There are many ways to preserve food, though many of us are only familiar with refrigeration or freezing. To truly take advantage of the myriad ways humans have developed to preserve food, you can explore a variety of drying, canning, and fermenting processes that are appropriate for fruits, vegetables, and meats. Most can be done at home with a minimum of new kitchen gadgets.
1.Refrigerate your food.
Keeping food cold prevents many bacteria from forming. This is the method that we are all familiar with and have used. Refrigeration is good for food that you will be eating fairly soon -- typically within 3-5 days for meats, fruits, and vegetables, a week or so for dairy products, and months for condiments
Place most food in airtight containers. This applies specifically to leftovers and other foods that haven’t been packaged at the store. This way it will maintain its freshness in the refrigerator. Keep meats in the packages they came in from the store until you use them.
2.Do not store fruits with vegetables
Fruits can give off high levels of ethylene, which causes fruit and vegetables to ripen. Stone fruits (peaches, plums, avocados, etc.) should be allowed to ripen on the counter, but berries and citrus should be refrigerated.
For vegetables, remove any ties or rubber bands before refrigerating. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator -- it’s best not to let them touch.
3.Organize your refrigerator.
The top of the fridge has the most consistent temperature and is best suited for leftovers and other items that do not need to be cooked. The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator, and best for drinks and condiments. Fruits and vegetables are best in the crisper drawers in the bottom, where you can separate fruits from vegetables and keep them both cold and moist. The bottom shelves are the coldest and work best for raw meat and eggs
4.Freeze foods for longer term storage.
Don’t pack your freezer tight with food -- you need to let the cold air circulate between all of the items in your freezer to work properly. Freezing foods can allow them to last significantly longer, sometimes from six months to a year.
5.Package your food properly for freezing.
Even though it’s tempting to toss food into freezer bags, vacuum packing is by far the better option. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, try to at least get as much air out of the bags as you can before sealing. Label everything in your freezer with the contents and date with a marker and freezer-friendly masking tape (it will be specially marked).
- Do not freeze glass containers.
- Do not fill containers to the top with leftovers before freezing (it will expand).
- Do not put hot food into the freezer -- let it cool first so the freezer doesn’t have to do so much work and bring up the temperature of the entire appliance.
- Do not thaw and re-freeze food. It will start to degrade quickly.