When you’re keeping an eye on everyday spending, you don’t want to needlessly throw food away too soon. But at the same time, you don’t want to risk eating something that might have gone off.
One of the main problems is, we’ve become so reliant on ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’ dates on packaging, that we’re less confident about relying on our own judgement on whether food is fresh or not. Older people’s immune systems also tend to be less able to recover from food poisoning. This makes knowing how to store food safely and for longer vital to avoid becoming ill.
Freezing is nature’s way of preserving food and is perfect for most foods, but some things are better kept fresh. To help you get the best from your food we’ve put together some easy and often surprising tips that will help keep a variety of foods safe and delicious to eat for days, weeks and even months:
Meat and fish
Airborne bacteria make meat perish more quickly. To store it longer in the fridge, place meat in a zip-lock plastic bag, zipping it halfway in order to squeeze out as much remaining air as you can. Close the bag and then stick it in a second zip-lock bag, repeating the steps to make it as air-free as possible. The best way to store fish, if you plan on eating it soon, is to bag it up and lay it on a bowl of ice in the fridge.
Keep milk in the main part of the fridge if possible. This is because when milk is stored in the door rack it’s warmed by the air of the kitchen whenever you open the fridge door. You can also freeze your milk in an ice cube tray to add to milkshakes and hot drinks.
To keep cheese tasting and looking good, remove any plastic cling film it might come in and wrap it in wax paper instead. Stored like this the cheese stays chilled without letting in excess moisture or odours from other foods in the fridge. You can also freeze some cheeses, such as Cheddar.
While keeping potatoes in the dark helps prevent the skin going green (which is poisonous) it will encourage them to sprout ‘eyes’. Sticking an apple in with your bag of spuds is said to drastically slow down this sprouting.
To get an extra week out of tomatoes, store them stem-side down on the kitchen countertop. Refrigeration tends to strip them of their delicious flavour. Sticking a strip of sticky tape over the stem hole (which lets in the air) also works too.
Many people make the mistake of storing garlic bulbs in the refrigerator. This causes the bulb to deteriorate as well as taint everything else in the fridge with the taste of garlic. The best way to store garlic is in a wire basket, a small bowl with ventilation holes or even a paper bag.
The best way to keep herbs fresh is to store them in whole bunches. First you need to wash them, then seal them in zip-lock bags before freezing them. This should keep them at peak freshness for up to a month. When you are ready to use them, you’ll find they are actually easier to chop frozen. Or, for a ready supply of fresh herbs, why not grow a little ‘herb garden’ on a windowsill that gets lots of sunlight?
Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
Fill a large bowl halfway with one-part vinegar and three-parts water and gently stir the strawberries or other soft fruits through the solution by hand. The vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant and mould killer. After a minute or two, give the fruit a good rinse then pat dry with a paper towel. Pop them into a plastic container with a layer of paper towel at the bottom to catch any excess moisture. Fruits like these also freeze well for many months.
Simply cover the crown (where the bananas meet at the stem) in cling film. This slows down the release of ethylene from the stem, which causes the bananas to ripen. Separating the bunch and individually wrapping each banana will make them keep even longer.
Even if it looks a bit crusty and grainy, don’t chuck away honey too soon. Unlike jam, it never goes stale. To make it clear and runny again, simply microwave it on a high temperature for about 30 seconds – remembering to take off the metal jar top first. Alternatively, melt the honey by standing the jar in a bowl of hot water for the same amount of time.
The best way to store eggs is in the fridge, in their original box. Like milk, the worst place to store eggs is the fridge door shelves due to warm air whooshing in every time the fridge is opened. A quick way to test an egg’s freshness is to put it in a cup of water: fresh eggs will sink, while bad ones float.
Bread and cakes
To revive day-old cakes and buns, sprinkle them with water, place in a paper bag, and pop in a hot oven for five to 10 minutes. The steam created by the water will restore moisture.
Of course, if you live on your own, it’s not always easy to buy small portions of fresh food to suit your needs. This is why having a variety of frozen ready meals delivered straight to your freezer makes so much sense. All you have to do is cook them in your microwave or oven, which makes them one of the easiest and safest ways to enjoy delicious hot food and desserts all year round. Have a look through our range to see what takes your fancy. And for smaller appetites, we also do a range of Mini Meals, to ensure nothing is wasted and thrown away.