Proper Food Storage: Save Money

October 12, 2011

Proper food storage can maximize the possibilities for foods, ie: they wont go bad before you use them. Find out how to store your groceries here

Once we get our groceries home, many of us have a certain routine or a specific way of storing the newly purchased items. But what we don’t realize is that some of our food storage habits may be affecting the shelf life of our foods, and on top of that are wasting us money! Below is a list of eight different grocery items that can be significantly affected by improper storage.

Breakfast Cereals and Snack Foods:
To get the most taste (and nutrients) for your buck and actually finish your tasty snacks without them going stale, store opened snacks and cereals in zip lock bags. Never store cereals in the refrigerator as moisture and odors from other food are easily absorbed. It's also important to wrap cereals and snacks tightly to avoid insect infestation, especially in warm damp environments.

It is important not to refrigerate or freeze the coffee you consume on a regular basis. Contact with moisture trapped in the refrigerator or freezer will cause the coffee, especially ground beans, to deteriorate. Instead, store coffee in an airtight glass or ceramic container and keep it in a convenient, dark and cool location. A cabinet near the oven or stove is too warm. Coffee begins to lose its freshness almost immediately after roasting, so it’s better to purchase in smaller quantities. A one to two week supply is a good amount. And because exposure to air is your coffee's worst enemy, it’s a good idea to divide your coffee supply into several smaller portions, keeping the larger, unused portion in an air-tight container.

Cooking Oils:
Most oils can be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, away from the oven and stove. Unopened oil lasts about 6 months, once opened use oils within 3 months. Refined oils high in monounsaturated fats like, macadamia nut, sesame and grapeseed oil, can keep their flavor and consistency for a year if kept in the refrigerator. Those high in polyunsaturated fats like, sunflower and hemp oil, should last about six months in the refrigerator. Extra virgin and virgin oils can keep their freshness for about a year and do not need refrigeration.

Garlic and Onions:
Store fresh garlic and onions in an uncovered, or loosely covered container. Keep in a cool dark place away from heat and bright light. Onions can be placed in a wire hanging basket or a perforated bowl so that air can circulate. Storing garlic and onions this way will help minimize their respiration rate and they will keep fresher longer. Do not refrigerate fresh garlic, the moisture in the refrigerator will cause it to spoil, soften, and sprout. If your garlic has sprouted or contains overripe cloves, remove both as they will cause increased respiration and will produce a bitter taste.

Leafy Green Veggies:
Leafy greens are especially sensitive to temperature, exposure to light and time from harvest. For example, spinach stored at room temperature loses between 50 and 90 percent of its vitamin C within one day of harvest. Time and exposure to light are also big ‘nutrient killers;’ light destroys folic acid, while vitamin C, E, and the B vitamins are sensitive to time. Produce that is picked green in order to survive long distance transport contains far less of these vital nutrients as compared to fresh-locally picked produce. If you’re lucky to have a farmers' market near by or a supermarket that stocks locally grown produce, choose local and in season over its ‘well’ traveled counterparts.

Nuts and Seeds:
Due to their high oil content, nuts are prone to spoilage, especially if stored improperly. Whether in the shell or shelled, store nuts in opaque, airtight container in a cool, dry place. The opacity protects from light, and the tight seal reduces the absorption of moisture and odors. Proper storage not only maintains freshness but also retains nutritional value. If you have purchased nuts in bulk and you need to store the excess, nuts can be stored in the fridge or freezer to help prevent them from going rancid. Stale nuts will look shriveled and have an off taste. Most varieties of nuts will keep for about four months in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer. Properly stored shelled nuts will last only a few weeks when kept at room temperature, while nuts still in the shell should last about four months. Nuts in sealed jars or cans will last about three months… and then it’s time to crack them open.

Spices and Herbs:
To preserve freshness and nutrients store both ground and whole spices (and tea) in tightly sealed, glass containers, in a cool, dark and dry place; not above your stove, or next to your oven! Ground spices and herbs will keep for about 6 months. Whole spices and herbs will stay fresh for about one year if stored the same way. You can extend the shelf life and flavor of spices and herbs by storing them in the refrigerator.

Most re-corked, leftover bottles of red or white wine can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days without compromising flavor (the exception is very aged reds or those with high tannins). Just take the red wine out of the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature before drinking. A tightly corked leftover bottle of Champagne/sparkling wine can also be kept fresh in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days – but be sure to not only re-cork it securely, but also wrap a double thick plastic wrap over the cork and secure with a rubber band to keep it from accidentally popping!