How To Store Stuff

The reality of my life is that in order to get to the nearest grocery store, I have to drive past a few cornfields, a sod farm, cross two rivers and and a highway and that will get me to Target in just under 20 minutes.  To get to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and other vendors that I frequent, I have to gear up for an all-day adventure.  Needless to say, I try to do this only once a week and even less if I can manage.  So I'm a pretty organized shopper and list-maker (The Any List app is awesome!), and I am very careful how I store things, especially produce, to get the maximum life expectancy from everything.

Over the years, I've acquired a few tricks and tips that I recently thought might be a fine thing to share with you all.  Because whether the store is down the street or a long-distance trek, none of us want to be wasting our money by allowing food to go bad before it needs to.

To that end, here are a few things I do to extend the life of some of my groceries...

And let's start with AVOCADOS.  

I always have at least 4-5 avocados on hand and usually more.  I always buy them rock hard and when I bring them home from the store, most of them go into the veggie bin in the fridge.  I always have 2 or 3 ripening in a basket on the counter.  As soon as one gets perfectly ripe, into the fridge it goes and I pull another one out of the veggie bin to replace it.  I have a constant revolving supply of avocados, from rock hard, sitting in the fridge, waiting their turn for the basket, to a few in the basket ripening, to a few in the fridge, ready to use.  Oh, did I mention we eat a lot of avocados?  

And then what happens when you only eat 1/2 of an avocado and need to store the rest of it? This actually doesn't occur too often, but when it does, I've found an awesome way to keep that half an avocado in good shape until you can use it, preferably in the next day or two...

Place your half an avocado (leave in the pit) in a lidded container along with a few slices of onion.  Cover tightly and keep in the fridge.  The next day your avocado will look like this...

Not too bad, huh?  It tastes perfectly fresh too.  By the second day, it's going to look a little sadder, but still quite edible.  You can scrape off any brown spots that might offend you.

By the 3rd day, your avocado isn't going to look too appealing, so I wouldn't recommend taking it this far...

but relatively speaking, that's pretty good for 3 days.  Don't you think?  So that's the 411 on storing and saving your avocados.

The other pesky thing to store for very long is herbs!  There's nothing more frustrating than spending good money on herbs that go all blechy on you in two days.  Here's how I fix that problem...

CILANTRO AND PARSLEY can be treated the same way.  When I get them home from the store I give them a wash and spin in my salad spinner and then another good dry off on some paper towels.  Getting them dry is super important.  Then, I put a little water in the bottom of a deep canning jar (with a wide mouth) and then place my herbs in there.  And then depending on how long the stems are, I either place a lid on the jar or cover the top with a plastic bag thusly...

These go into the fridge and I'm not kidding you, people, they last for at least 2 weeks like this. I've had them last even longer than that.  I try to pick off all of the leaves that would be sitting under water, but that didn't happen in that bottom photo.  Those leaves would get grungie faster than the rest of the bunch.

Storing BASIL is the same in that you'll want to trim the ends of the stems, put them in a jar with the stems in a little water...

Then cover it with a plastic bag and set it on the counter or a window sill, but never, ever in the refrigerator. The refrigerator turns the leaves black in a matter of days.  

The basil you see up there is over a week old and it's just been sitting on the window sill in the laundry room.  Happy basil.

And if you do much Asian cooking you've probably got a knob of GINGER languishing in your fridge.  I like to buy a large piece and have it on hand at all times.  Just stick it in a ziploc bag and stash it in your vegetable drawer in the fridge and it will last for a very long time.  I use mine up before it ever goes bad.

And what about citrus?  LEMONS AND LIMES!  If you have lemons or limes that you're not going to use right away, you can freeze them!  Whole!!  No, really, it works great!  Just place them in a ziploc bag and then into the freezer and they'll keep for a couple of months.  When they thaw, they'll be nice and juicy.  If you're going to store them in the fridge for a few days, keep them in a plastic ziploc bag.  The thing that kills citrus is when the rind starts to dry out.

I also buy SALMON AND COD in large quantities.  I get a discount at Whole Foods if I buy more than 2 pounds, so I usually buy a large filet (2-3lbs) and when I get it home, I slice it into 6-8 oz filets and then use my vacuum sealer to seal up each filet before placing them in the freezer.  

This way I always have fish on hand and it tastes as good as fresh when thawed.  If you don't have a vacuum sealer, I highly recommend it!

And then there's CHEESE.  After awhile, cheese is gonna go off pretty much no matter what we do.  But it is possible to prolong it's life if it's stored properly.  And here's the thing, cheese is a living thing.  It really is, so let's not smother it in plastic wrap.  The best way to store cheese is to wrap it in wax paper, which gives it a little breathing room, and then you can place it in a ziploc bag.  But best to keep the plastic away from the cheese itself, especially if we're talking about Parmesan.  There are lots of cheese storage bags that you can buy, and I've tried a few of them, but I always go back to my wax paper.  It seems to keep my cheese as happy as anything else.

ASPARAGUS is another one that will go bad on you in a hurry.  But it doesn't have to happen to you.  Cut a bit off the bottom of the spears and just like the herbs, place them in a container with a little water in the bottom.  

Place a plastic bag over the top and keep this in the refrigerator.  I swear I've kept asparagus fresh like this for a couple of weeks.

And storing FRAGILE LETTUCES can be tricky too, no?  Yes.  So to get the most out of my salad greens, the first thing I do is remove them from their plastic tub.  It seems that if there is the least bit of moisture trapped somewhere in there, the lettuce will go south in like a nano second.

So I grab a good length of paper towels and dump out the lettuce on it...

...then I roll them up very gently

and place the whole shebang in a ziploc bag.  Your lettuce will stay fresh and tasty for much longer.  I promise.

I know there are probably more nifty storage tricks that I've forgotten, but I'll add them to this post as I think of them.  And if you've got some great storage tips to add to the conversation, just leave us a comment.  We'd love to hear from you!