wrap.

Storing food in good quality containers and thick reusable zip-lock bags will extend your foods’ shelf life and reduce plastic rubbish. Likewise, reusable food wraps like beeswax wraps (which you can buy or DIY) are a great low-waste alternative to plastic cling wrap. Aluminium foil is also a good option as it’s almost infinitely recyclable, although don’t use it to wrap acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus.

 

crowded fridge

An over-stocked fridge doesn't allow cool air to flow and keep things cold. 


In the fridge 

The basics: To keep your fridge food fresh, the key thing is to keep the temperature stable at 3-4⁰ Celcius. Ensure the fridge is not overstocked so that cold air can circulate easily. Put hot food in shallow containers and wait until it’s stopped steaming before moving to the fridge. 

What to store here:

- Eggs: Store them in their carton in the fridge. The consistent temperature will extend their shelf life and the carton will protect their porous shells from drying out or talking on strong flavours nearby. 

- Lettuce: Wrap in paper towel and keep in the bag it came in (or in a container) in the fridge crisper. It will last up to 4 times longer!

- Cut avocado: Wrap in cling wrap or beeswax wraps ensuring the cut surface is sealed and store in the fridge to slow down further ripening.

- Carrots: Make them last 10 times longer by keeping in a container lined with paper towel. 

- Cut pumpkin: Remove seeds, wrap in clingwrap or beeswax wraps and keep in the fridge. 

- Mushrooms: Plastic will make mushrooms ‘sweat’ so store them in a brown paper bag in your fridge crisper.

- Citrus: Lemons, limes and grapefruits should be kept in a container or loosely-tied bag in the fridge. 

- Ripe stone fruit: You can leave nectarines, peaches and plums in a fruit bowl to ripen but once ripe, move to the fridge to extend their shelf life. 

- Raw meat and fish: These should be sealed well to prevent contamination and stored in the coldest part, which is usually at the back of the bottom shelf. 

 

fruit bowl

Watch out for the ethylene-emitting fruits that ripen other fruits nearby. 

In the pantry or benchtop 

The basics: Most dry goods (flour, biscuits, nuts and bread) should be kept airtight and out of direct sunlight. Keeping things on high rotation will limit your waste so make it a habit to declutter the pantry every change of season and apply FIFO (first in, first out) when cooking so you use the older items first. 

What to store here:

- Bananas: The fruit bowl is the worst place for a banana to be because everything will ripen faster around these high ethylene-emitters. Keep your bananas in their very own special spot.

- Potatoes, sweet potatoes and whole pumpkin: These guys all need to be in cool, dry places, but potatoes in particular need to be kept in the dark. Keep them all away from onions or they’ll sprout faster. 

- Onions: Likewise store in a cool, dry place but away from your spuds. 

- Whole garlic: The drier the better when it comes to garlic so keep these guys in a cool, dry place. 

- Bread: The humble loaf keeps best in plastic with as little air as possible in the bag. Any air, especially cold air, will make it go stale and dry out faster. Keep it on a shelf or in a bread bin out of direct sunlight. If you won’t get through a whole loaf, freeze half to use for toast.

- Tomatoes: Tommies need warmth to ripen so storing them in the fridge will leave them flavourless. Keep them in a fruit bowl until they’re ripe.

- Hard avocado: If your avo’s rock hard, put it next to a banana to help it ripen. Once ripe, move it to the fridge to keep it that way for a bit longer. 

- Biscuits & crackers: When opened, the air will start softening their crunch so it’s a good idea to keep two containers in the pantry to empty any half-eaten packets into – one for sweet, one for savoury. 

 

In the freezer 

The basics: Keep your freezer between -15⁰ to -18⁰ Celcius and keep it well stocked. It will run more efficiently when it is nearly full. Freeze food in the portions you’ll need to use it in later to avoid wasting it. 

What to store here:

- Sauces: If you have only used half a can or jar of something like tomato paste or coconut milk, spoon the rest into an ice-cube tray and freeze so you can use it later. 

- Raw meats: Freeze any meat you won’t cook before its use-by date to ensure its ok to eat on the other side. 

- Cooked meats: Roast meats, leftover ham and even Christmas turkey can all be frozen after cooking. Remove any bones and freeze in the portions you’ll need. If you shred it before freezing it will be easy to add to future meals. 

- Cooked vegies: Chopped and frozen in portions these can be added straight to future meals like pasta.


Download our Storage Guides for the Fridge and Pantry if you need a handy reminder to keep on hand. 

 


Clever ways to use up festive food

Category:

Tips and Tricks

Date:

Thursday, December 21, 2017 12:00 PM

Lunch salad

 

For all the hours and hard-earned cash we spend on planning, shopping and cooking up the perfect festive meals for family and friends, it’s crazy to think how much of it can end up in our bins.

After the big event is all over and everyone's stuffed, the plate scrapings and leftovers which were once the centerpiece of the occasion, are seen as a lukewarm burden that must be dealt with. 

How much waste are we talking exactly? A lot!

In fact, one in five bags of groceries we buy ends up in the bin in the average household. One. In. Five.

For the average household in Victoria, wasted food adds up to over $2,000 every year. Imagine how handy that $2,000 would be at Christmas time!

The good news is that if you’re in charge of the kitchen this Christmas, you can change that story. 

And there are some clever things you can do when you're cooking up your Christmas feast to limit the waste in your household.

In short, there are three main areas:

  • The first step is to do some planning – we covered that in our last blog post which you can find here.
  • The second (and the topic of this blog post) is to get clever about using up the food you’ve got. See more below...
  • And the third step is to check sure you’re storing things correctly – which we’ll cover in another blog shortly. 

So do the planet – and your bank balance – a solid this Christmas and put in practice some of these clever ways to use up festive food and leave nothing to waste. 

1. Use every edible part of the produce.

So much edible produce ends up in the bin when it is really just more delicious and nutritious food. Did you know you can cook and eat broccoli stalks and cauliflower leaves? Ham and chicken bones can be used for meat stocks and the tops and tails of carrots, celery and onion can be used for vegie stock. Both can also be frozen to use later. Making a pavlova? to use in baking or omelettes down the track. 

 

Beef tacos

Give your leftovers a makeover, like turning leftover roast meat into a mexican filling. Image: Jodie Blight/Summer Table

 

 

2. Upcycle your leftovers

Don’t get bored of leftover ham and salad – get creative! Jazz up your leftovers into something new and you’ll be much more likely to eat them. Leftover ham can become a tortilla, carbonara, pizza scrolls, soup or fried rice. Cooked lamb, pork and beef can be become a stew, a pie, a warm salad, burritos or tomorrow’s lunch wrap. Check out all our leftover recipes if you're stuck for ideas.

3. Plan a dish around an item you really need to use up.

This is a great habit to get into at any time of year. Know you have a tub of yoghurt that’s been there a while? Google what you can make from it. Tandoori, Greek marinaded chicken, even this delicious lemon cake! You’ll make it a habit to get through everything in your fridge and pantry and end up with less in the bin. 

4. Freeze extra festive food.

The real trick is to freeze things in the portions you’ll need to use it in. Use small containers, thick snap-lock bags that you can wash and re-use or foil which can be recycled so you’re not creating heaps of plastic rubbish. And you might be surprised at what you can freeze. Leftover ham and other cooked meats can be frozen for soups, curries and sandwiches. Leftover cheeses can go in creamy sauces. Fresh fruit like berries and bananas can be frozen in smoothie-sized portions. 

5. Know the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’.

‘Use by’ dates indicate that the food may be unsafe after that date so these should always be followed. ‘Best before’ is just a guide, meaning the food may lose some quality (e.g. crunchiness) but is still edible beyond that date so it doesn’t mean you need to throw it out. If it starts growing mould though, always chuck it, but ideally food will get eaten before then.

 

skewer snacks

Making your own party snacks will limit waste and save you money.

  

6. Make your own snacks using food from the fridge and pantry.

Use up your extra carrots, capsicum, celery, zucchini and broccoli stalks to make great crudités for dunking into hummus. You can make so many delicious homemade dips with produce you probably have on hand. Creamy spinach dip, guacamole, fresh salsa, our savoury yoghurt dip and all kinds of pestos. You’ll keep food out of the bin and probably save a buck too.

7. Make foods that use up multiple items.

Case in point, coleslaw. A BBQ favourite and a great way to use up loads of spare veg. Combine grated carrot, shredded red or white cabbage and some mayonnaise. Substitute half for yoghurt for a healthier dressing. You can also add other produce you need to clear out like grated apple, broccoli stalks, finely diced red onion, shallots or capsicum for extra flavour. 

If you’re not yet, be sure to follow the Love Food Hate Waste Victoria Facebook page for more tips and ideas to keep your food out of the bin all year round.

 

 

Love your food

Each year Victorian households throw out 3,000 tonnes of confectionary or snacks.