How to Make Groceries Last Even Longer

 

A recent column on the proper storage for fresh fruits and vegetables generated a lot of great reader feedback—plus dozens of new tips and tricks to make all grocery items last longer. I love this stuff so much I must admit to being slightly compulsive–gathering, testing and assessing techniques. Here are a few of my new favorites:

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BERRIES: Are you familiar with that sick feeling that comes when you notice that the berries you bought yesterday are already showing signs of mold and turning brown? Here’s the remedy: As soon as you bring them into the kitchen prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) and ten parts water. Give berries a bath in the mixture. Swirl them around a bit the gently drain, rinse, and place in the refrigerator. Don’t worry. The solution is so weak you will not taste the vinegar. This treatment should give your strawberries an additional two weeks of useful life and raspberries a week or more. Vinegar retards the growth of bacteria that causes berries to spoil so quickly.

POTATOES: To keep potatoes from growing big ugly sprouts before you have time to use them up, store them with a couple of apples. For some reason, that really works to halt the sprouting.

NUTS: Roast nuts then store them in the freezer. This is for all kinds of nuts, even those you plan to use in baking. Roasting improves the flavor and increases the useful life; freezing keeps them from turning rancid. As soon as you get home from the store, spread the nuts in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Place in zip-type freezer bags or jars with lids then pop them into the freezer.

DISINFECT THE ‘FRIDGE. I plead guilty on this one. I just don’t think about it if I can’t see a mess. The truth is that anytime something spoils in the refrigerator, it leaves behind mold you can’t see, but attacks the new fresh stuff you put in there. Disinfecting the inside surfaces on a regular schedule will make everything last a little longer and smell a lot better.

Store onions in pantyhose. Not only are they relatively cheap, but they can also help you to keep your onions edible for up to 8 months! If you don’t have an old clean pair lying around, buy a cheap pair from the dollar store. Cut off the legs from the panty part. Drop an onion into the toe, tie a knot and drop in another onion and tie a knot. Repeat. This is great for storage because it keeps onions fresh  and it is easy to hang in your pantry or on a wall.

ALUMINUM FOIL. Let me just say that I’m a believer! It drives me crazy that I do not know why this works, but it certainly does: Wrap celery, broccoli, and lettuce in a single layer of aluminum foil before storing in the refrigerator. Celery will stay crisp and fresh for up to a month stored this way. It’s simply amazing.

MUSHROOMS. Never store these guys in a plastic bag because that traps moisture which just encourages the growth of mildew. Instead, store mushrooms in a paper bag. Now the air can circulate and the mushrooms will remain dry and lovely for weeks.

Question: Got a quirky shelf-life trick you’ve keeping from us? Spill the beans!

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11 replies
  1. Tootsie
    Tootsie says:

    I bought some “green bags” years ago & am still using them. They are semipermiable & let some air through. I dry off produce, write the date on a paper towel, wrap the produce in the paper towel so I can view the date through the green bag & then put in the fridge. Farmers’ Mkt produce lasts for weeks…store bought lasts at least a full week.

    Reply
  2. Janelle
    Janelle says:

    Fresh herbs, if left in a plastic bag in the fridge, get slimy in a few days, but if you trim the stems (like you do for fresh flowers) and put them upright in a cup of water on a fridge shelf, they can last for weeks. I use this all the time for cilantro!

    Reply
  3. flowerlady
    flowerlady says:

    These are great! I love all this information. Regarding the berries, onions, & herbs, I started dumping the berries immediately into a freezer bag & freezing them (after I wash them) unless I know I’m going to use them within the next day. I’ve thrown away so many berries, it makes me crazy & I can usually use them the same if they’re frozen. With onions & herbs, I chop them & also freeze them right away. They’re ready to use whenever I want them & the herbs are just like fresh in cooking.

    Reply
  4. D.J.
    D.J. says:

    I accidentally discovered that chopped onions kept in a glass jar in the fridge will keep fresh and tasty for a couple of weeks. I now chop lots, store in the jar and have onions ready instantly.

    Reply
  5. Heather Shover
    Heather Shover says:

    I wish I had something useful to add, but all my tricks have come from your column and website. Today I have some more great ways to keep my produce in tip top shape. Thanks Mary and the DPL community.

    Reply
  6. Whithered Belaglik Von Poobah
    Whithered Belaglik Von Poobah says:

    Don’t forget that you can also regrow some veggies that are past their prime. Celery is a great example. I also plant sprouted potatoes in my garden and in a month or two, I have some fresh and tasty replacements! There’s several tutorials on the web about how to do this.

    Reply
  7. Maria
    Maria says:

    Great tips, Mary, however, aluminum foil although it will extend the life of the lettuce, it’s not necessarily good for good health overall. Aluminum can be toxic and that is why most of us steer clear of aluminum cooking ware, etc.
    Thanks for your tips though!

    Reply
    • Alysa Levy Fleisher
      Alysa Levy Fleisher says:

      Wrapping cold vegetables in aluminum foil to store in the refrigerator does not expose you to ingesting aluminum. Its one of the few things you definitely do safely with aluminum. I have only done this with celery on occasion myself, I usually use glass. Cooking your foods on top of aluminum foil could expose you to some leaching though, but again that is not what is being discussed here. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/cooking-with-aluminum-foil-puts-you-at-risk-for-alzheimers/. But the big issue really is that you should be recycling aluminum foil and in order to do that it has to be clean so if you are going to need to clean anyhow, just put what you are cooking in the pan. Its a ton easier to just clean a sheet pan rather than cleaning aluminum foil.

      Reply

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