How to store healthy foods & keep them fresher for longer
Looking for ways to encourage eco-friendly practices in your kitchen?
January is the perfect time to get your kitchen organised, and by doing so you can save money and the environment! Often, people will start their New Year health kick without proper knowledge of how to store fresh foods – causing high waste. This is not only environmentally bad, but can also cause motivation to fall rapidly. To help with this we have some eco storage solutions and tips to help with any health and organisation goals, and have answered some common questions below!
Best eco-storage solutions
There are many ‘green’ alternatives to typical kitchen containers, which avoid plastic and can help your produce last longer.
- Jute fibre bags - perfect for storing dry vegetables, such as onions, garlic and potatoes. These bags are biodegradable at the end of their life, and the material used is grown year-round and harvested every six months. Allowing the produce to breathe, these bags also cushion the produce to prevent bruising and premature spoilage.
- Glass jars/containers – a solution to mushy fruits and berries! We all know the frustration, when you buy a gorgeous smelling pot of strawberries which are gone-off after a day. Storing your fruits in glass can double the usual life – ideal for avoiding waste and making healthy snacks more accessible.
- Beeswax wraps – another storage option that allows your food to breathe, increasing life. 100% biodegradable, these wraps are freezer friendly and can be shaped easily to cover a variety of foods (including fruits, vegetables and bread).
- Stainless steel – opting for a stainless-steel lunch box instead of usual plastic tubs is a final eco way to store and transport foods. The design of these mean you can create 'bento-style' healthy lunches, and it will be much safer to get to work or school as they are often leak proof.
Of course, throwing away all your reusable plastic tubs just to purchase greener alternatives is not the solution. Simply replace as and when needed!
What foods can I freeze?
A near fool-proof solution for storing your healthy food, without using any additional resources, is to make full use of your freezer.
If you think you won’t get to eat something before it goes off, stick it in the freezer! Bread is a great example – perfectly fine to freeze and use for toast, or to defrost later for soups and sandwiches. Raw and cooked meats are also ideal for freezing, saving having to chuck money in the bin when plans change. Of course, there are some foods that cannot be frozen, but generally your day to day ingredients freeze well.
Generally, foods can stay in the freezer for months, provided they are wrapped well and room temperature/chilled when frozen.
Meal prep and planning
Something that goes hand in hand with freezing your foods, ensuring you have good meal preparation is great for helping you create those healthy recipes and diets. By planning your meals and cooking larger quantities at once, you will also save yourself some money!
Bulk cooking and freezing the leftovers can make cooking easier, and these leftovers can be easily stored using beeswax wraps, reusable sandwich bags and glass containers (these are perfectly safe as long as you follow a few simple tips).
How long can you keep cooked rice in the fridge?
A key staple when meal-prepping, when cooked nearly all types of rice have the same use-by timescale. Cooked rice can last up to four days in the fridge, retaining its flavour and texture for this time. However, this can strongly depend on how it has been cooled, and the storage used. It is very important to keep the cooked rice in an airtight container, and to chill as soon as possible to prevent bacteria growth.
How long can you keep cooked chicken in the fridge?
Similar to rice, cooked chicken can be stored for up to four days in your fridge. By keeping it chilled, again in an airtight, leakproof container, you prevent the chicken from prematurely 'going off' - meaning you can prep your meals days in advance. It is of course important to ensure the chicken is cooked before its raw use by date, as otherwise it may be off and cause food poisoning - something you definitely want to avoid!
Use By vs Best Before
A concept that can be confusing - the ‘sell by’, ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ labels on your fresh products.
The sell by date is simply for the retailer, they must legally sell the product by this date. The product is often completely fine to use after this!
If the product has a use by, this is when the product must be consumed (or frozen!) by – this is generally on meat and dairy products. However, the best before is a guideline which means that again, the food can be perfectly edible even after this date. By using common sense, and with a bit of organisation, you can ensure that nothing in your fridge ends up in the bin unnecessarily.
The UK supermarket chain Morrisons have recently announced that they have scrapped the 'use by' date on their own-brand milk, in favour of the 'sniff test'. They believe this could save an estimated 7 million pints of their milk from being poured away yearly, simply by trusting your nose!
Can you eat bacon after its use by date?
We have all done it - filled the fridge after the weekly food shop, shoved the older food to the back only to find them later on out of date! Unfortunately, with raw meats such as bacon it is very important to pay attention to the use by dates to avoid illness. However, if the packet is unopened, you may get some grace by giving the bacon a good check over - but anything opened or more than a few days past the use by is a no go. Like other raw meats, bacon is great for freezing and can be thawed and cooked up to four months after.
Eco-friendly food habits in your home does not have to be an overwhelming task – you can simply adjust your healthy eating to make the most out your food. There are plenty of plastic-free alternatives which can actually extend food life and help you to stay motivated with improving your diet!