Tips to Lengthen the Life of Your Food and Save You Money

February 16, 2011 Four comments View all articles in Home

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 25.9 million tons of America's food gets thrown away each year. Our Reduce your Food Waste – Use your Bread Leftovers article says this is 25-50% of all the food produced in the US.

And for the average family of four, this equals an annual loss of $500 in wasted fruits and vegetables alone. Re-using may be a great way to reduce these numbers, but it's pretty hard to recover groceries that have spoiled from improper storage. The following list of quick and easy tips will show you how to make your food and money last longer.



  • In a Good Morning America segment with Diane Sawyer, chef and food editor Sara Moulton advises consumers to wrap produce in paper towels and store it in Ziploc bags. Instead of washing vegetables before refrigeration, Moulton suggests holding off until directly prior to food preparation.
  • If you have more vegetables than you're able to use, simply cut them however you like, broil them (parboil in water for 3-4 minutes), pat them dry, put them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag, and you'll have your own fast, frozen vegetables like you buy at the grocery store.
  • To keep vegetables like celery crisp and fresh, wrap them in aluminum foil before refrigerating.


  • If you have more fruit than you know what to do with and don't want to let it go to waste, just freeze it. Frozen grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and bananas all taste excellent on their own, but they're also great when added to milkshakes or smoothies.


  • Every time you open a cottage cheese container, you're letting in little spores that continue to live on the oxygen layer once the lid is replaced; this is how mold accumulates. To prevent this from happening as quickly, simply turn the container upside down, shake it a little, and store it in the refrigerator upside down. This eliminates the oxygen layer, suffocates a good percentage of the spores, and will make the cottage cheese last longer.
  • Storing cheese in plastic changes its taste and makes it sweat. Since moisture is the enemy of cheese, wrap it in wax paper and then aluminum foil.
  • If you have too much hard cheese, small portions can be frozen and then unthawed as needed.


  • Milk will last nearly twice as long if it's transferred to a glass bottle. Additionally, glass won't impart off flavors like paper or plastic cartons.
  • You can also try dropping in a pinch or two of baking soda to reduce the milk's acidity and keep it fresher.

Ice Cream:

  • If you hate the ice crystals that form on the top of your ice cream, all you have to do is spread plastic wrap over it before you replace the lid and put it back in the freezer.


  • Cover eggshells with vegetable oil to seal the pores and keep the eggs fresh for 3 to 5 weeks.
  • Store hard-boiled eggs unpeeled and in a plastic storage container with a tight-fitting lid to keep them fresh for up to a week.


  • Place peeled garlic cloves into a glass jar, pour olive oil over them, and cover with a lid. Stored in the fridge, both the garlic and the olive oil will be kept fresh and usable for an extended period of time.

Planning Ahead:

  • Freeze leftovers in airtight containers for quick dinner reheating on busy week or school nights.
  • Plan a leftover meal once a week to use up odds and ends instead of wasting them. And instead of taking the same old sandwich for your lunch, take leftovers.
  • Take a cooler with you to the grocery store when you shop for perishables. Summer heat quickly affects food, even if you can't see it or live close by. Maintaining a proper temperature on the drive home will extend the life of your perishable food items.
  • Design meal plans before you go grocery shopping so you only buy items needed for your recipes.
  • Visit, input the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator, and have recipes automatically created for you so nothing goes to waste.


Belinda on Feb. 22, 2011 at 2:58 p.m.

If you are a gardener, none of your unused fruits and vegetables need go to waste - they can be simply tossed into the compost pile for making wonderful soil for future vegetables!

Alicia on Feb. 22, 2011 at 4:58 p.m.

A good way to use vegetables that have been in the fridge for more than we want, but are still good, is to make a soup. Stir fry an onion or two, garlic, celery, add a few potatoes, carrots, chopped Swiss chard, collard greens,etc., then add some lentils or red, black, or navy beans, a can of crushed tomatoes, etc. and you have a delicious, nutritious meal that you can also take for lunch at work.

Nemophila on Feb. 22, 2011 at 11:14 p.m.

Great tips! One note though, in the second veggie tip, you say "broil" when I think what you mean is "blanch".

Lo Shmo on Feb. 25, 2011 at 8:30 p.m.

It disturbs me how many eco-friendly "tips" involve paper towels and plastic wrap. If you're trying to be green, you shouldn't even have them in your house, or should be using them sparingly, certainly not using plastic wrap because ice crystals disturb you. I guess it's not any worse than throwing the whole thing away, but it still bothers me that it's even suggested.

P.S. Unthawed technically means frozen. You mean thawed.

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