Food waste is a massive problem in Ireland, so in response to this, we’ve decided to create a series where we try to raise awareness about this issue. We’ll also be talking about our own personal responsibility to try to reduce food waste at home, and we’ll be offering you some help and ideas for how you can minimise the food waste in your life.
The first part of this series talked about meal planning, prepping and making shopping lists. Today’s feature will deal with food storage, which we feel is key to making sure that the food you buy stays fresh and you don’t have to throw it away before you can use it!
Using your fridge
If you followed our guide from last week, then hopefully your fridge isn’t too packed! Your fridge should be where you keep all your dairy, fresh meat and certain vegetables but there are some things that you shouldn’t refrigerate:
- Bread, as it will go stale faster so store it in a bread bin
- Onions, ginger and garlic can turn rancid in the fridge
- Tomatoes will lose their flavour in the fridge- this goes for berries too
- Eggs- In the US eggs are washed before sale, removing their antibacterical coating, so they need to be stored in the fridge if you’re reading this Stateside. However, eggs in Ireland (and the rest of the EU) aren’t washed so their coating is kept intact and you can store them at room temperature.
Even though cheese from the supermarket often comes wrapped in plastic, it’s best not to store it that way as is suffocates the cheese and can transfer the flavour of the plastic to the cheese. Cheese paper is the best thing for your favourite dairy, but if you can’t get your hands on it, then wrap your cheese in parchment paper. This will allow the cheese to breathe, but won’t dry it out.
In terms of fridge layout, you should never keep your milk in the door as it is actually the warmest part of your fridge. This is a good spot for jams and jars, as they don’t require extremely cool temperatures.
Use your vegetable drawer to store salad leaves. Give them a good wash then store them in a box lined with kitchen paper and cover with a lid, as this should make them last longer than keeping them in the plastic bag they’re sold in.
The shelf above your vegetable drawer (ie. the bottom shelf) should be used for meat, fish and poultry. To make sure nothing drips down onto your vegetable drawer, place a cutting board on the shelf or store the meat on a plate.
Ice ice baby
From last week’s guide, you’ll know that we’re big advocates of utilising your freezer, as it’s a great way to store food you’ve batch-cooked as part of your meal plan. However, it’s important to make sure you get the most out of your food, so make sure to store everything correctly: see-through containers are good so that you know what’s in the freezer and we’re big advocates of labelling everything you freeze, so you know what it is and when it was frozen.
If you have raw meat and poultry in your fridge that you think you won’t use before it goes bad, then freeze in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the freezer – make sure to thoroughly defrost before using.
You can also freeze fruit and veg, which is great for juices and smoothies. You can add the frozen fruit and veg straight to your blender, but make sure to peel your bananas before you freeze them!
If you think you’re not going to get through a whole loaf of bread before it goes stale, freeze it in individual portions (one or two slices) so that you can defrost as much as you need.
Another handy tip for freezing food is to portion it out before you add it to the freezer, that way you don’t have to defrost too much and throw out what you don’t need. Things like pesto, tomato purée and stock can be frozen in individual scoops or ziplock bags. Another great tip is to freeze fresh herbs in an ice tray with oil. It’s sort of like making little flavour boosters, as you can pop them out individually and add to whatever you think needs a punch of fresh herbs.
Read more: Coconut and chard energy juice
Keeping food at room temperature- watch out for the danger zone!
At room temperature, it will take about two hours for bacteria to start multiplying in your food, but it’s best not to keep it out for that long. The food temperature danger zone is between 5°C-63°C, so it’s best to keep food out of this range or your run the risk of falling ill.
We wouldn’t recommend putting really hot food, like soup, directly into your fridge to chill as it may affect the fridge temperature, causing other foods to warm up to a dangerous level. However it is a good idea to get food into the fridge as soon as possible. Try storing foods in layers no more than 2 inches deep to cool them as quickly as possible, then get it into the fridge ASAP.
Keep your eye on the website next week for the third part in this series.