By Jackie Teale
We all know how expensive food is to purchase these days and with family budgets being squeezed from all directions very few people can afford to waste any. However many food agencies report that the average family will throw away the best part of 680 worth of food each year!
The responsibility to reduce food wastage should be everyone's concern and with a little more thought on what we actually need and purchase, could help to cut down the amount of food thrown away.
Fresh produce is probably the most common of the foods that is thrown away and it's up to the consumer (that's us) to take action, not only from an environmental point of view, but to also reduce our own weekly or monthly food bill by being more aware of what fresh food we buy, that may without careful thought go to waste if not used in time.
Remember fresh food is perishable, so instead of letting it rot or be thrown away here are 5 simple tips to follow that could help keep your food fresh a while longer and help reduce the amount of wastage.
1. Plan Your Weekly Grocery Shop
Before you start your grocery shop, firstly plan the meals you intend to cook for the forthcoming week. This means you should only buy what you need and not be tempted to buy everything you see on the supermarket shelves.
Don't buy based on cheap prices, because if you have no where to store them, whether that's your fridge or a store cupboard the chances are they will go to waste.
The majority of fresh vegetables can usually be stored from 2 to 3 days, with the exception of root vegetables which can be anything from one week to several weeks depending where and how they are kept.
2. Storing Incompatible Foods
The title of this particular tip may sound a bit strange to some, but storing fruit and vegetables together can be problem because they are incompatible with each.
Both fruit and vegetables give off a gas called Ethylene after they are picked. This particular gas is harmless, tasteless and odourless. Storing these two together in a confined space will speed up the ripening of the more sensitive vegetable.
A plus point though if you need a vegetable to ripen early, just store it with some fruit and it will quicken the process. Otherwise make sure that they are separated whether it's in a fridge or store cupboard.
3. Understanding Your Fridge
Storing vegetables in the fridge will ensure that they keep fresh and last longer because the cold environment will slow down the decaying process.
A word of caution here though, there are some exceptions to this, especially potatoes, they will quickly darken and their starch content turns to sugar resulting in a unpleasant taste when cooked. Depending who you believe onions are another root vegetable which is best left out of the fridge, although the opinion is divided among many people. It's probably true to say they may last a little longer in the fridge but unless they are used in a very short space of time, they will lose their crispness and go soft.
When storing your vegetables in the fridge the best place for them is in the crisper drawer where there is high humidity. Most fridges will have either a fresh drawer or a crisper drawer. There is a slight difference between them and can be somewhat confusing, and if you're not careful it can lead to your food being wasted because it hasn't been properly stored.
A fresh drawer is primarily used to store food at a low temperature without actually freezing them, whereas a crisper drawer will help those foods with a high moisture content keep fresh for longer.
4. The Best Places to Store Your Vegetables
There are many differing ideas and thoughts about where the best places are to store your vegetables. It could be the cupboard or pantry, the fridge shelves or crisper and even left on the side in the kitchen. To be fair we all have our own views depending on what has worked for us in the past. I've listed below a small cross-section of vegetables to give you some sort of idea where I store them. Please remember this is way I store them and it's certainly NOT the be all and end all.
Potatoes - Kitchen pantry/cupboard (away from direct sunlight)
Onions - Kitchen pantry/cupboard (please note - keep separated from Potatoes)
Carrots - Crisper drawer
Cabbage - Crisper drawer
Cucumber - Fridge shelf
Tomatoes - Fridge shelf
Broccoli - Crisper drawer
Mushrooms - Crisper drawer
Freezing is probably the convenient, easiest, quickest and perhaps the most versatile way of preserving foods. If the foods are frozen properly there is little likelihood of them losing any of their original texture, flavour or colour.
The best time to freeze vegetables is when they are fresh from being picked from the garden, however if that's not possible then store them in the fridge first until you have time to prepare them for freezing.
Not all vegetables freeze well, so it's worth doing a bit of research before you start preparing any foods for freezing.
Jackie Teale has a love and passion for home cooking, and over a number of years has helped many beginners and novices learn the basics of cooking.
Find out more about her home cooking tips, techniques and recipes by visiting http://www.homecookingnotes.com
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