When my family began to grow and I had more mouths to feed, I became invested in figuring out how to make food last longer.
This was both to extend the food we had as well as ensure that we ate it before it went bad – for the sake of the planet and my wallet.
As a parent, you want to make sure that your family has enough food to last them through the week. But between unpredictable schedules and ever-changing picky preferences, it can be hard to make sure that your food doesn’t spoil before you have a chance to eat it.
Today we’ll discuss 10 ways that parents can prevent their family’s food from spoiling. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to stretch your grocery budget and make food last longer without having to worry about it going bad.
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10 Tips to Make Food Last Longer
Making the most out of your groceries allows your budget to go further! It also prevents your family from contributing to the food waste problem.
1 | Embrace the Glass Jar
Storing whole citrus fruits (like lemons, limes, or oranges) and ripe avocados in glass jars filled with water can make them last up to three times longer than if they were stored in the fridge loose!
Yes, you heard me, avocados will stay perfectly ripe for 2 weeks just waiting to be consumed when the time is right.
We should add that the FDA has put out guidance against storing unclean fruit in water, saying bacteria on the skin can multiply. For this reason, it’s important to thoroughly wash the produce in either vinegar or a food-grade hydrogen peroxide solution before storage.
While mason jars are the gold standard for water storage, any large glass container will do (like an old pickle jar).
Simply wash the produce, place them in a clean glass jar, fill with water, and place in the fridge. It’s just that easy.
2 | Make Homemade Stock
As a frugal mom, I am always looking for ways to make the most of what we have. That’s why I love making homemade stock from our leftover veggie scraps and chicken bones.
Here’s how to make your own homemade stock:
- Save leftover vegetable scraps (onion roots, carrot/celery tops, small garlic cloves, etc.) in a freezer container.
- When you have leftover chicken bones from a roast, place them in a crock pot after removing all the meat.
- Surround the carcass with the frozen veggie scraps.
- Add a bay leaf, some dried garlic cloves, or a few whole peppercorns for seasoning. I just add a little of whatever I have on hand – there’s no official recipe here.
- Fill the crock pot 2/3 of the way up, making sure the bones and vegetables are completely submerged.
- Let simmer on low for about 12 hours.
- Drain the stock out, let cool, discard the used bones/scraps, and freeze broth in 1-2 cup portions.
You can use this homemade chicken stock to make soups, stews, casseroles, and more! It’s a great way to make your food go further and add some extra flavor.
3 | Keep Careful Inventory
One of the best ways to make food last longer is to keep careful inventory of what you have on hand.
Try to do a pantry challenge twice a year where you go through everything in the cabinets and take note of the expiration dates. Foods that are set to expire within the next six months should be placed in a “soon to expire” bin.
Then, make it your goal to use up as much of that food as possible in the upcoming months. Not only will this help save money, but it will also prevent food waste.
4 | Bread Theories
There are a few different theories on storing bread. Some people store in a bread box while others prefer to refrigerate or freeze it.
Keeping bread in the refrigerator can make it last a lot longer before it molds, this is especially helpful in humid environments. However, storing bread in the fridge can make it go stale faster. If you do choose to store your bread in the fridge, make sure to put it in an airtight container or bag to prevent it from drying out.
Bread boxes help keep moisture and humidity out, which can make bread last longer at room temperature. Turns out the older generations knew what they were doing with those!
The freezer is also an option for long-term storage. Bread can last up to three months in the freezer, just make sure to slice it before freezing so you can thaw only what you need.
Bonus tip – When you cut crusts off your kids bread, save the pieces in a mason jar in the fridge. When full, you can blend it for breadcrumbs, make bread pudding, or even stuffing!
5 | Beware the Produce Bowl
We’ve all been there – you bring home a big haul of fresh produce from the grocery store and place it all in a big bowl on the counter.
While this may be aesthetically pleasing, it’s actually not the best way to store your produce.
Fruits and vegetables emit ethylene gas as they ripen, and this gas can speed up the ripening process of other fruits and vegetables nearby.
So, if you want your produce to last longer, make sure to store them properly.
For example, bananas make things ripen faster so they should be stored by themselves. Another trick is to wrap the crown of bunch with plastic wrap to elongate their shelf life.
Onions and potatoes should also be stored separately since they can make each other spoil faster. Tomatoes should also be stored by themselves stem side down on the counter, out of direct sunlight.
A rotten apple, orange, or lemon can spoil the whole bunch. Be sure to inspect your fruit daily to make sure one hasn’t turned.
Another great tip is to purchase an ethylene gas absorber for your refrigerator. These little pods absorb the ethylene that is emitted from fruits and vegetables and can help keep them fresh up to 3 times longer.
6 | Cheese Rules
There are a few different ways to store cheese to make it last longer.
First, you should always wrap the cheese in reusable beeswax wraps or parchment paper. This will allow the cheese to breathe and prevent it from drying out.
You can also store cheese in a special container designed for storing cheese. These containers have small holes that allow the cheese to breathe while also keeping it moist.
Another tip is to spread butter on the cut side of cheese to prevent it from cracking and drying out.
Finally, make sure to always store different types of cheese separately. Stronger cheeses can make other cheeses spoil faster if they are stored together.
7 | Store Leftovers Visibly
One of the best ways to make sure you eat your leftovers is to store them in clear glass containers.
This way, you can see what you have. It reminds you to make it a priority to eat it sooner.
Bonus tip – make sure to label your leftovers with the date so you know how long they’ve been in the fridge.
8 | Storing Tricky Produce (Berries, Mushrooms, Greens) in the Fridge
As previously mentioned, many fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas as they ripen. When vegetables, such as celery, are placed in a plastic bag and tightly sealed, the trapped gases cause them to over-ripen and become soft in the fridge.
After thoroughly washing and drying, loosely wrap greens like celery, lettuce, and herbs in foil before placing in the fridge to let the gas escape while still keeping the food fresh. Green bags or containers can also be bought that serve the same function.
Remove plastic wrap from mushrooms when you get home from the grocery store. Instead, store in a paper bag or carboard box in the fridge to prevent moisture from getting trapped.
Try to eat berries as them as soon as possible after purchasing. If you need to store berries in the fridge for a few days, wash them with a solution of 1:10 parts white vinegar to water. Allow to dry fully then place in an open container in the fridge. Check the berries regularly and remove any that begin to mold.
9 | Cut Juice and Milk
If you have kids, you know that they can go through a lot of juice and milk.
A great way to make these products last longer is to cut them with water.
For example, you can make orange juice last twice as long by cutting it with half water for your kids. And as an added bonus, they consume less sugar! This works with any fruit juices – lemonade, fruit punch, apple juice, etc.
You can also do this with whole milk. Mixing in a little bit of water until it becomes closer to a 2% consistency.
10 | Freezer Magic
Is it even possible to write an article about how to make food last longer without mentioning freezing? I don’t think so.
You can freeze soooooo many things to make food last longer. Here are just a few ideas:
- Chop up spicy peppers and herbs, place in ice cube trays, fill with olive oil, and freeze. Fresh herbs and peppers for months!
- Freeze shredded cheese (just pop the whole bag in, nothing fancy).
- Rather than letting leftover tomato sauce or pizza sauce go bad in the fridge, place the jar in the freezer to save it.
- Store yeast in the freezer and it will last up to 2 years!
- Raw tomatoes also freeze great! Wash, chop in half, then freeze on wax paper. When they’re frozen, store them all together in a ziploc bag. Use them for tomato sauces, chilis, and stews.
- Store nuts (all kinds) in the freezer to keep them fresher longer and prevent that rancid taste.
- Save your butter wrappers! Keep a ziploc bag with folded butter wrappers in the freezer. You can use them to grease pans.
Most importantly, be sure to label everything so you remember what you preserved.
And finally, make sure that hot items are completely cooled before placing in the freezer. Storing warm food in the refrigerator raises the temperature of the appliance and increases the chance of food spoilage.
Do you have any tips to make food last longer? Share them in the comments below!