Is your grocery budget getting stretched further than you’d like? As food costs continue to skyrocket, many families find it increasingly difficult to keep the cupboard full. Fortunately, you can save big by making your groceries last longer, which reduces food waste and allows you to buy items when they’re on sale.
Here are four ways to make your groceries last longer that will help you save money.
Produce can contain dirt, bacteria, and other contaminants that can cause spoilage or foodborne illness if not removed. Washing with cold water and a vegetable brush helps to remove these contaminants from the surface of fruits and vegetables.
When washing your produce, use clean water and a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, so you don’t cross-contaminate your food items. The water's temperature should exceed the produce's temperature by 10 degrees.
Dry off the washed items before storing them in the refrigerator since moisture encourages bacterial growth. Store unwashed fruits and vegetables separately from pre-washed ones since they may contaminate each other when stored together due to condensation build-up inside any shared container or bag.
Finally, while washing helps keep your produce fresher for longer, it doesn’t guarantee safety against foodborne illnesses. Always cook foods thoroughly before consuming them.
Freezing is a cost-effective and sustainable way to make food last longer. You can buy large quantities of items when they’re on sale and then store them without worrying about spoilage or expiration dates.
Many foods are easy to freeze, including most fruits, veggies, meats, dairy products, and baked goods.
Follow these tips when freezing your favorites:
Wash fruits and vegetables before freezing to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Cook meats before freezing to ensure they are safe for consumption when thawed out later.
Dairy products such as milk and cheese can last up to six months in the freezer if stored properly in airtight containers or resealable bags.
Bread and baked goods, like muffins or cookies, will stay fresh for several months if wrapped tightly in plastic or foil before being placed into the freezer.
Frozen fruits are great for smoothies, while frozen veggies make an excellent addition to soups, stews, and casseroles. They require minimal prep time since they don’t need washing or chopping before cooking.
You can even freeze leftovers from meals so that you have quick access to nutritious meals during busy weeks instead of resorting to fast food options which tend to be higher in calories than home-cooked meals.
Wrap Meats and Leafy Greens
Meat bought from the grocery store is likely not wrapped for long-term storage. You should rewrap any meat packaged in Styrofoam and thin plastic wrap. When you arrive home, you should rewrap any raw meat because Styrofoam and thin plastic wrap will not hold up as well as butcher paper and freezer bags. Before rewrapping your meat, salt it for optimal tenderness.
Properly storing leafy vegetables in the refrigerator can help them stay fresh longer. The first step is to remove any ties or rubber bands and give them a thorough rinse under cold water.
Wrap the veggies loosely in a paper towel and place them in a resealable plastic bag with a few small holes punched to allow air circulation. Store the bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer, where the temperature and humidity are optimal for leafy greens.
Check on the greens every few days and discard any that have started to wilt or show signs of spoilage.
Check Expiration Dates
Expiration dates are important indicators of food safety. It’s essential to understand the difference between “sell by”, “best before” and “use by” dates when purchasing food products.
The “sell by” date indicates how long a store should display a product for sale; it does not indicate the freshness or quality of the product itself. Perishables – such as dairy, meat, poultry, and eggs – typically feature a “sell by” date to denote how long the item can be offered for sale in stores. Consume these edibles within a brief period post-purchase for maximal freshness and excellence.
The “best before” date indicates when food will start to lose its flavor or texture but may still be safe to eat if handled properly. You’ll find “best before” dates on canned goods, frozen meals, and other non-perishables.
Finally, the “use by” date indicates when you shouldn’t consume the item, as it has potential health risks such as bacteria growth or spoilage. It also refers specifically to infant formula, where use past this point could cause severe illness due to bacterial contamination and nutrient deficiency.
Making groceries last longer to save money is a great way to stretch your budget and ensure you get the most out of your food. By properly cleaning and storing produce, freezing items, and keeping a watchful eye on their expiration dates, you can reduce your expenses without making significant changes to what you buy.