Updated: Jul 22, 2020
Whether you’re on lockdown or trying to reduce trips to the supermarket, or even just wanting to know how to reduce food waste, these tips on how to extend the life of your pantry goods can make a big difference. You’ll be surprised what new and delicious creations one can make with ingredients we usually dispose of, and what foods can be preserved for much longer than we think.
Food in the refrigerator may extend its storage life for a few days but here’s what you can do to extend it for weeks or even months. This one may seem obvious but apart from foods that already come frozen in a store (peas, French fries, premade meals etc) there’s a lot you can freeze to make your ingredients last.
1. Raw Meat
Meat has a really short shelf life in the refrigerator. However, if frozen, most meats can last up to a year in the freezer. Raw minced or ground meat can be frozen for up to 4 months, while bigger cuts like raw steak or chicken thighs can last up to 8 months in the freezer. Make sure to freeze the meats when they are fresh. Basically, the bigger the cut, the longer it lasts in the freezer, but around the 4th-6th month mark, the quality and taste starts to deteriorate.
Remember that the temperature of your freezer is very important to ensure your frozen meat is safe and preserved well. According to the FDA, a temperature of 0°F or lower will stop the growth of unsafe microorganisms that will otherwise jeopardize the quality and safety of your meats.
When defrosting meats, the best way is to transfer them to the refrigerator to defrost slowly at a constant and safe temperature. This make take hours so its best if you do it overnight or first thing in the morning when you plan to cook the meat for dinner. However, if you’re in a rush, place the meat in a Ziploc bag, making sure to seal it with as little air inside as possible. Place the bag in cold water (not ice cold), changing the water every 25 minutes or so until it is fully thawed.
2. Vegetables and Fruit
We’re all used to seeing frozen peas, carrots, and sometimes corn in the supermarket, but there are actually many other vegetables you can freeze, so long as you place it in the freezer while it is still fresh. Many can be frozen up to a year. Make sure to wash the vegetables thoroughly before the following steps.
Thicker and less leafy vegetables like carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, or turnips should be cut into smaller pieces, blanched (placed in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes), drained, then placed quickly in cold water to halt the cooking process. After that, place in an air tight Ziploc bag in the freezer immediately
Leafier vegetables like kale or spinach should also be blanched before freezing, but only for about a minute. Then placed in an air tight bag in the freezer.
Onions can be frozen without blanching but it’s not recommended that you eat them raw after being frozen as they lose their crispiness. Use in a stir fry or a stew but not maybe in salads.
Fruits do not need blanching. They just need to be washed and cut into small pieces and placed in the freezer in an airtight bag. Frozen fruit is a fun summertime snack or a great addition to smoothies. Alternatively, they are great for baked goods such as blueberry muffins or a cobbler.
This one may not be new to some of you. But bread freezing is an awesome life hack. Fresh bread can be frozen for up to 6 months. Around the 1-month mark, the taste may start to deteriorate, but no fear! Use for a bread and butter pudding or French toast.
When using bread for toast or sandwiches, take out of the freezer and leave to thaw at room temperature. The thawing time can depend on the size of the loaf or slice.
If you wish to freeze bread that is freshly baked, remember to wait till it is fully cooled before placing it in the freezer. This can take about 3-4 hours.