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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Love eating healthy? Your food storage made easy

Healthy cooking and eating has long been getting a lot of our attention.  How can you tell? Search engines and social
love healthy eating?  your food strage mae easy
media will real in a vast array of ideas and recipes.   But how about a search for storing and keeping nutrient rich foods like herbs, fruit, vegetables, cheeses or even a healthy main dish fresh longer?  Not so much....even though keeping food fresh longer is relatively simple to do and offers so many benefits for you and the planet, including the following:
  • Having a selection of fresh foods at your fingertips can add convenience to your home.  Imagine fewer trips to the grocery and more options for healthy eating at your fingertips, for starters.  How can you do this? By keeping produce such as bananas, strawberries, celery, lettuce and other foods fresh until your next trip to the store or until you use them.
  • Keeping food fresh longer can save you money.  In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council the average family of four in the United States will waste about 25% of the food they buy.  What can this mean to the family budget?  Try anywhere from $1,365 to $2,275 per year.
  • Reducing food waste can help the environment.  Keeping food fresh longer can reduce food waste.  Per the EPA, in 2010 we generated more than 33 million tons of food waste, which was also the largest component of solid waste reaching our landfills.  Why is this a problem? As food decomposes in landfills it generates methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.  The EPA estimates that landfills generate 20% of all methane emissions.

So what are our tips for storing healthy foods?

You've heard us say this before, buy your food as fresh as possible.  Do look at 'sell by', 'use by' and expiration dates on all packaged foods.  Do check produce for freshness and damage - look for mold, bruising, wilting or any other signs that your fruits and vegetables may not be as fresh as it could be.  If you are uncertain about any food, check with the retailer selling it.

Know where you are going to store foods once you bring them home.  Organizing your food is one of the easiest ways to find it quickly and keep it fresh.  Here's how we organize our food:
  • Pantry - we use this for bulk foods, canned goods and anything else we won't be using within the next one to two weeks.
  • Kitchen cabinets - we store what we will be using for meals this week along with foods we frequently use, such as spices, oils, flour, sugar and other baking ingredients. 
  • Kitchen counter - we have a space designated on our counter for storing fruits and snacks that should not be refrigerated, like apples and bananas.  Added bonus?  This practice encourages everyone to enjoy those healthy foods before they grab candy or cookies.
  • Refrigerator - for us, all foods that must be kept refrigerated and those that we will be eating within the next two to three days are refrigerated.  If you're not sure which foods should be placed in the refrigerator or how long they can safely be stored there, try this fridge chart from the FDA.
  • Freezer - if it can be frozen, we freeze it.  If you don't have a large freezer, consider investing in one.  Freezers are invaluable for keeping food fresh longer, come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit any budget and they easily pay for themselves quickly.  In addition to keeping frozen foods, freezers can also store foods such as flour, butter, cheese, leftovers and some produce much, much longer than refrigeration.  Need an example for produce? Try this tip! Chop and freeze leftover onions on a cookie sheet.  Once frozen, store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer until needed.  When a recipe calls for onions, you have a ready supply of onion without all of the mess and tears needed to chop them.
Use reusable, durable and BPA free food storage containers, bags and wraps.  Why?  They are safe for storing food, can minimize clutter in the kitchen, save you money and save space.  The goal is to have what you need on hand for any food storage need, including when that need spikes while entertaining or during the holidays.  Need some examples?
  • Reusable food, sandwich and bread wraps - naturally space-saving, wraps not only are perfect for to-go lunches, they can store many other foods including cheeses and small amounts of fruits or vegetables.
  • Quality, food-safe food containers in various sizes - small to medium ones can double as to-go containers.  Look for containers that can be displayed in the kitchen, as well as used for storage in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Our tip? Many lunch containers can also do double duty by storing food.
  • Silicone lids - not only can they replace the need for plastic wrap and aluminum foil when baking or cooking, reusable silicone lids can actually convert a pan, bowl or other container into a food storage container, making them a practical and versatile addition to any kitchen.
  • Quality bag clips - let's face it, open bags of chips, cookies, baking ingredients, cereal and other foods can go stale quickly, particularly in the heat and humidity.  Bag clips now come in all shapes and sizes, are durable and provide an airtight seal, keeping food fresh longer.  An added bonus with bag clips is that they can be used for travel, organization and other storage.
  • Produce storage bags - not only do they help keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer than conventional bags or containers, they take up very little space.  Another benefit?  Convenience.  An example?  I can buy delicate fruit like berries at the grocery, toss them into a produce bag once I get home and not worry about the fruit going bad.   

Have any tips you'd like to share?
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