Simple Green Guide to Storing Food Safely

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Storing food safely can be a real challenge, especially when busy moms buy fresh and raw foods in bulk to safe time and money, while juggling multiple tasks at once.

In order to choose the right storing method for the variety of foods you buy, it’s useful to divide them into food groups, even if it’s just a helpful guide for yourself. Most foods we buy on weekly basis are intended to be consumed within that time frame. However, if you buy certain foods in larger quantities or you realize you need to plan ahead, think these groups:

1. fresh fruits and veggies: refrigerate, freeze

2. dried fruit and nuts: air-tight containers, refrigerate, freeze

3. rice, grains and pasta: air-tight containers, refrigerate

4. milk, dairy and meats: refrigerate, freeze

5. ready meals: refrigerate, freeze

food storage, vegan food

1. Refrigerate in containers that are ready to go

Some fresh fruits and veggies, such as apples, grapes, carrots, broccoli can make for a great and healthy snack for your family or on-the-go. Small (sandwich size) Ziploc bags or durable plastic containers (look for BPA-free, especially for children) with tight-fitting lid can be very handy, especially when you are planning for snacks and school/work lunches for the whole week. Once you bring your groceries home, simply wash your produce well, let it air-dry to minimize wetness and divide them in appropriate portions into bags or containers. You can have them all ready-to-go in minutes, and it will save you time in the mornings or when in a rush. If you want to be more organized and keep your produce double-sealed, you can also label and store these mini-portions in a bigger container. When preparing school lunches and snacks, don’t forget to use portions your child will be able to finish or save for later, to prevent food waste.

2. Freeze it
You can freeze and thaw pretty much any food. What’s important, once you thaw it completely, it shouldn’t be refrozen. That goes especially for meats, soups or ready meals. While fruits and veggies are OK to be refrozen if they are not entirely soft, breads can be refrozen safely. In general, when freezing any food, you want to avoid frost bites, therefore look for air-tight containers or Ziploc bags, and always squeeze as much air out as possible. The less air, the better, therefore if you freeze a lot, a small vacuum sealer might come handy. Most frozen fruits can be served as a refreshing snack or a dessert as is, mixed with yogurt or you can blend them in minutes into delicious smoothies or soft-style fruit ice cream.  You can also freeze whole fruit such a strawberries or peeled bananas and turn them into healthy and delicious chocolate covered fruit pops.

3. Store in air-tight containers
Whether you store rice, grains, pasta or dried fruit, easy-to-use air-tight containers are your best friend. Not only will they preserve freshness, limit humidity but also pests from entering. You can choose from glass, plastic (again, opt for BPA-free) or metal, preferably stainless steel. They can be placed on your counter top, shelves or stored in cabinets or pantry. You can also use them to store fruit jams, olives, spreads and cheese and have them handy in your refrigerator.

If you are dealing with aggressive insects and rodents invading and destroying your food, opt for containers made of glass and stainless steel with tight-fitting lids, instead of plastic. If your refrigerator space allows, store the most vulnerable ones such as flour, cereal or pasta in the fridge instead of your pantry. Also remember, that you should never mix new food supply (such a rice, pasta, flour, cereal) with the old one, as insects might already be either in your home storage or the new package you bring home. Rather finish the last supply, inspect the container, wipe it clean and dry and then add your new supply. Dry legumes such as beans or lentils are less vulnerable to insects, but frequent inspection will reduce your chances of food waste as there might also be mold growing due to humidity.

Whichever food storage option works best for you, proper planning and regular inspection of your food supplies will not only help reducing your household food waste, but will also save you time and stress from last minute food planning.

Feel free to share you own experiences and advice in our comment box below!

healthy lunch box, vegan lunch box

Ready-to-go lunch box; photo courtesy of Melissa via Flickr

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