How to help your food last longer

Food storage in glass containers in the kitchen

We all know how horrible food wastage feels. Throwing away food that’s past its best is frustrating and disheartening. Money’s tight for so many of us right now and the cost of food is rising all the time. Throwing away a pack of ham that’s gone off is like chucking pound coins into the bin.

That’s why we’re here to offer you some hacks that actually work. These food storage hacks will prolong the life of your groceries and save you cash.

Food waste is an expensive problem

The average UK household throws away £800’s worth of food each year*, which equates to roughly £66 a month. And food waste isn’t just bad news for our wallets. It’s bad news for the environment, with more food being produced due to wastage. Incredibly, households are responsible for more than 70% of all incidents of food waste, with retail, hospitality and production waste making up the remaining 30%.

We need to do better, and for many, knowing how to make fresh food last longer has become essential.

How to store your food to help it last longer

Here are our top 10 food hacks to make your weekly shop go that little bit further and prolong the shelf life of your fresh food.

1. Add salt to your milk once opened

Depending on the type of milk you use, once opened it can last anywhere from four to ten days if kept in the fridge.

However, you can stretch that timeframe a bit further by adding a pinch of salt to the carton immediately after opening. This is because salt is a preservative and deters bacteria from growing. But do make sure to give the carton a good shake and place it into the fridge as soon as possible.

2. Store your milk in the coolest part of the fridge

It is also best to avoid storing your milk in the fridge door. The door is in fact the warmest part of the fridge as it is furthest away from the cooling system. So instead keep your milk at the back of the middle or higher shelves for maximum cool to lengthen the shelf life.

3. Wrap hard cheese in parchment paper

Ditch the plastic packaging and instead wrap hard cheese in parchment or baking paper, this allows the cheese to breathe to avoid drying out but also prevents any extra moisture, and therefore mould, from growing. Hard cheese can usually last anywhere up to four weeks when stored correctly in the fridge.

4. Vinegar-bath your veggies

A great way to disinfect all your fruits and veggies is to give them a vinegar bath. The vinegar solution should be a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to water in either a bowl or your clean sink. Empty your produce into the solution and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once done you can rinse and thoroughly dry your produce before moving them into their respective storage containers.

The vinegar solution disinfects, cleans and removes any bacteria from the produce that might break down the food quicker. The solution won’t be strong enough that you can taste it on the produce but will allow your veggies to last for up to two weeks!

If you’re wondering how long you can keep cooked veg in the fridge, it usually, it stays fresh for between 3-7 days. And, when it comes to purchasing long-lasting vegetables, there are various great options such as onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes!

5. Store berries with a paper towel

If you’re curious about how to keep fruit fresh, storing berries or other chopped fruits with a paper towel can hugely help. Once dried, berries should be stored in airtight glass containers with a dry paper towel. The paper towel absorbs any excess moisture, which will prevent mould from growing. Changing the paper towel every other day will allow for maximum freshness and a shelf life of up to three weeks.

6. Keep your bananas separate from other fruits

Curious about how to keep fruit fresh? All fruits produce a certain level of ethylene, which can speed up the ripening process of other fruits. Bananas produce a higher concentration of this gas when they are ready to ripen.

Keeping the ethylene-producing fruits, specifically bananas, away from your ethylene-sensitive fruits will prevent excessive exposure to ethylene and will allow the fruit to ripen naturally over a longer period. Depending on the fruit itself they can last anywhere from three to five days to a few weeks at room temperature.

To slow the ripening process for bananas you can also wrap the stem in cling film or the slightly eco-friendlier aluminium foil. Wrapping as a bunch or individually will add a day or two to the ripening process which usually lasts between three to five days (at room temperature).

7. Treat your fresh herbs like flowers

For those who prefer fresh herbs over dried, a top tip is to treat them like flowers. Add water to a jar and place the herbs inside with a plastic bag over the top. The water helps to keep the herbs fresh whilst the bag acts as a barrier against any excess moisture.

If your fridge doesn’t accommodate upright jars, you can also store your fresh herbs in an airtight glass container (or plastic bag if you prefer) with a damp paper towel, this again helps the herbs to retain their moisture so they don’t dry out too quickly and wilt.

Both of these methods can aid your fresh herbs into lasting for up to three weeks.

8. Freeze your fresh herbs

Does freezing food make it last longer? Of course! If you prefer fresh herbs but find you don’t use them up quickly enough, a great tip is to freeze them. If you’re wondering how to freeze herbs in the UK, you can store fresh-cut herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays and freeze them for perfect portions. Alternatively, water can also be used in place of oil. With water this method can also be used for fresh garlic and ginger.

9. Ice your bread

If you find that your bread has become stale, grab an ice cube and run it over the loaf before popping it into the oven for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can also douse the loaf in water. This adds moisture back into the bread and allows it to become edible once more. The bread should then be used within the day. A freshly made loaf of bread can last up to four days whereas a store-bought loaf will last up to one week.

10. Freeze your nuts

Been searching for some long-lasting foods? Well, nuts are a food that lasts a long time. Most nuts and seeds have a shelf life of three to six months. In order to extend their lifespan, they are best stored in cool, dark spaces; although the back of the cupboard is suitable, storing them in the fridge can help them to stay fresher for longer.

If you find that six months is not enough time to nibble your way through your nuts, then you’ll be pleased to hear that they can be frozen – which extends their shelf life to one year.

If you enjoyed these tips, why not dive into a couple more of our guides to boost your knowledge further? We’ve got insights to help you reuse, recycle, and repair, as well as plenty of other simple ways to save money.

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