10 ways to prolong the shelf life of food, according to experts - GulfToday

10 ways to prolong the shelf life of food, according to experts

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This photo is used for illustrative purpose.

Gulf Today Report

Food waste is central to key challenges facing the world today, including hunger and poverty, climate change and the sustainability of agriculture and oceans. But what can you do to help?

The lockdown has seen many of us revert to shopping the way we used to, by making one weekly trip to the supermarket to stock up our fridges with fresh produce.

As our cupboards brim with food, it can feel more difficult to keep track of what we have bought and what needs to be used up first.

The result? Fridge drawers lined with soggy lettuce, mouldy bread and potatoes that have started sprouting.

Here are 10 ways you can help prolong the shelf life of your food.

Ignore best-before dates

According to Emilie Vanpoperinghe, co-founder of wonky fruit and veg company Oddbox, one of the best ways to reduce food waste is to stop relying on best-before dates.

“The use by date is the only date you need to pay attention to,” she says. “It’s stuck onto items like meat and fish that could be dangerous to eat after a certain time.

“Best before and sell by dates don’t tell you that food is unsafe to eat – they are simply used by shopkeepers to rotate their stock and are only an estimation of the freshness of your food.”

Instead, Vanpoperinghe recommends using your senses to tell when food is good to eat. “Smell it, touch it, look at it, maybe have a little taste of it – while always erring on the side of caution, using our own common sense is a good way to reduce the food we chuck,” she explains.

Check your fridge temperature

If you find your food is going off too quickly, it could also be worth checking that your fridge is set to the right temperature.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), you should check that your fridge is cold enough using a fridge thermometer and not the dials that come with fridges as these are not always correct.

The FSA states that the coldest part of the fridge should be below 5C.

Freeze just about everything

Ryan Holmes, culinary director at business food company Eurest, says that people are often surprised by the amount of food that can be frozen.

“It might be obvious, but freezing is one of the best ways of storing foods and reducing food waste,” he says, adding that a great way to maximise the space in your freezer is to use uniform size containers.

Rosalind Rathouse, founder of the Cookery School, adds that everything from herbs and bread to tomato sauces, meat, pasta, soups and milk can all be frozen to help prolong their shelf life.

The FSA states that a freezer acts as a pause button, meaning that food will not deteriorate and most bacteria cannot grow in it.

“Make sure any warm dishes are cooled before putting them in your freezer,” it advises.

Fruits Separate fruits from vegetables to increase the shelf life of fruits.

Keep things airtight

Vanpoperinghe says that oxygen can shorten the shelf-life of some of our foods.

“Drystore foods, like flour, nuts, dried fruit, spices, granola and cereal as well as bread all last longer when kept away from oxygen,” she advises.

Grow your own herbs

Herbs are a great asset to any kitchen but the downside is that many pot-grown varieties die out seasonally. However, the Royal Horticultural Society states that most herbs can be harvested and stored for use at a later date.

“Bunches of fresh parsley, coriander and mint tend to wilt quickly, especially when they’re kept in their plastic packaging,” Vanpoperinghe explains.

“Treat them like flowers, remove any plastic and stand them up in an inch of water and store in the fridge – they can last for a couple of weeks this way. You can also wrap herbs in damp kitchen paper and store in the fridge.”

Separate your fruit and vegetables

An over-filled vegetable drawer is fertile breeding ground for producing mould, so it is important to ensure food is stored in a clean, dry environment with plenty of space.

“Empty your veg drawer, give it a quick wipe and remove plastic packaging so your veg doesn’t sweat in their extra layers,” suggests Vanpoperinghe. “Store lettuce leaves in a container with a piece of kitchen paper to suck up any excess moisture, and revive floppy celery by standing it in a glass of water.”

Organic Food 2 This photo is used for illustrative purpose.

Get pickled

Simon Duff, executive chef at Darwin & Wallace bar chain, suggests pickling or fermenting vegetables that you are unable to use in time.

“Make pickles from vegetable excess or items ready for long life/quick use in the future such as cucumber, carrot, cabbage, kimchi, mushrooms and cauliflower. You will be surprised how easy it is,” he says.

Master the art of batch cooking

Holmes also suggest creating batch dishes that can be portioned and defrosted only when needed. “Wet foods lend themselves really well to freezing; foods like curries, chillis,” he explains.

Rathouse says freezing superfluous raw and cooked ingredients means they can be used more creatively in meals.

“Our secret tip is to keep a batch of onions, chopped small and fried until golden brown in olive oil, in the freezer and to add a spoonful of these to any dishes that are bland,” she says.

Don’t wrap cheese in clingfilm

Wrapping your cheese in clingfilm before storing it in the fridge could make it go off more quickly, Vanpoperinghe says. Instead, she suggests wrapping it in waxed paper as this stops the cheese from drying out and prevents moisture from building up.

“Uncovered cheese will dry out and crack, but rather than wrap cheese in clingfilm, use greaseproof paper instead,” she explains.

Make the most of leftovers

We are all guilty of cooking too much for dinner every now and then but rather than waste the extra food, Rathouse suggests storing leftovers to eat at a later date.

“Food made with leftovers can be delicious,” she says, adding that extras can be used to create new dishes.

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