We all know what it’s like to haul groceries into the kitchen, only to stuff food in the pantry or fridge without a second thought. Yet, in the spirit of reducing food waste (and saving, you know, money), it’s worth fine-tuning your food storing habits to help your purchases stay fresh longer. Start by ditching these 5 common food storage mistakes, stat, with these top tips from food experts.
1. Storing nuts and seeds at room temperature
… Wait, aren’t nuts and seeds sold on the shelf at the supermarket? Well, yes—but you won’t want to follow suit once you open them. According to Palak Patel, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, “nuts and seeds have lots of natural essential oils and minerals that quickly go rancid at room temperature.” You can prevent this by storing them in the refrigerator in reusable glass jars, she says.
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2. Not moving older food to the front
Let’s be real: “A lot of food goes bad because you forget it’s there,” says Janilyn Hutchings, Certified Professional in Food Safety (CP-FS) and food scientist at StateFoodSafety. If you’re guilty as charged, get into the habit of storing new foods in the back of your pantry, fridge, or freezer. At the same time, move the older stuff to the front. This makes it easy to use the oldest ingredients first, saving you serious cash—along with the heartache that comes with tossing rotten food.
3. Covering hot food too soon
When hot food is covered, it takes longer to cool. In turn, it’ll spend “more time in the temperature danger zone, the range in which foodborne germs grow [the] fastest,” says Hutchings. Yikes. The solution? Loosely cover food, pop it in the refrigerator or freezer, then tightly cover once it’s cooled. For larger amounts of food, like lasagna, Hutchings suggests separating it into smaller containers to help it cool faster.
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4. Storing spices and oils near the stove
Okay, so maybe the stove is where the action happens, but you might want to find a new home for your spices and oils. “The residual heat from the stove and oven degrade the essential oils in spices and dried herbs,” explains Patel. The same goes for delicate oils, like olive oil, that go rancid when placed near heat sources. Take a tip from Patel and store these ingredients in a cool, dry cupboard.
5. Storing raw meat on the top shelves of your refrigerator
If you only ditch one thing on this list, please make it this. Here’s why: If you place raw meat on the top shelf of your fridge, the juices can drip onto foods on the lower shelves, says Hutchings. This can potentially contaminate said foods, especially if they won’t be cooked (like salad). Hello, food safety hazard!
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