The appearance of the coronavirus in our lives has changed a lot of things big and small about daily living. And one area where just about every single one of us had to adapt a little is grocery shopping.
You may still be doing your own shopping. Or perhaps you’re taking advantage of delivery services. But either way, if you’re like most of us, you’re trying to limit shopping trips by thinking further ahead when it comes to meal planning. And that means stocking up, so you don’t have to shop quite as often.
But if you’ve ever started to make a meal and found your asparagus had turned to mush or your strawberries were growing fuzz, you know the downside of shopping further ahead.
A few easy adjustments to WHAT you buy and HOW you store it could help your latest food haul last far longer.
Keeping food fresh during the coronavirus crisis
Certain foods have longer shelf lives than others. And swapping one item for another could buy you a few extra days, or even weeks of “still fresh” time. Plus, in many cases, how you choose to store your fresh foods can buy you more time too.
When choosing cheeses, for example, if you want them to last longer, remember the harder, the better. Hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano are aged longer and so have a much lower moisture level. This extends their shelf life. You can expect a hard cheese to last up to nine months unopened and four to six weeks once you remove it from the packaging.
Firm cheeses such as cheddar are a good choice too, lasting four to six months unopened and three to four weeks after opening. But a softer cheese, such as brie or mozzarella, should be eaten within a week or two tops.
Avoid wrapping your cheese in plastic wrap, which traps moisture close to the cheese, increasing the chance of mold setting up shop before you finish it. Try loosely wrapping it in wax paper and popping it into a glass storage container with a top instead.
Milk and eggs:
If you have an option between conventional milk and organic, pick the organic right now. Organic milk is ultra-pasteurized at higher temperatures, which means you will likely get a few extra days of freshness out of them. But still aim to use yours up within seven to 10 days.
And consider swapping out meat for eggs in a few meals. Eggs are a delicious and nutritious protein. And they have a super long fridge life of up to five weeks.
Just avoid storing your eggs in the built-in rack that some refrigerators have on the door. This exposes the eggs to ups and downs in temperature, which can cause them to go bad faster.
Not sure how long the egg has been in the fridge? Gently place it into a bowl of water. If it floats, it’s no longer good… toss it.
I could write an entire book on produce advice alone. But don’t worry, I won’t. Instead here are a few useful tips to keep in mind. They could help keep you from tossing half of your groceries into the trash every week.
Certain fruits and veggies have natural built-in staying power. Citrus fruits, apples, and pomegranates, for example, will often last far longer than say peaches or bananas.
In general, fruits and vegetables that don’t last as long, such as berries and greens, can be stretched by NOT washing them until you need them. And since certain fruits such as apples and peaches produce ethylene gas that causes some produce to ripen faster, its best to store them separately. You can easily find a list of them online.
Potatoes should last anywhere from two to five weeks in an open bowl or bag in a dark, dry, and cool pantry. In fact, one study found storing them at cooler temperatures could quadruple shelf life over storing at room temps. Plus it can help them retain more of their nutrients.
In a pinch, potatoes will last significantly longer (up to four months) in the fridge. But it increases their sugar content. And worse, it can produce higher levels of a carcinogenic chemical called acrylamide.
Sweet potatoes and yams can make it even longer. They can last four to six months stored outside of the refrigerator in a cool, dark place like in a paper bag or the pantry.
Cabbage can last for up to two months in the crisper drawer of your fridge. While squash… such as butternut, winter, and spaghetti… can stay fresh anywhere from one to three months. And you don’t even have to refrigerate them.
Onions kept in a cool, dry place with good air circulation can last up to six weeks. Toss them in the fridge, and you’ll likely get a few more weeks out of them. But ONLY if you keep them super dry. And garlic kept in similar cool and dry conditions can last a month or two.
If you get carrots go for the whole fresh variety instead of the baby versions, which go bad much more quickly. Whole carrots typically will last four to five weeks. Just be sure to snip off the greens if they have them before putting them in the crisper drawer. The same goes for beets, which can last one to three months in the fridge when you remove the greens.
The coronavirus may have forced us to make a lot of changes we don’t like. But making our groceries last longer, and our food dollars stretch further, is a valuable lesson that will stick around long after the crisis has passed.
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