Whether you’re living on or off campus, being away from home brings a number of challenges to purchasing and consuming food. It takes a lot of practice to figure out how much you can realistically consume on your own, and maybe through experiencing countless bags of slimy salad and rotten bananas, you’ve found it easiest to stick to the frozen and pre-made meals. But not so fast! Don’t give up on perishable food just yet.
There are many ways we can all make changes to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. The most obvious behaviors that help keep food out of the trash include saving leftovers, weekly meal planning and greater awareness of shelf life while shopping.
Through trial and error (and some research) I have discovered a few ways to keep some semblance of a fresh, balanced diet by being able to better preserve my food. Here are 10 tips for 10 popular foods to keep in mind when storing:
1. BANANAS: Keep them at room temperature until they ripen to your preferred color, then place them in the refrigerator to impede further ripening. The peel will turn darker, but the banana itself will be okay to eat. Over-ripened bananas are great to freeze. Simply peel overly ripe bananas and place in a plastic bag for freezing. Use in smoothies or baking.
2. GREENS: For harder greens such as kales, collards, and swiss chard, place the ends upright in a glass of water with a loose bag over the leafy portion. This also works for herbs. For lettuce and spinach, a folded paper towel in the packaging will help absorb condensation and keep salad greens from becoming slimy.
3. BERRIES: The best way to extend the life of the most expensive (and tastiest) fruit is to splash them with vinegar before placing them in the fridge. Use a ratio of approximately 1 cup of water to 3 cups of vinegar. This will help prevent the fuzzy mold from forming.
4. CELERY, CARROTS, RADISHES: Preserve the crunch by chopping or slicing these harder vegetables up and placing them in a sealed plastic container of water.
5. FRUIT: Not many people know that apples should be kept AWAY from other fruits. Apples give off ethylene, which is great for keeping potatoes firm but not for other produce.
6. TOMATOES: Do not refrigerate! The cold kills the flavor and stops tomatoes from fully ripening.
7. MUSHROOMS: Take them out of their original packaging and place in a brown paper bag. Their usual plastic tubs are moisture havens and allow for mushrooms to last maybe a day when opened.
8. AVOCADOS: Knowing when an avocado is ripe is important to getting the most use out of the fruit. Ripe avocadoes should be soft to the touch—not squishy—and you should be able to see green under the small stem at the top. Keep ripening avocadoes out of the fridge until ripe and then inside the fridge until ready to eat. Once cut, make sure to leave the pit, or stone in the remaining portion and add a bit of citrus juice to keep them from browning.
9. BREAD: Keep the portion you plan to eat (maybe half the loaf, a few rolls, etc.) in the fridge and freeze the rest! Frozen slices of toast will unfreeze in a toaster oven nicely. If you happen to have stale bread, try making homemade croutons.
10. CHEESE: This is a tough food group. Different cheeses do better with certain methods of storing. The general consensus is that plastic wrap results in flavor suffocation. Most agree that cheese paper, or wax paper is a better way to preserve taste. Cheese is best kept in warmer parts of the fridge such as a cheese drawer if you have one, or the vegetable drawer.