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Let’s Stay At Home Episode 2: Keeping Food Fresher for Longer

Given the current state of the world, we are all more likely and even encouraged to buy more or in bulk to avoid going outside. 

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean we have to give up on our waste-free kitchen dreams. It just means that we need to rethink how to store our groceries and how we rely on our technological allies in the kitchen.

We have to look at “putting the groceries away” in a new light, starting with the fridge, freezer, and pantry. They must go beyond simple storage units but also help us keep food fresh longer with less effort.

The unusual times we are in have led us to review how to store food with the newly acquired habits and that’s why we created this series with Massimo Bottura. Because now, we should respect food more than ever.

So for the second episode in our “Let’s Stay At Home with Massimo Bottura” series we’ve gathered small but effective tips from Massimo Bottura and other chefs from Food for Soul that support our cause.

Here are inspirational tips & tricks on how to keep food fresher for longer and enjoy delicious meals while making earth a better place, with the small steps starting from your home.

Small steps to extend life of your fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should never be kept together. Many fruits, in fact, release gases that speed up the ripening process of fresh products if placed close together.

To keep the salad always crisp and fresh, transfer the leaves to a bowl or container. Put a couple of sheets of kitchen paper on top and wrap tightly with plastic wrap to exclude all possible air. This will prevent moisture from settling on the leaves, helping them to stay cool and prevent wilting.

Broccoli should be consumed within a few days of purchase because they quickly consume oxygen and sugar to produce useful nutrients for their cells. To prolong their life, wrap them in aluminum foil or in a film that insulates them from the atmosphere, limiting contact with oxygen and slowing down their breathing. 

To keep tomatoes longer, there are small steps to take. Clean the stalk from the longest twigs and leaves, then place the cleaned tomato upside down on a flat surface.

Bananas? Wrapping a little film around the stalk will prevent the premature ripening of the fruit. Storing bananas separately from each other and not in a single helmet can prolong their life too.

For strawberries prepare a solution with 10 parts of water and 1 part of white or apple vinegar in a salad bowl. Plunge the strawberries, mix a few times, drain and rinse. The vinegar will eliminate bacteria and mold and the fruit will last about two weeks.

An easy suggestion about onions: in the pantry, keep them away from potatoes. The gases produced by onions sprout potatoes faster. It is better to combine them in the cooking phase, for example inside an omelette.

Freshness Allies: The Fridge

These days, as we spend more time at home, we’re stocking up on more, cooking more, storing more and so fridges all around the world are getting more attention than ever before.

Which begs the question, do we know how to use our fridges? It seems simple enough, but we discovered that knowing your fridge’s features can help with storing food the right way for optimal freshness. What are the best ways to store food in a refrigerator, what are the best features for food freshness? Why keep fruit on the lowest shelf?

You can discover the answers to these questions and more on how to use the fridge more efficiently from our article here.

Small steps to reduce waste by using the fridge more efficiently

A simple but precious idea on the arrangement of packages in the fridge: place them in plain sight in the central part of the fridge. It will be easier to remember that, before opening something new, you have to finish those. Learning to consume leftovers is the first way to reduce food waste.

To prevent dispersing the cold which is necessary for food preservation and to reduce energy consumption; remember to avoid keeping the refrigerator open for too long.

Avoid keeping the fridge too full: cold air would not be able to circulate and this could compromise the conservation of the food. In addition, you would struggle to notice the food you are stocking, risking to make it expire.

Remember to clean the fridge regularly: you can use a non-toxic and disinfectant mixture of water and vinegar, or water and baking soda. Dry it carefully after washing. In addition, a glass of baking soda placed at the bottom of the refrigerator will help keep bad odours away.

Freshness Allies: The Freezer

The freezer can be a potent ally in the fight against food waste by keeping food flavorful and edible for months. Whether just for ice, portion-frozen broth, or complete meals, the freezer’s role is almost as crucial as the fridge itself these days.

Frozen foods, if not consumed immediately, must be placed in the freezer where the temperature drops below – 10°C. Cooked foods that we intend to consume even after a few weeks can be stored in the freezer. However, remember that once defrosted, the food must be consumed and not placed back in the freezer

To learn more, take a look at our article on How to Use a Freezer Effectively. 

Freshness Allies: The Pantry

When it comes to storing things for longer shelf life, the pantry favors pickling and canning more than anything else. Let’s take a look at these olden but golden methods that don’t just store food but add flavor to it through time.

Pickling: Flavored By Time

As we buy more to avoid going out, it can be extra disappointing to open the fridge to find the fresh items you bought going bad. One of the easiest ways to make use of excess fruit or vegetables, practically any fresh food really, is pickling.

Made by adding natural preservatives such as vinegar and salt, you can use pickling to extend the shelf-life of any food in a flavorful and healthy way for months.

Keep the jars of oil preserves and jams: they will be an excellent container for leftovers, much more suitable for storage than the classic plastic trays. Glass, unlike plastic, is a non-porous material which does not absorb food smells and colors.

Canning: Freshness Through Time

Canning is one of the best ways to store food for more extended periods, such as years.

Depending on the contents and process, canning can extend the shelf life of food up to 3-5 years. It can be extremely helpful at keeping your groceries and leftover ingredients fresh longer. 

The key to canning is to use airtight jars and to keep them away from direct sunlight at a consistent room temperature.

Through canning, you can store ingredients like chickpeas, tomatoes, or even fruits fresh for much longer without losing taste or flavor through the years.

Storing: Essentials

Baking Bread

Many of us have already started baking bread at home to pass the time and go out less.

As fun and delicious baking fresh bread is, storing it without losing flavor can be a challenge. 

During these times, when we’re baking away at our homes, we wanted to share our best tips on how to store bread so that none of that deliciousness goes to waste.

In the past, bread was made using sourdough, which was made from the fermentation of flour, natural grains, herbs and natural yeasts. These components allow sourdough to retain its freshness longer than our homemade bread with baker’s yeast. So keeping it fresh and flavorful requires a little more care but can be very easy and rewarding to do.

For starters, once the bread is baked, it is crucial to wrap it in food-appropriate paper and make sure it retains the bread’s moisture. Usually, the best temperature to store bread is 18°C to 20°C. We recommend that you only keep out as much as you’re going to use and freeze the rest to prevent the risk of mold. You can defrost it quickly in the microwave or using the fan function of your oven for a fluffy bread taste at a moment’s notice.

Another tip we love is to keep bread sliced or as breadcrumbs to save up on space, time, and have portion control. So, if you have excess bread that’s gone stale, we recommend that you use it to make croutons or breadcrumbs as freezing it won’t bring any freshness back but toasting will.

Life after packaging: How to store packaged food

Packaged food usually comes with an expiration date but is traditionally best by a certain time. We can extend these periods by repackaging or sealing open food and items.

Aluminium foil, plastic wrap, and containers are fantastic savers when it comes to repackaging food at home for later use for most products. You can find out more about tips on the best ways to make use of them in our article here.

Milk and milk products, on the other hand, are a bit more tricky, and keeping it in the right storage conditions is crucial for health and flavour. Store the milk in the middle part of the fridge and not in the side door, where it risks getting hot every time you open the door.

Here are our favourite ways to avoid waste when it comes to milk products from how to store excess milk to what to do with that extra cheese that refuses to be finished.

Meat and Fish

Meat and fish storage requires the utmost attention. As Massimo Bottura says, chicken is the one to look out for since chicken meat can quickly go bad, in which case it presents a severe health hazard.

Nevertheless, our freshness allies, the fridge, and the freezer can be of massive assistance in keeping meat and fish fresh. Storing such food in the right sections of the refrigerator or freezer doesn’t only help with freshness but also helps with taste and nutrient levels.

As a rule of thumb, cooked food should never be kept in the same place as raw food. When it comes to storing raw meat, it is best to keep it to minimal time, such as a day or two, unless it is in the freezer.

Knowing how to make the most of our ingredients and allies in the kitchen is more important than ever these days for a happy, healthy kitchen. We are blessed to have bountiful earth offering endless flavours. Still, it is up to us to make the most of food through respecting what each ingredient needs to stay fresh.

You can read the first article of the series of Let’s Stay At Home with Massimo Bottura here.

Stay tuned for other tips from Massimo Bottura and our chefs on how to make the most of your ingredients and more.

Now more than ever, a better future starts at home.

Want to do more? Act now by supporting our community partner Food for Soul.