These days every where you look you see buy local, buy fresh, shop at Farmer’s Markets, and so on. Buying local and fresh is great. However many of us don’t have time to shop every few days, so I have some tips to help keep what you’ve purchased last longer.
If you plan ahead and allow a little extra time after you shop to package and prep items you will find you can shop less often and still eat great food.
Here are some tips for keeping items longer:
Bread: Buying local fresh made bread is great but it doesn’t last long. One trick I use is to freeze bread. If I buy a loaf of fresh bread I ask the baker to slice it for me and then I freeze it the same day I bring it home (minus what will be used that day). I usually freeze the slices in heavy ziplock bags, then when I need a couple of slices I take out what I need, wrap it in foil and pop it in the oven (toaster oven’s work great for this) at about 350 degrees for 5 – 10 minutes. I will also freeze baguettes. I will cut a fresh baguette into sandwich length pieces and wrap each piece in foil and then freeze the individual pieces. When I need a baguette for a sandwich, garlic bread or just to eat I pop the frozen baguette piece in the oven, and in less than 10 minutes I have fresh bread.
Bagels: Bagels freeze well in freezer bags. I usually do not pre-slice the bagels. I will put the frozen bagel in the microwave for about 15 seconds (just until it is soft enough to slice) then I slice and toast.
Pastries: I will also freeze muffins and scones that I have either purchased or made from scratch. Take the fresh (must be at room temperature before freezing) pastry and wrap each one in foil (remove any paper first) and freeze. Then when you want a fresh muffin just pop one in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Fresh Produce: Buy extra produce you really like when it is in season and at its peak. Take the extra produce and freeze, preserve, pickle and/or make sauces and soups with it.
- Fresh berries freeze well. Gently rinse and dry off the berries and then spread out on a flat tray that you can slip in your freezer. Once the berries are frozen you can store the berries in air tight containers in the freezer.
- Tomatoes can be slow roasted and/or made into sauce and then frozen.
- Carrots and celery can be washed and prepped for snacking on the go. Put the cleaned and prepped vegetables in a container with cold water in the fridge. The water will keep the vegetables fresh and crisp. Change the water every day or so.
- Bell peppers can also be cut in strips and stored in the fridge in a container between damp (paper) towels.
- Lettuce and leaves of fresh basil can be washed and dried then layered in (paper) towels and kept in a container in the fridge.
- Garlic is great when peeled and kept in oil in the fridge. You can use the garlic in cooking or just the flavored oil.
Fresh Herbs: Soft herbs like cilantro, tarragon, sage and basil can be pureed with (olive) oil and then frozen in ice cube trays. Once frozen the cubes can be stored in the freezer in labeled containers or freezer bags. Then when you need to flavor a dish just pop in a cube of the frozen herb. Hard herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen in ziplock bags. First clean and dry the herbs, then place in a small freezer bag and freeze on the stem. They can be kept on the stem or once frozen it is easy to remove the leaves from the stems and then seal the leaves in small bags or containers in the freezer.
Home Cooked Meals: Soups, sauces, casseroles and stews are all good items to make extra of and freeze. When freezing make sure the food is at room temperature, and it is best to freeze food in small quantities (one or two portions per container). If using freezer bags, squeeze out the excess air and then seal, label with the date and name of the item, then freeze flat with nothing stacked on top. Once the item is frozen it can be stacked. If using a container allow a little room for expansion (about 3/4 inch) and then make sure the lid is sealed, label and freeze. Here is a source for (Martha Stewart) freezer labels you can print at home with adhesive backed paper: Clip Art Freezer Labels
Remember to always label and date frozen food. Also, in the refrigerator and in the freezer make sure the older items are used first by keeping the older items in the front and the newer items in the back. Every week or so go through your refrigerator and throw out anything that is expired. Here is a basic guide to how long many items will last in the refrigerator: Storing Fresh Food Audit your freezer about every month.
More helpful tips at Every Day Food
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