In Springfield, food waste is the second largest component of our collective waste stream, accounting for over 12% of the waste that makes it to the landfill every day. That’s over 31,000 tons of food every year.
Simple adjustments in the way we store our food has the potential to impact our collective waste stream and reduce the tonnage of food sent to our landfill, not to mention the potential impact it could have on yearly grocery costs.
Understanding your fridge is a good first step in prolonging the life of your produce, meats and dairy items. It’s always nice to have a full fridge, but be aware that a fridge works properly when it has space for cold air to circulate. Use these tips to help you get the most out of both your food and your dollar:
These shelves are closer to the lights and thus, slightly warmer than the lower shelves.
Store items here that don’t have a high safety risk (dips, sauces, drinks and yogurt) or leftovers that will be eaten soon.
The middle shelves are ideal for eggs and dairy items, such as cheese and milk.
These shelves are the coldest in the fridge. Higher risk foods, such as meat, poultry and fish should be placed on the lowest shelf.
You should always store meat in trays to collect and prevent drippings.
Crisper Drawers (High & Low Humidity)
The drawers located in the bottom of the fridge are generally adjustable. These can be set for either high or low humidity levels - which depends on the food placed in the drawer.
High Humidity (closed level - less air circulation)
Leafy greens and most vegetables (carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) should be placed in this drawer.
Low Humidity (open level - increased air circulation)
Fruits, mushrooms, peppers and avocados are examples of produce that should be placed in this drawer.
This is the warmest part of the fridge, because it is open every time the fridge is used.
Much like the top shelf, the door is ideal for dips, sauces, condiments and any item that is moderately perishable. If an egg compartment is present, it is not ideal to use for eggs.
EXPIRATION DATES - a guide, not a rule!
Expiration, best-by, sell-by or use-by dates appear like an indicator for how edible a food remains to be. However, they are only a guide for the grocer and consumer that should not be used as an actual indication of how good a food remains.
- Best If Used By/Before
Indicates estimated best flavor quality. It is NOT a safety date.
- Sell By Date
This tells the grocer or retailer how long to display a product for inventory purposes, not for quality or edibility of food.
- Use By Date
This is the last recommended date for peak ingredient quality use. Not a safety date.
Infant formula is the one exception when following these dates.
It could go bad well after or even well before the date listed. The best rule is to trust your eyes and nose over the date listed.
Still not confident, try these practices to get a better indicator on the health of your food:
- Not sure about your eggs, give them the float test. If they sink, they are good to eat. If they float, it’s time to go. (Remember, eggshells can be added to your compost!)
- Milk will sour in smell and curdle when it is bad. This can happen a week before the printed date or even weeks after. Always sniff and if it is bad, put it in the trash instead of the sink.
PRODUCE PULSE - food specific tips
All food was created different and thus, storage is not as simple as placing all vegetables in a fridge drawer or all fruits in a basket on the counter. Use these tips to help you stretch the life of your fruits, veggies, bread and more:
Can be stored for up to 7 days on the counter, then move them to the refrigerator in a bag. Keep them away from bananas and avocados as they can speed ripening.
The ends should be trimmed and placed in a jar or glass with 1-2 inches of water (like fresh flowers). Keep them in the refrigerator.
You can also wrap the cut ends in moist paper towel and store them in a loose plastic bag.
Allow green, unripe avocados to ripen on the counter, then transfer to the refrigerator. Once cut, keep the pit in and rub with lemon or oil to reduce browning.
To speed up ripening, place in a paper bag with an apple.
To avoid from browning too quickly, break them up from the bunch and separate. Don’t store bananas with apples which will speed up ripening. If the stems came wrapped or covered in plastic wrap, don’t remove the plastic until ready to eat as this will slow down the release of ethylene gas.
Keep fresh by placing on a paper towel in a sealed container to absorb excess moisture and reduce the potential of molding.
Do not store in the fridge, instead store in a breadbox to avoid from drying out.
Limp carrots can be brought back to life by placing them in ice water until crisp.
Cut carrots can be stored in jars filled with water to keep fresh, crisp and easy to carry.
Cut celery can be stored in jars filled with water to keep fresh, crisp and easy to carry.
Cilantro and other fresh herbs
Store in a jar with 1-2 inches of water (like fresh flowers) and cover with a bag to retain moisture for up to two weeks in the fridge.
Roll unwashed lettuce in a dry towel, then store in a sealed bag in the refrigerator. To bring wilted lettuce back to life, soak the leaves in an ice water bath for up to a half an hour.
Keep raw mushrooms in a brown paper bag or a porous container in the fridge to extend shelf life (4-7 days for whole mushrooms and 1-2 days for sliced). Plastic bags and sealed containers should be avoided as the lack of air flow will speed up spoilage.
Oranges and other citrus
Refrigerate in a bag for up to three weeks. One week if unrefrigerated. Citrus can also be frozen for use at a later date.
Store with apples to avoid early sprouting. Keep away from onions, which will cause them to sprout. Moisture and exposure to light will cause potatoes to spoil, so store in a cool, dry and dark location for best shelf life.
If possible, purchase on the vine as this will prolong their life. Store on the counter, vine side down. Only store in the fridge once they are fully ripe. Keep tomatoes away from other fruits to avoid over ripening. To speed up the ripening process, store in a paper bag with an apple.
Just because the expiration date is past or the produce is browning doesn’t mean it is no longer edible and can no longer be used. Feel free to save those scraps and pull out the aging milk and produce to make something tasty.
Save time and money by using past their prime ingredients in one of our recipes!