So much food that ends up in the trash can be attributed to it not being stored properly—and that’s a big waste of money. Knowing where and how long certain foods should be stored will go a long way in eliminating food waste.
How to Store Food in the Freezer
The freezer can be your best friend when you need to make meals on the fly, but it can be hard to know for sure which foods freeze well and which ones don’t. As a general rule, most foods can be thrown in the freezer, while foods like eggs and canned foods should not. Some tips to keep in mind when freezing food:
- Package food correctly. Proper packaging helps prevent freezer burn and maintain quality. To avoid freezer burn, you want to make sure that air doesn’t come in contact with the surface of the food, which is why wrapping food tightly in plastic wrap and storing in resealable freezer bags or air-tight containers is so important.
- Label food packaging when you freeze it. This can help you keep track of how long food has been in the freezer—certain foods have different recommended storage times. Most food can keep indefinitely in the freezer, but the quality of it diminishes after a certain time period. Check the FDA’s handy freezer chart for optimal storage times.
The USDA has useful tips to keep on hand when you have freezer and food safety questions. Whether you’re wondering how long you can keep a certain food in the freezer or how to safely thaw frozen food, check out these food safety guidelines.
How to Store Food in the Fridge
The length of time you can safely store food in the refrigerator is much shorter than in the freezer. Make sure you keep your eye on expiration dates, and don’t purchase food from the grocery store if it’s already past its sell-by date. The range for how long food can keep in your refrigerator safely is broad—it can be anywhere from a few days to two weeks. Reference this chart from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html) when you’re unsure.
How to Store Food in the Pantry
If you want the dry goods in your pantry to have maximum shelf life, then proper storage containers are absolutely essential. Things like temperature, light, moisture and little critters can spoil food that otherwise may have lasted a long time.
- Invest in some airtight containers. Glass jars and Tupperware are two types of containers you should stock up on. Dry goods like flour, grains, cereal, pasta, sugars and more can keep for months to a year if stored properly!
- Store in cooler, darker places. Keep your pantry foods in cabinets or drawers that aren’t right by your oven or stove. Heat can mess with their quality.
How to Store Food on the Counter
Some produce is best kept on the countertop—especially if you want it to ripen, or you plan on eating it right away. Foods like potatoes, onions and garlic can all be kept at room temperature, and fruits like avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples and pears will ripen if left on the countertop. Bananas ripen quickly on the counter as well—but don’t toss ‘em if they get too brown for your liking! You can make banana bread instead.