What are some good ways to stretch the life of perishable foods?

Amanda Witman
By Amanda Witman on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - 8:04am

I found this article 27 Ways To Make Your Groceries Last As Long As Possible and thought perhaps some of you might have other tips to add.  I especially like their tip about freezing herbs in olive oil.

I use a kitchen cloth in my lettuce (in a reusable covered container) instead of a paper towel with plastic wrap over it.  I also don't tear the lettuce until just before it's going to be eaten.  The cloth absorbs excess moisture but then keeps the humidity in the container high.  Keeping the leaves intact for as long as possible reduces the "injured" areas of the leaves that more quickly turn brown and decompose.

I also love these Debbie Meyer Green Bags storage bags for extending the life of produce.  They work surprisingly well, and can be rinsed or washed and reused many times.  For easy bag drying, something like this rack (or its much cheaper cousin) is a helpful thing to have, though I have friends who have simply mounted a nice, whittled-down branch on the wall for drying multiple bags at once.

I love my freezer.  It's a modern convenience I'd hate to do without.  I freeze leftovers and have "perpetual" containers in my fridge where I store odd scraps of veggies forvmaking stock, putting directly in soup,  "spicy rice," and also a jar of odd bits for sweet baked goods (nut crumbs, random raisins, etc).  If I open a jar of something and only need half, I am likely to freeze the rest so it doesn't spoil before I can figure out what to do with it.

I also have a "cold pantry" -- an unheated mudroom that ideally would not freeze in winter (I am working on that part as it currently does go below freezing sometimes).  It's right off the kitchen and can be used for cool storage for much of the year, for things that don't necessarily need or want to be in the fridge.

Got any other great ideas for stretching the life of perishable foods?


kellyr's picture
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Putting up food

I dry a lot of fooods and herbs.  

I also use my vacuum sealer quite a bit for putting food by.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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Wilted fresh produce can be

Wilted fresh produce can be either cut and put in ice water--like celery or carrot sticks--or used in soups.

A big thing is to use winter storage vegetables and fruits. Favorites of ours in that category are acorn squash, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, apples, onions, garlic, butternut squash, and turnips. These will keep for a very long time in a cool room. I still have a pumpkin left over from October, and just used an acorn squash from December.

If your cabbage is about to go on you, make a small batch of slaw. You can make something Southern (but adaptable to the north) called chow-chow; good on hot dogs, like saurkraut, but made like a pickle relish in a jar.

Lnorris's picture
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I left my Blue Solaise Leeks

I left my Blue Solaise Leeks in the ground until this week. I dug 15 up and left a few to continue to overwinter until the spring as an experiment. Temperatures have been in the 20's overnight for the past couple of weeks so I am impressed by this leeks ability to tolerate below freezing temps. Using nature's fridge is a good way to extend your vegetables productivity.

Quercus bicolor's picture
Quercus bicolor
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root cabinet

I created a root cabinet from the well of an emergency ecsape window in my basement.  The only materials needed were a few sheets of 2 inch foam board, some quarter inch hardware cloth to keep the mice out, a few feet of angle iron to support the foam where it meets the window and some spray foam insulation.  It's bigger than a large fridge and the potatoes, beets, carrots and onions are keeping very well in it. The window serves as the fridge door.  Total cost was under $100.

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Quercus bicolor
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I left my leeks in the ground too.  They survived single digit F temperatures under fresh snow.  The large number of freezes and thaws under very wet conditions was starting to damage a few of them, so we picked them in mid January and made lots of soup.

taxed2death's picture
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Many root,tuber,and other

Many root,tuber,and other subterranean edibles hold up well in freezing temps with a little straw spread on the ground above them.
if you cut a head of lettuce in half and use the core first,it will last much longer.

If i have herbs about to freeze,i uproot them,put them in a vase with water and give them a sunny window
Meats including fish,dont spoil as fast if they are kept dry.
If i get meat from a supermarket,the first thing to go is the plastic and usually soggy diaper.i then set a bowl upside down on a plate,put the meat on the bowl,use a larger upside downbowl to act as a lid over the smaller bowl and meat.just drain or change the plate daily and ive had even fish last a week or more.

kellyr's picture
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Emergency Escape window

Does it still function well as an emergency escape?

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I tend to eat perishable

I tend to eat perishable foods as they ripen in season from the garden.  In hot weather I have to pick stuff quickly before it bolts or tastes bad like lettuce or carrots, but in the cool fall I preserve things by harvesting only as needed up until the threat of frost.

During the cold months, I mostly eat vegetables that can store for months in the refrigerator or my root cellar (at about 34F right now) and forgo out of season veggies that cannot be preserved.  I've got carrots from my garden last summer that are still good in the frig, in plastic bags, which is much better than store bought carrots that never seem to last more than a week or two.  Beets last for months refrigerated also.    Winter squash stores best in the bedroom where its about 50-55F.  Potatoes in the dark root cellar with the temp just above freezing store for months, sprouting only when warm temps come in spring.  Onions are in a cool dry spot of my basement

Quercus bicolor's picture
Quercus bicolor
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kellyr wrote: Does it still

kellyr wrote:

Does it still function well as an emergency escape?

You could bust out of it if you really needed but it would take 20 seconds or so.  It was put in by the original owner because someone was living downstairs.  But nobody lives in the basement anymore, so it's not really an issue.

Turbine's picture
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Very Clever

That's very impressive, I wish I were so good with tools.

I have a few questions if that's OK. Forgive me please if I make some faux pas, I'm new to the internet.

Firstly, how many man hours did it take you to make the cabinet, and what skills do you need to make one?

What's the climate like in your part of the world and would it be worth making one of these where I live? (summers average about 10C and Winters -5C.)

Would you recommend this over a fridge if the 2 were the same size and what are the precise pros and cons?

Finally, what additional tips would you give to someone making one of these cabinets if they had decent skill in making, say, spice racks?

Thanks for reading this and, again, sorry for any mistakes made.

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Nervous Nelly
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Nuts are expensive

I buy large bags and I keep all of them in the freezer. They won't go rancid.


Oops should have read the 27 ways to store food. Nuts were mentioned. Who ever thought # 23 was a genius!!  I 'll try that out.

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