Food Storage Hacks
Access to food and nutrition is not only a human need, it is a right. It must not only be accessible, but also sufficient, safe and affordable. Unfortunately, this right has turned into a privilege for people living in poverty who have limited access to food. The disruption of food production and distribution are also causes for hunger and malnutrition worldwide. Food shortage in this respect is usually caused by natural disasters like calamities, drought, and floods and also by manmade disasters such as war and conflict.
Scientists from the Stanford University and the University of Washington estimate that half of the world is at risk of facing severe food shortages by the end of the century because of changing weather patterns. They estimate a 20 to 40% reduction in harvest of dietary staples like rice. With the world population expected to double by 2100 and agricultural land expected to deplete, food shortage becomes even more likely.
This is the reason why the United States Civil Defense is already recommending the creation of a food storage program wherein a family stores food and drink adequate for a two-week period. Man cannot control calamities and disasters but human beings can be taught to prolong the shelf life of food. It is good to have your own survival food storage guide that will come in handy in times of emergencies. This will not only serve as emergency food supply but also a way to inspire future generations to always be ready. Below are several food storage hacks to keep food from rotting too fast and have it stay fresher for longer.
Paper Towel Treatment for Veggies
Whether air-dried or placed in a refrigerator, vegetables do not usually maintain freshness for a week. An effective food storage tip is placing a paper towel in the bag where your veggies are to be stored. The paper towel will soak up extra moisture to prevent rot. For greens like lettuce, make sure the bag or container is closed but for zucchini, cucumber and beans leave the bag open. For fresh herbs, wrap a moist paper towel around them to keep them fresh for a longer period.
Two Is Better Than One
Even in food storage, it is better with a partner. For example, if you have an avocado leftover already cut in half, place it in an airtight container with a piece of cut up onion. The gases from the red onion that make your eyes burn also prevent oxidation. This will keep an already sliced avocado from browning for at least five days. Onion works for guacamole, too.
Keep your potatoes from sprouting by storing them with an apple. The ethylene gas from apples does the trick. By doing this, potatoes stay firm and sprout-free for eight weeks.
Tossing a slice of apple or orange peel in brown sugar will prevent it from hardening. Adding a few marshmallows can also keep brown sugar clump free. Celery and bread also go well together. Put the loaf in a plastic bag with a fresh celery stick and leave it overnight. The celery stick gives off humidity that the bread can absorb to keep giving it fresher taste and bounce.
Vinegar for Berries
Give your strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries a sour bath using one cup of white vinegar and three cups of water as solution. The pH level of the vinegar kills spores and bacteria and gives the fruits longer shelf life. Rinse them thoroughly and put them in a container lined with paper towels. Make sure to leave the lid slightly open to avoid moisture build-up.
Storage for Ages
Aside from airtight containers, those brown paper bags are also good for food storage. Punch holes on a bag and put your onions and garlic. They will remain fresh for three months. Using an old panty hose to hang your onions is also a good trick. They can last for as long as eight months. Keeping diced herbs like celery sticks in a plastic bottle will also let it retain its freshness.
Use a vacuum sealer to lengthen the shelf life of many food items whether for the pantry or the fridge.
It’s in the Tip
Wrapping the stem of bananas with plastic wrap will keep them from ripening too fast. Removing the stem of tomatoes and storing them topside down will prevent them from going bad. Cutting the tip of red chilies also keep them fresher for a month longer. After you cut the tips, rinse them in cold water, dry them, and place them in a sealed container in the fridge. Cut your herbs like you would flowers and throw them in a jar of water. Put a plastic bag above them to keep them fresh.
The Rule for Leftovers
When there is a strong typhoon and you can’t get out of the house for a day or two, tendency is your leftovers become your emergency survival food. Anticipate this and store your leftovers properly. Put them in airtight containers or wraps. Divide them into small containers so they will cool faster. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking and don’t stuff the ref too full because cool air needs to circulate to keep food at safe temperature.
Freeze to Extend Shelf life
Frozen food is also good for food stock in case of emergencies. Freeze meat for a 50% longer shelf life. Wrap meat in aluminum foil before putting in a container or plastic wrap and throwing them in the freezer. The foil is good for a month’s storage.
To Freeze or Not To Freeze
The freezer is a food storage buddy. However, remember that not everything should be stored in the fridge. Aside from raw poultry and meat, butter, margarine, most bread, milk, and raw pastry are great for freezing. On the other hand, vegetables with high water content such as lettuce and bean sprouts go limp in the fridge. Soft herbs go brown, egg-based sauces like mayonnaise separate and curdle. Yogurt and cottage cheese go watery. Better to store them in room temperature.
Still Best After
As a general rule, obey expiration dates. However, it is a relief to know that in times of emergencies, there are foods you can consume even if they are past the best before dates. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, nine out of 10 Americans waste food due to confusion over expiration date. Note that the printed date is the manufacturer’s suggestion for when the food is at its freshest, not when it is unsafe.
Canned goods lead the pack when it comes to survival food kits. Extend and even double their shelf life by storing them in a cool, dark place. Frozen food also usually last longer than their expiration dates. Packaged greens are okay for as long as they are not decaying. Soak your lettuce in ice-cold water to restore some of its freshness. For as long as dry goods like crackers and chips do not smell odd and funny, you may re-crisp them in the oven.
Aside from the food in your 72-hour survival kit, remember that there are food storage hacks you can do everyday to keep your produce and groceries longer in the shelf and keep from wasting good food.