The stats are a little hard to stomach. Almost 50% of the food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes - that’s 7 million tonnes of food and drink, costing the average household £470 a year. How is it that so much of the food we buy ends up in the bin? The two main reasons are that we either cook too much or don’t use it in time to begin with. Here are five simple tips to help you store fresh food properly, prolong its life and save a few pennies along the way.
1. Cook vegetables as soon as you’ve bought them
Instinct tells us that the best way to enjoy vegetables is to serve them just after they’ve been cooked. Cook and food writer Tamar Adler advocates just the opposite by cooking vegetables as soon as you’ve bought them, rather than before they’re served (check out her handy video on the topic). Having batches of pre-cooked veg means you’ve got a healthy equivalent of a fast food that not only keeps for longer but can be a springboard for a week’s worth of meals. “We’re told that things need to be fresh,” Adler says, but too often “we all end up watching our food go bad, and then it doesn’t matter if it was fresh, because we didn’t get to eat it.” Use pre-roasted veg to make hearty salads or blend them with stock and whip up a healthy soup. Roasted tomatoes popped into a jar of oil makes for a great snack and accompaniment to roasted meats.
2. Make the most of your freezer
Not just a place for ice creams and peas, you can get a lot more use out of your freezer than you realise. Mix chopped fresh herbs with olive oil, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Remove the cubes from the tray and store in a tupperware in the freezer. You can pop these straight into dishes such as a classic pasta sauce, bolognese or stir fry. High quality butter, milk, cream and yoghurt can be frozen too. Divide a block of butter into handy smaller portions, wrap in cling film and store in a tupperware. Pasteurised milk and double cream with 40 per cent fat or more work well when frozen, just leave enough room in your container, say an inch so, to allow for expansion. Yoghurt can have a granular texture after thawing so throw in a curry or cake. Cheese can be frozen too, just divide into blocks and wrap in cling film. All frozen dairy should be thawed in the fridge.
3. Give your bread and vegetables the right home
It helps if you store apples away from other foods. Apples give off a gas called ethylene, which can cause foods to spoil. Also if you see them out in a bowl you’re more likely to grab one to gobble up. Don’t store potatoes in sealed plastic bag - they will get all sweaty and this increases the chances of them sprouting and rotting. Ideally store them in a paper or hessian bag and in a cold, dark place. Greens such as kale, asparagus, and spring onions will welcome being stored in a glass of water - like a bunch of flowers - in the fridge if you have space. Place them cut, or root, side down and they’ll lap the water up. You can do this with carrots too. Give your fresh loaf of bread a longer life by storing it cut side down on a chopping board. Don’t put it in a sealed plastic bag or in the fridge, it’ll be just fine naked and on your countertop.
4. Wash berries in vinegar water
Fresh berries will last a little longer if washed in a mix of vinegar and water as soon as you’ve bought them. The vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant to eliminate that pesky berry mould. Dunk your fruity jewels into a large bowl containing a solution made up of one part vinegar to three parts water. Drain them using a colander and then rinse under cold running water. The berries need to be dried as throughly as possible before storing. Try placing a few sheets of paper towel in a salad spinner and giving them quick, gentle spin until completely dry. Or place them in the centre of a dry, clean tea towel, pinch its corners together and bounce them around. Store them in clean plastic container and leave the lid not fully on for a bit of air.
5. Poke a hole into a lemon
Sadly, doing this on its own won’t create a mystical super citrus invisible barrier to protect all your precious fresh fruit and vegetables (although wouldn’t that be amazing?). If a recipe calls for just a little lemon juice, pop a hole in it with a skewer. Squeeze the juice you need out through this instead of cutting it in half. By avoiding exposing a lot of its flesh, it won’t dry out as quickly and you can get just the amount of juice you need.
Do you have any tips we’ve missed here? Drop us a line on Twitter @farmdrop and share them!