Never neglect the importance of proper storage of food items under good conditions. This would help to maintain the quality and freshness of the food produce, helping it retain its flavour, colour, texture and nutrients, as well as reduce the chance of contracting a foodborne illness.
What causes Spoilage
A variety and a combination of factors result in food spoilage. Some common factors include air, light, physical damage and temperature.
According to FoodSafetySite, the oxygen in the air can have deteriorative effects on numerous food constituents such as its colour and flavour. This is because exposing food to air encourages the growth of microorganisms, more commonly moulds and yeast.
FoodSafetySite also reported that for an increase of every ~7.8°C within the usual temperature range of 10°C and 37°C, the rate of chemical reaction doubles. This leads to the breakdown of proteins, enzymes being destroyed, and the loss of moisture. Temperatures that are too low could also do damage to various food produce. For example, due to the freezing and thawing process, the surfaces of the produce may undergo cracks, leading to increased susceptibility of microbial contamination.
Types of Food
Food products can be classified into three main categories, namely perishables, semi-perishables and non-perishables. Perishables are fresh food that go bad quickly, including poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables. Semi-perishables are food that do not require refrigeration, but still have a limited shelf life. This may include flour, potatoes, onions and dry mixes. Non-perishables, on the other hand, are food that do not spoil unless they are carelessly mishandled. However, the quality of these food would decline when stored for a long period of time. Examples include dehydrated foods, uncooked pastas, sugar and canned food.
Different groups of food have different shelf lives. A general guide to determine when to keep or throw your perishable food items are as follows:
Tips and Tricks to Kickstart Your Journey!
Tip 1: Maintaining The Right Temperature
Maintaining the right temperature in your refrigerator and freezer is also crucial in ensuring freshness and high quality of fresh produce. For your refrigerator, you should aim to keep it below 4°C, and the freezer should be below -18°C. It is unwise to also keep your refrigerator and freezer colder than necessary, since this could eat up additional energy. If you are interested in knowing ways to cut your refrigerator's energy cost, do check out this article.
As with some models of refrigerators that might not have an in-built thermometer to ensure that the temperature is optimal, it is vital to periodically check it.
For semi-perishable and non-perishable food produce, it is wise to store them in the kitchen cupboard. The area should be kept clean, dry, dark and cool with an optimal temperature of about 25°C. Any temperature higher than 35°C is likely to cause canned food to deteriorate.
Tip 2: Proper Storage of Cooked Food
If you are intending to place cooked food into the refrigerator for future consumption, refrigerate them within 2 hours of cooking to slow down bacteria growth. Further, when keeping leftovers in the refrigerator, cover them tightly with cling wraps or store them in airtight and leakproof containers to prevent extreme bacteria growth. This is because bacteria can still grow even at refrigeration temperatures, so be sure to consume all leftovers within 3-4 days!
Tip 3: Proper Storage of Fresh Food (Perishables)
For meat, fish and poultry, it is best to keep them in its store packaging. Repackaging it might cause unnecessary exposure of the produce to bacteria, leading to spoilage.
In order to extend the freshness of your fruits and vegetables, be cautious with their storage! Vegetables and fruits should be stored separately as these groups give off different types of gases that can cause quicker deterioration for the other group.
Say 'NO!' to itchy fingers too! Washing your fruits and vegetables before refrigerating them could hasten bacterial growth, causing them to rot quickly.
For dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, never transfer or pour them back into their original containers after taking them out. Doing so leads to contamination, and encourages the products to go bad faster.
Tip 4: Unrefrigerated Food (Semi Perishables)
Even though storing food into the refrigerator or freezer do help to extend the shelf lives of many produce, not all items require refrigeration. In fact, some items are in their prime condition at room temperature!
These items include:
1. Potatoes: Refrigeration affects the flavour of potatoes.
2. Bread: Refrigeration causes the bread to dry out quickly.
3. Onions: It is best to keep onions in the mesh bags you bought them in! This allows for circulation. Try to keep onions away from potatoes as well, since potatoes emit moisture and gas that causes onions to rot quickly.
4. Garlic: Store it the same way as you do for onions and they can last about 2 months!
Tip 5: Track The Expiry Dates
Sometimes, with the huge volume of canned food purchased, it might be difficult to keep track of all the expiry dates. To prevent wastage of these items, it will be beneficial to invest in a FIFO (First In, First Out) rotation system. This system ensures that the older canned food will be used first.
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Storing your groceries in the right places will definitely help to maximise their storage life! If you are looking to reduce food wastage due to spoilage of ingredients, then this is a definite must step in your reduction of food wastage and cost savings journey! We have provided you with so many non-time consuming and easy ways to kickstart your journey. Don’t procrastinate, start today!