The best methods for storing your groceries

Spoiled food is a waste of time and money. With these tips, you can store your food more effectively and throw out a lot less.

The best methods for storing your groceries

Be diligent with meats, poultry and seafood

  • Store meats and fish in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Wrap meat for freezing in freezer paper.
  • Avoid using gas-permeable plastic wrap. It lets moisture evaporate and causes freezer burn.
  • Shellfish can't be kept more than a few hours at refrigerator temperature. They last two or three days on ice or at a temperature below 0°C.
  • Hot dogs and cold cuts stay fresh until their expiration dates, if they're refrigerated unopened in their original vacuum-sealed bags. Once opened, they should be re-wrapped in an airtight bag and used within a few days.
  • Cured and smoked meats are best stored in their original wrappings. Make sure that cold cuts bought from the deli counter are wrapped well and used within a day or two.
  • Meat with discolouration, an off smell, or any sign of mold must be discarded.
  • Never defrost meat, poultry or fish at room temperature. Defrost in the refrigerator. If using the microwave to defrost, cook immediately.

Store dairy to keep its nutrients intact

  • Fresh milk and cream should be tightly sealed to prevent tainting by odours from other foods.
  • Milk retains its nutritional value better in cartons. Exposure to light destroys some of the vitamin A and riboflavin.
  • Store nonfat powdered milk in a tightly closed container at room temperature. Keep the container away from light.
  • Keep soft cheese and butter tightly covered and refrigerated.
  • Some people keep plastic materials away from fatty foods, including cheese and butter. Foil is a good wrapper, and butter freezes well in its original wrapping.
  • It isn't necessary to refrigerate hard cheese and other ripened cheeses. They keep well covered in a cool, dark cupboard.

Learn how to keep oils at their best

  • Storage times vary according to the oil and method of processing.
  • Some companies claim up to one year opened and two years unopened, depending on the oil, and recommend refrigerating after opening.
  • Oils that have a shorter storage life include walnut, sesame, hazelnut and almond oils. These are better stored in the refrigerator. Check the label for storage information.
  • Fats turn rancid on exposure to air and pick up odours from other foods.
  • Store tightly sealed oils in a dark cupboard or the refrigerator. Exposure to light and warm temperatures robs oils of vitamins A and E.
  • The cloudiness that forms in some refrigerated oils clears at room temperature.
  • Margarine, like butter, should be well covered and refrigerated. You can store it for future use in the freezer.
  • Refrigerate commercial mayonnaise after opening it. Use homemade mayonnaise as soon as it's made. Discard leftovers to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Keep your sugars tasty and soft

  • Corn syrup and molasses keep well at room temperature, because they're too sugary for bacteria to thrive.
  • Natural maple syrup and artificially flavored syrups are susceptible to molds. Refrigerate after opening.
  • Refrigerate opened jams and spreads.
  • White sugar, left unopened in its original package, can be kept for many years in a cool, dry place. Store sugar in an airtight container or freezer bag.
  • Brown sugar should be stored in an airtight container to retain its moisture and prevent it from hardening. Tightly close the bag or transfer to an airtight container.
  • If your sugar hardens, place a slice of apple or orange in the container to help bring back its original consistency. Or, heat the hardened sugar for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave just before using.

How you store and prepare food not only affects its taste, texture and nutritional value, but helps prevent spoilage and food-borne illness. Be diligent with food storage and you could see less food going to waste.

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