Extending the Life of Fresh Foods

refridgerated food items


Have you ever purchased a bunch of chard only to forget about it and have it go slimy? How about those bananas that turned brown and appeared inedible? Unfortunately, the foods in these circumstances usually wind up in the garbage. In addition to financial loss, wasted food affects the environment by producing unnecessary amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. With the following tips and strategies, you can keep food fresh longer and have food in your belly rather than in the trash.

Tip #1:  Store food properly in the refrigerator

Keeping the refrigerator between 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit will extend the life of your food. In reality, the temperature varies throughout the refrigerator, thus storing foods in the incorrect locations can shorten its lifespan. Storing food properly not only extends the life of fresh foods but is also essential for preventing foodborne illnesses.

The top shelf is the warmest part of the refrigerator and is best for pre-prepared foods such as yogurt, cheese, and sauces.

Raw meat, poultry, and fish in their sealed packaging should be stored on the bottom shelf, which is the coldest part of the fridge. This also prevents any potential leaks from contaminating other food products.

·The salad crisper drawers should hold fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tip #2:  Keep it apples with apples

Generally, fresh fruit and vegetables get wasted the most in homes. One thing you can do is to buy locally and seasonally. Local produce usually lasts longer than produce from supermarkets; however, if you often shop at the supermarket, try to look for tags that identify local produce. A few simple tips for commonly purchased fruit include:   

·,cantaloupe and figs are some fruits that give off ethylene gas, which accelerates the spoilage of foods. Keep these fruits separated from other fruits (and vegetables) in the refrigerator and storage areas at room temperature

Bananas spoil more quickly when separated at the stem – keep them bunched together!

·Many fruits, including berries, grapes, stone fruit, and melons, freeze well and can be stored for up to 3 months. Just remember to label it with the date you put it in the freezer to ensure it’s used in time.

Tip #3:  That was a close kale

Thinking that it’s no longer fresh, vegetables are often thrown away when wilted or shriveled – but they can be saved! Most vegetables contain about 90% water that is steadily lost during storage, which causes the vegetables to wilt. To restore veggies to their original perkiness, soak vegetables in a bowl of ice water for 15-20 minutes and dry them well. A few other strategies for specific vegetables include:

·After returning from the grocery store or farmer’s market, rinse fresh greens in cold water and “spin” them dry. Place them in a breathable cloth bag and store in the refrigerator.

·For kale, collards, and Swiss chard: trim the ends, put in a glass of water with a bag loosely covering the top, and keep in the fridge.

·To keep fresh celery, carrots, and radishes crisp for longer, chop them up and store them in water in the fridge.

Keeping your produce fresh longer reduces food waste, benefits the environment, and promotes a healthy lifestyle by increasing whole food consumption. To further pursue a diet (and lifestyle changes) with a more holistic and whole foods approach, make an appointment with a Bastyr registered dietitian at http://bastyrcenter.org/services/nutrition. To learn more about food waste, click the following link: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home


Jin Sook Sakai graduated from Texas Woman’s University and is currently a dietetic intern at Bastyr University. She believes in the holistic and “anti-diet” approach as part of a healthy lifestyle and in the healing effects of whole foods. Her career interests include pediatric nutrition and integrative and functional medicine.