The first step towards sustainable nutrition is to NOT waste food. In this article I will share guidelines on how to store food with you.
Food loss is a major cause of the wasting of resources including water, land, energy, labour and capital. In addition, overproduction of food leads to greenhouse gas emissions. And this is known to contribute to global warming.
Even if only 25% of all wasted food was saved, that would be enough to feed the 870 million starving people. At the moment of writing, 820 million people are suffering from hunger.
This is reason enough to try to be more conscious about your food choices. In this article I will share guidelines on how to store food with you.
Fruits and vegetables
If the vegetables are packed in plastic, it is better to leave them in their packaging. It is also important to store vegetables in the right place. Some varieties of vegetables are best stored in the refrigerator, while others – out of the refrigerator.
Store tomatoes outside the refrigerator in a cool dry place. By the way, only eat ripe tomatoes. An unripe tomato that is still completely green contains the toxic alkaloid solanine which can make you sick.
Onions quickly absorb moisture and rot, so store them in a dry place. Onions absorb aromas and flavours, including the aroma of garlic, therefore it is better to store them separately.
Winter carrots, parsnips and celery root can be stored for a very long time. It is best to keep them in a dry place at a temperature of 12-15 ° C.
Potatoes are best kept in a dark cool place.
Keep eggplants, cucumbers and peppers out of the fridge, but not near tomatoes and fruits. Eggplants are particularly sensitive to ethylene – the gas produced by bananas, pears, apples and tomatoes. Ethylene causes dark spots on the surface of eggplants, it also makes them bitter. Cucumbers are often sold in film. Do not remove it as it extends their shelf life by about a week.
Leafy vegetables such as lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, daikon, radishes, turnips) are best stored in the refrigerator. The same goes for celery stalks and leeks.
Lemons and other citrus fruits are best kept in a dark place outside the refrigerator. The average shelf life of citrus is 14 days.
Bananas and other exotic fruits suffer from the cold. If they are stored at a temperature below 7 ° C, then the destruction of their cells begins. This results in moisture loss and decay.
Grapes are best kept in the refrigerator. There they will remain in good condition for seven days, while out of the refrigerator they will only last for three or four days. Store grapes in a paper bag.
Apples are best stored in the refrigerator at 4 ° C. The fridge will extend their shelf life by three weeks. Ripe pears are best kept in the fridge, they will not last long on the counter.
Avocados can be stored both in and out of the fridge. Cold temperature pauses the ripening process. If your avocado is not ripe, keep it outside the fridge. If it is ripe and you are not planning to eat it within, say, 24 hours, you can keep it in the fridge.
Pre-chopped vegetables and fruits should always be stored in the refrigerator. This applies to all varieties. It is best to store them in their original packaging.
Cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products have an expiration date. Good quality is guaranteed until this date. After the expiration date, the quality of the product may deteriorate.
As for dairy products, they are often suitable for consumption a few days after the expiration date on the package. Use your eyesight, smell, and taste to see if a product is still suitable. An open jar of yogurt can be kept in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days, an open package of milk – for 3-5 days.
Bread remains suitable for consumption for 2 to 4 days in the kitchen cupboard. In the fridge it will age faster. Bread stays fresh longer if you keep it in a bread bag and in the breadbasket. By the way, bread can be frozen. This should be done on the day of purchase.
Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator. Consumers often think the opposite, as eggs in the store are always kept outside the refrigerator (read the explanation below). Do not throw away their cardboard packaging – thanks to it, eggs do not dry out and stay fresh longer.
The packaging of eggs always has an expiration date printed on it. But eggs can be eaten (cooked) a few days past the expiration date. You can do a test if you are not sure if an egg is still OK. Put it in a bowl or a large glass filled with salted water. If the egg rises to the surface, throw it away.
Why are eggs not kept in the fridge in the store? The shell protects eggs from moisture. Moisture promotes the growth of harmful bacteria. If eggs in the store were kept in the fridge, and from there you took them in your basket to take home, there is a temperature difference, and as a result, condensation occurs. This is potentially dangerous. Therefore, it is better if eggs are not kept in the refrigerator in the store.
Grains, pulses, nuts
Grains, including flours, pulses (lentils, beans, dried peas) and nuts should be kept in airtight containers in a dark, cool place. If you are not planning to use your nuts within a couple of months, you can keep them in the fridge. This will prolong their shelf life. This recommendation does not apply to the grains and pulses.
The optimum temperature for a refrigerator is 4 ° С.
Trust your own taste and smell in assessing expiration dates. Consumers sometimes think that out-of-date foods cannot be eaten safely, but this only applies to perishable foods, such as meat and fish.
What about mold? What if mold has spread to food? Some foods can be partially saved, but most need to be discarded. You can save hard cheese (Parmesan, Сheddar) and hard vegetables and fruits (carrots, cabbage). Cut off the entire surface covered with mold, plus at least one more centimetre. Use or cover with clean paper until you want to use the product.
All other products on which the mold has settled must be thrown away. This applies to bread, dairy products, soft fruits and vegetables, sausages, jams.