Fresh thinking! How to store groceries to make them last longer

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Dibiesse SpA KitchenStorage
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We’ve all experienced that brainwave of “I need to live healthy!”, which is usually followed by a Googling of healthy recipes and a trip to the store for a great big dose of fruits and veggies. Fast-forward to a week or two later, where you open your fridge and discover your new greens looking shrivelled, rotten and forgotten. 

With summer already in full swing, a lot of us are looking to keep up the healthy exercising- and eating habits. But to avoid a trip to the grocer every 2nd day, it’s important to know where to store fresh produce, reaping all the health benefits possible. 

For example, did you know that some fruits give off ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening and rotting of other fruit? It would obviously be wise to store these separately. And what about other groceries, like milk and bread – how do we prolong their shelf life?

For fresh fruit

Ethylene-producing (EP), Ethylene-sensitive (ES)  

•    Apples (EP): Store away from other produce (on the counter for up to a week or in the fridge for more than a week). 

• Avocados (EP): Ripen on the counter, then store in the refrigerator. 

• Bananas: Let green bananas ripen on the counter or a banana hanger. 

• Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries should not be washed until ready to eat. Refrigerate in dry, covered containers. 

• Cherries & grapes: Store in refrigerator, unwashed, in their packaged plastic containers or plastic bags until ready to wash and eat.  

• Citrus fruit: Refrigerate clementines, grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges in the crisper drawer or in a mesh bag.  

• Melons: Store pre-cut cantaloupe and honeydew loose in the refrigerator, as well as cut melon. Watermelon can be kept in a dark, dry place away from other produce.  

• Pears (EP): Store at room temperature until ripe, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate. 

• Stone fruit: Allow nectarines (EP), peaches (EP) and plums (EP) to ripen in a paper bag on the counter, then move to the refrigerator for a few more days.  

• Tomatoes (EP & ES): Keep loose in a bowl at room temperature, away from sun or heat (like the stove). The refrigerator will make them rot quickly.a

Better veggies

Ethylene-producing (EP), Ethylene-sensitive (ES)  

Best kept in the refrigerator

• Broccoli (ES) & cauliflower (in separate drawers away from other produce). 

• Celery. 

• Corn (inside their husks). 

• Green beans (ES). 

• Leafy green vegetables (ES) (such as lettuce and spinach). 

• Mushrooms (unwashed, as moisture makes them slimy). 

• Root vegetables: Carrots (ES), beets and radishes in the refrigerator; potatoes (ES), sweet potatoes and winter squashes in a cool, dark and dry place, like your pantry. 

Store at room temperature

• Cucumbers (ES), eggplants (ES) and peppers (can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days if they are used soon after removal from the refrigerator). 

• Onion family (keep separate from other foods because of their strong odours). 

In the spirit of good storage, check out: 8 Ways To Stylishly Organise Your Pantry.

​For the best bread

Unfortunately, the quality of bread starts to diminish the moment it comes out of the oven. But whether it’s homemade, bought from the grocery store or bakery, you have several options to preserve its shelf life.  

Bread goes stale much faster in the fridge than it does in other environments (it only delays the development of mould). The freezer is your safest bet for prolonged storage, as the freezing temperatures arrest the starch retrogradation (the chemical change responsible for stale bread). Freeze your bread as soon as possible after baking and cooling, and consume it equally fast after thawing. Just remember to properly wrap it in plastic first. 

Room temperature will help to maintain the proper crumb- and crust texture of your bread, should you wrap it properly. Use a plastic bag for store-bought loaves or other bread with similarly tender crusts, but switch to paper bags (as they are sold at the bakery) for the hard-crusted ones.

More marvellous meat and fish

Uncured raw meat lasts safely in the fridge for about three days. Should you plan to keep it any longer, rather opt for the freezer. Seal the meat in an airtight package, which you can then keep frozen for several months.  

Your freezer should be kept close to -18°C to keep the food fresh and retain nutrients. Refrigerators should be around 1—2°C (just above freezing) to effectively extend the shelf life of foods. 

homify hint: If you notice any rotten produce, compost it immediately before it starts to spoil the rest of the produce.

Where to leave those leftovers

Don’t keep your leftovers for longer than 3 – 4 days in the fridge, as the risk of food poisoning will increase. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat them within that time, rather freeze them immediately. 

When you’re ready to eat the leftovers, reheat them on the stove, oven or microwave until the temperature reaches 74°C. Slow cookers and chafing dishes are not recommended for reheating, as they may not get hot enough. 

homify hint: Buy only what you need. To refrain from going to the store more frequently, plan out your meals ahead of time.

Keep your dairies delicious

Store your milk and other dairy products in the fridge below 4°C, but don’t keep your milk in the refrigerator door – that is where it is most vulnerable to warmer air from opening and closing the door. It is best to discard all kinds of milk after one week of opening, regardless of the “sell by” date. 

The freezer will keep your ice cream fresh for 2—4 months, as the severe cold will significantly slow down the bacterial growth. 

Hard cheese (such as Cheddar, Gouda and Swiss) can last 3—4 weeks in the fridge if tightly wrapped. 

Yogurt should be consumed 7 – 10 days after being bought, but be sure to check the “sell by” date on the carton. 

Whether it’s for fruit, popcorn, or your bowl of morning cereal, take a look at some creative options that the professionals of Uberstar have come up with.

What to do with wine

No, you don’t need an enormous cellar for your vintage Bordeaux. But you do need a storage space that is cool, but not cold (7—18°C); has the right humidity level (50 – 80%), and relatively dark. 

Wine should be stored in an area that is cool, but not cold (45-65 degrees Fahrenheit); humid, but not too humid (50-80% humidity); and relatively dark (too much sunlight can cause the wine to age too soon).

This applies if you’re planning to store wine anywhere from a few days to two years. If you’ve invested in bottles that you plan to keep for several years, wine professionals recommend investing in a professional storage system. 

homify hint: Storing a wine bottle on its side allows the wine to come in contact with the cork, thus preventing the cork from drying out. Bottles with screw tops or plastic corks, as well as sparkling wines (where corks are kept moist due to the bottle pressure), can be stored vertically.

And now you know! What other tips can you add to keep your freshly-bought food fresher for longer? 

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