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Top Tips! Store Better, Spend Less!

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Looking for smart ways to keep your fruit and vegetables fresher for longer? Here are a few useful hacks.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF Pexels

How annoying is it when, only a few days after you’ve been to the supermarket, you find yourself throwing out half the things you bought? As you toss mushy cucumbers, wilted lettuce and mouldy berries, you can’t help but think about all the money you’ve wasted, particularly these days when you’re spending double on organic and/ or locally grown produce. Here are some storage solutions to extend the shelf life of all that quality fruit and veg.

Let’s start with a weird hack to pique your interest. Did you know you can make onions last up to eight months by storing them in nylon stockings? Yes, that’s right. Put your onions in pantyhose and tie knots between each one, then hang them. This is a neat trick because it means you only have to buy onions when they are in season – you can buy them when they are best and save them – and you get some interesting ‘wall art’ thrown in as a bonus.

STICK IT IN THE FREEZER
Here’s another useful hack: Instead of watching your fresh herbs dry out in the fridge, freeze them in ice cube trays with water, olive oil or butter, depending on how you plan to use the herbs in the future. This works best with fresh thyme, sage, rosemary or oregano. The freezer is also the best place to keep your fresh ginger.

Not only does keeping ginger in the freezer make it last longer, it also makes it easier to work with. Frozen ginger doesn’t need to be peeled because it grates so fine. A storage solution for spring onions? After washing and chopping your spring onions, remove any excess moisture and put them in a dry water bottle. Close the water bottle and stick it in the freezer. Frozen in this way, green onions will last for a month or more without getting freezer burn.

WINNING COMBINATIONS

Too often fresh berries turn mushy and mouldy if they aren’t eaten right away, and these too can be stored in the freezer – or combined with vinegar.

Yes, that’s right. To keep your berries fresh for around two weeks, swirl them in a mixture of one-part white vinegar and 10-parts water, then simply drain, rinse and refrigerate. The water dilutes the vinegar, so you won’t taste it.

Another winning combination? Apples and potatoes. Apples produce ethylene gas on ripening which not only encourages other fruits to ripen more quickly but also helps keep potatoes from sprouting. A word about ethylene gas. Most fruit produces it, and it accelerates the ripening process of other fruit and vegetables that happen to be nearby. While you might sometimes want your fruit to ripen faster, that isn’t the case with vegetables. With vegetables, ripening means spoilage, so you need to store them away from your fruit.

If your fridge has two crisper drawers, reserve one for vegetables and the other for fruit.

And a tip for storing potatoes. The trick is to find a dark, dry place where the potatoes aren’t exposed to moisture. (You will know there is too much light if the potatoes turn green). Ventilated baskets are ideal for storing potatoes of all kinds – yams and sweet potatoes too.

JUST ADD WATER
Did you know that placing asparagus in water can extend its shelf life? First, slice the asparagus, then put it a sealed plastic bag. This will keep the asparagus fresh for up to a week, as long as you remember to change the water every day. This hack works for celery and some fresh herbs (parsley, coriander and basil) as well. Likewise, when you buy carrots, put them in water after removing the green stems. Change the water every four or five days. This hack also works for whole baby carrots.

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NEAT TRICKS
We all know that avocados turn brown quickly when exposed to the air, and that brushing the flesh with lemon juice helps prevent this. Storing cut avocado with an onion also helps keep it fresh and green, as does leaving the pit in.

Find yourself continually throwing away parts of lemons that have gone hard in the fridge? One solution: When you slice a lemon, don’t throw away the ends; use a toothpick to secure the end back onto the half you want to keep. You can also freeze lemon wedges to use as ice in drinks.

And how about cucumbers? The secret to keeping them fresh is to store them on the countertop, where they can stay at room temperature. Usually, whichever way you buy fruit and vegetables is how you should store them. Cucumbers aren’t refrigerated at Wellcome, so you shouldn’t store them in the fridge at home.

Likewise oily herbs, like thyme, should be loosely tied together and hung in the open air rather than refrigerated. This will help them last longer, and make your kitchen smell delicious.

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SAY NO TO PLASTIC
The best way to store tomatoes? Place them stem-side down in a paper bag and refrigerate. Tomatoes should never go in plastic bags because the trapped ethylene gas causes them to over-ripen. The same goes for mushrooms – store them in a paper bag in the fridge rather than in a plastic bag. The reason for this is that mushrooms have a high water content, and as that water evaporates, it gets trapped in a plastic bag. A paper bag lets the mushrooms breathe, meaning they won’t get slimy.

Want to know how to keep your lettuce, mixed greens, spinach or kale crisp after you’ve opened the bag? Line a storage container with paper towels and throw your leafy greens inside without packing them in too tightly. The paper towel absorbs excess moisture, meaning they will last for an entire week. Leaves also benefits from air circulation, so another way to keep them from going soggy, is to wash them, spin them dry, and then store them in a perforated container (like a colander) in the fridge.

Beeswax food wrap, an eco-friendly alternative to aluminium foil, is also your friend when it comes to vegetable storage. Wrapping stalks of celery, broccoli and cauliflower in beeswax wrap and storing them in the fridge will keep them fresh and crisp for up to four weeks.

Placing beeswax wrap around the tops of bananas will
keep them fresh for three to five days.

We hope these simple hacks help you store better and spend less! Other options for long-term fruit and vegetable storage include canning, pickling and drying. Watch this space!

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