10 tips to make your Christmas food shop last longer

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Christmas food can often be a highlight of the season for most people, but the more we purchase, the more likely it is we will have leftovers – or even food that goes to waste.

The average UK household throws away £800’s worth of food each year, according to wrap.org.uk, which equates to roughly £66 a month.

As funds are already tighter than usual this Christmas, you want to make sure every penny is being spent wisely, with as little waste as possible.

While you may be wise to avoid the rush and get your Christmas “big shop” in early for the big day, knowing how to store everything properly to maximise shelf life is crucial.

Interested in reducing food waste, Moneyboat.co.uk has compiled its top 10 food hacks to make food go that little bit further and prolong the shelf life of goods this festive season.

1. Add salt to your milk once opened

Depending on the type of milk you use, once opened it can last anywhere from four to ten days if kept in the fridge.

However you can stretch that timeframe a bit further by adding a pinch of salt to the carton immediately after opening, this is as salt is a preservative and so deters bacteria from growing. However, do make sure to give the carton a good shake and place it into the fridge as soon as possible.

2. Store your milk in the coolest part of the fridge

It is also best to avoid storing your milk in the fridge door. The door is in fact the warmest part of the fridge as it is furthest away from the cooling system. So instead keep your milk at the back of the middle or higher shelves for maximum cool to lengthen the shelf life. 

3. Wrap hard cheese in parchment paper

Ditch the plastic packaging and instead wrap hard cheese in parchment or baking paper, this allows the cheese to breathe to avoid drying out but also prevents any extra moisture and therefore mould from growing. Hard cheese can usually last anywhere up to four weeks when stored correctly in the fridge.

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4. Vinegar bath your veggies

A great way to disinfect all of your fruits and veggies is to give them a vinegar bath. The vinegar solution should be a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to water in either a bowl or your clean sink. Empty your produce into the solution and let sit for 15 minutes. Once done you can rinse and thoroughly dry your produce before moving them into their respective storage containers.  

The vinegar solution disinfects, cleans and removes any bacteria from the produce that might break down the food quicker. The solution should not be strong enough that you can taste it on the produce afterwards and enables your veggies to last for up to two weeks.

5. Store berries with a paper towel

Once dried, berries should be stored in airtight glass containers with a dry paper towel. The paper towel absorbs any excess moisture which will prevent mould from growing. Changing the paper towel every other day will allow for maximum freshness and a shelf life of up to three weeks.

6. Keep your bananas separate from other fruits

All fruits produce a certain level of a gas known as ‘ethylene’, fruits such as bananas produce a higher concentration when they are ready to ripen as it speeds up the ripening process. Other fruits that fall into the high ethylene producing category are – apples, peaches, pears, melons and the avocado to name a few. Keeping the ethylene producing fruits, specifically bananas, away from your ethylene sensitive fruits will prevent excessive exposure to the gas, allowing the fruit to ripen naturally and therefore lasting longer. Depending on the fruit itself they can last anywhere from three to five days to a few weeks at room temperature.

To slow the ripening process for bananas you can also wrap the stem in cling film or the slightly more eco friendly aluminium foil. Wrapping as a bunch or individually will add a day or two on to the ripening process which usually lasts between three to five days (at room temperature). 

7. Treat your fresh herbs like flowers

For those who prefer fresh herbs over dried, a top tip is to treat them like flowers. Add water to a jar and place the herbs inside with a plastic bag over the top. The water helps to keep the herbs fresh whilst the bag acts as a barrier against any excess moisture. 

If your fridge doesn’t accommodate upright jars you can also store your fresh herbs in an airtight glass container (or plastic bag if you prefer) with a damp paper towel, this again helps the herbs to retain their moisture so they don’t dry out too quickly and wilt. Both of these methods can aid your fresh herbs into lasting up to three weeks.

8. Freeze your fresh herbs

If you prefer fresh herbs but find you don’t use them up quickly enough, you can also freeze them.

You can store fresh cut herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays and freeze them for perfect portions. Alternatively water can also be used in place of oil. With water this method can also be used for fresh garlic and ginger.

9. Ice your bread

If you find that your bread has become stale, grab an ice cube and run it over the loaf before popping into the oven for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can also douse the loaf in water. This adds moisture back into the bread and allows it to become edible once more. The bread should then be used within the day.

A freshly made loaf of bread can last up to four days whereas a store bought loaf will last up to one week.

10. Freeze your nuts

Most nuts and seeds have a shelf life of three to six months. In order to extend their lifespan they are best stored in cool, dark spaces; although the back of the cupboard is suitable, storing them in the fridge can help them to stay fresher for longer. If you find that six months is not enough time to nibble your way through your nuts, then you’ll be pleased to hear that they can be frozen – which extends their shelf life to one year.

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