Holy f. How did I spend 12 bucks on grapes? Now that I have them, I sure don’t want the grapes to go bad before I finish them. How do I store my grapes – let alone my other groceries – to make them last?
I am a grownass woman who doesn’t know how to store grapes. So I talked to Stephanie Gall, registered dietitian and manager of nutrition and environmental services at Mercy Regional Medical Center, to find out how to properly store groceries.
What does everybody get wrong in food storage?What belongs in the refrigerator and what doesn’t, I think that’s a big thing ... Look at the way the grocery store presents everything, whether it is refrigerated or not, and I think that’s a good way to store it at home.
When should you use the fridge? The only time to refrigerate is when you want to extend shelf-life.
Say you’ve got a ripe avocado, you can give it an extra day or two by putting it in the fridge. For the most part, you don’t want to store them in there because it deteriorates the flavor and also impacts the other fruits and veggies around it. A lot of them give off gas. That gas will cause things to ripen or not ripen or go bad quicker.
All your greens are typically refrigerated. Onions, potatoes don’t have to be.
How can you store fresh herbs?I usually wrap mine in a wet paper towel or you can put it in a vase or glass of water. I think the worst thing you can do is open the drawer and throw it in. When you do that, the humidity impacts your whole refrigerator. Herbs are very high in humidity. You want to give them a space to be in their own humidity. In the drawer, all the humidity is going to leak out through the rest of the fridge. If you put them in a bag or wrap it in a paper towel and then put it in a bag, it makes it last about a week.
What about leafy greens? I wrap all of my greens, too. If I have kale or chard, I wrap that in a paper towel and put that end in the bag and then the leafy end is hanging out.
What about extending fruit life? I think berries are the hardest thing. When I get berries, I spray them with this mixture that is one part vinegar and three parts water, in a spray bottle. What that does is it kills the bacteria and mold that is on the outside. I then put them in the fridge. Mold is what kills off berries. Grapes are the same way. Once you bring them home, spray them down and put them in the back of the fridge and they should last longer.
Should you spray down all your fruit? I don’t necessarily spray down all of them. I wash them all before I use them. A lot of times the organic ones or the CSA or wherever you get your veggies, they tend to have bugs in them. If you’re getting organic, there’s going to be bugs in there. No getting around it. I wash everything. Even bagged lettuce that comes “pre-washed,” I would wash that, too.
Where does bread go?There are people on both sides of the fence here. I always keep my bread in the fridge. Once it is open and on the counter, it’s exposed to more of the mold and yeast that is in the air which makes mold grow on the bread. The counter is the perfect temperature and humidity for stuff to grow. If you put it in the fridge it slows all that down.
I didn’t eat all the veggies I cut, how do I store leftovers?When you cut vegetables, the more watery the vegetable the more you should consider putting it in water. Green peppers, red peppers, they’re pretty watery. So when you cut them you can put them in a container half filled with water and it will give them extra life.
Things like carrots are root vegetables. They’re pretty dry. You can cut those and just put them in a bag or container.
Are use-by dates a crock of s?Contradictory to what we learned growing up, you can use home groceries past the expiration date. People think: you get milk, it has a date, you can’t use it past the date. Which isn’t true. Use your milk till it smells weird or tastes weird. That is a good general rule, smell it, give it a taste.
A fruit or veggie is starting to go bad. Is the only option the trash?I have a progression. I have food that is in the fridge then I say, “OK, it is going bad, now it’s time to move it to the freezer.” I’ll freeze it with the intention to use it. Like if it is a fruit, I’ll use it in a smoothie or may bake it into a cobbler.
Veggies are the same way. Green beans, asparagus. Cut it up and get it ready and put it in the freezer. It works for most things. It doesn’t work well for potatoes.
What about herbs about to go bad? If I have herbs that are going bad, you can chop them up into fine pieces and freeze them in an ice cube tray. Freeze them in broth, or water, or butter, or just by themselves. You can do a pre-made cube or you can put it in a bag and take pinches out. You can keep those even into their “dead life,” so to speak, and use them still.
How long can you freeze stuff? Veggies are good in the freezer for one to two months. Once they get freezer burn, they’re probably done. It’s really important to get all of the air out of the bag. Put it in there, squish all the air out. All that extra air will burn it. It won’t taste as good and it will have poor quality.
What if you effed up and everything has freezer burn?[If] it is has freezer burn and you don’t want to get rid of it, put it in a soup. That’s a good place to use it.
What else can you freeze? I usually save my kitchen scraps. If I’m making a stir fry and I’m cutting up an onion – you can save the ends of the onions or just pieces that aren’t really great quality, like the ends of a green pepper that are round. You can save that in a bag and then add it to a soup to make a base or make a stock out of it. If you’re going to peel your carrots, freeze all those peels and put it in your stock.
Any other tips? Ziploc bags! I’m a big Ziploc fan. I use them to store a lot of things, like crackers, just so they don’t get stale.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer