Health Habits: Making Your Food Last Longer

To protect ourselves from the Corona outbreak, we most likely went to the store several times to stock up for self-quarantine.  Each household should have enough food to last about 2 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Food supplies dwindled fast, causing people to overload or opt for alternates.  Regardless, food mustn’t go to waste.    Before the pandemic, 40% of the food in an American household went to waste. Keeping track of food inventory and learning how to prioritize food will help reduce food waste.  

Professional kitchens follow the “FIFO” rule, which means First In, First Out.  Follow FIFO by placing older food in front of the refrigerator or pantry and newer purchases behind.  Make your food last by instilling this practice in your kitchen.  Take this a step further by placing fresh fruit and vegetables in easy to reach places, such as the front of the crispers. Place milk, dairy products, and items with the nearest expiration date at the front of the refrigerator.  FIFO requires a little more work and organization, but it is easier for the pocketbook.  

Eat fresh produce first and learn how to store produce properly.  Fresh fruit and vegetables can be stored in the refrigerator or on the counter.  Understanding food science will help determine the best place to store them.  Apples, for instance, can be stored in the fridge or out on the counter.  They’re ethylene gas producers, causing other produce around them to ripen faster.  Apples last longer than a week when placed in the refrigerator.  Berries, cherries, and grapes should be stored in the refrigerator, unwashed and dry.  Wash them before you eat them.  Tomatoes should always be stored on the counter, away from heat, because the fridge will turn them pithy.  Anything in the onion family should be stored in a cool, dark space away from everything else because their odors may be absorbed. 

Understand food labels such as “Sell By” or “Use By”.  Sell By dates are placed on perishable products, recommending when retailers should sell or remove a product from the shelf.  This does not indicate that it has expired.  Expiration dates indicate that a product should no longer be used.  Use by date is aimed at consumers as a guideline for quality.  The item won’t necessarily make one sick if consumed, but quality decreases. Understanding food labels will help determine what to use first and reduce waste. 

After you’ve used your fresh produce and proteins, use what is in the freezer.  Date everything in the freezer and follow the FIFO rule. Pantry items last the longest, so they can be used last when you need to prioritize. The FoodKeeper app is a great tool to use to understand food storage and maximize quality and freshness.  Have fun where you can; gather the things that are soon to expire and see how creative you can get! 

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