New guidance has been issued this month advising consumers that apples, oranges and other fruit should be kept in the fridge to prolong shelf life.
The advice from waste charity WRAP, the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Food and Rural Affairs has been issued in a bid to cut household food waste.
The most recent figures from WRAP showed that 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was thrown away in the UK in 2015 – 4.4m tonnes of which was edible. This amount equates to a not insignificant financial sum per household, and also generates tonnes of greenhouse gases.
As part of the latest push to reduce this figure, supermarkets will soon introduce a new “Little Blue Fridge” icon for foods which should be kept chilled, or which would benefit from being kept in the fridge to prevent them going off.
So, is this the end for the fruit bowl? And what other foods are we storing all wrong? If you’re finding that your weekly shop isn’t stretching quite as far as it should, poor food storage could be to blame…
Storing champagne and other sparkling wines in the fridge could be altering the taste, according to Moët & Chandon’s wine quality manager Marie-Christine Osselin. Sparkling wines should be stored in a cool and dark space with a consistent temperature, and chilled when you are ready to drink it.
According to Decanter, all bottles should be kept away from bright lights, and the temperature should be consistent. In the short term, Champagne can be stored standing up, but longer term, it’s best kept horizontal.
Wrapping your cheese in clingfilm before storing it in the fridge could be making it go off more quickly. Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI) says cheese is best kept wrapped in waxed paper as this “strikes the right balance between stopping the cheese from dying out and preventing too much moisture from building up.”
According to cheesemongers Paxton & Whitfield, cheese keeps best as a whole cheese. So unless you are buying a whole cheese, it’s best to eat it as soon as you can. This may not always be practical though, so remember that larger pieces of cheese keep better than small pieces. Nearly all cheeses like a moist atmosphere, so a humid cellar is often ideal, as is the dairy or salad drawer in your fridge.
It’s a common mistake, but placing bread in the fridge will cause it to dry out. According to The Good Housekeeping Institute, while it slows the arrival of mould, bread goes stale more quickly in the fridge. The best way to refresh bread that’s going a little stale is to splash it with water and then heat it for five to 10 minutes in the oven.
It can, however, be placed in the freezer for up to three months, so once you’ve had your fill of freshly baked bread, freeze any that’s left uneaten.
Tomatoes thrive at room temperature, but become mealy, dry and odourless if refrigerated. In a study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences journal, it was even revealed that when tomatoes are stored in the fridge, genetic changes occur that alter the flavour permanently.
Like tomatoes, basil doesn’t thrive well in cooler temperatures. Experts recommend treating it as you would a bouquet of fresh flowers and keeping a bunch of basil stored in a cup of water away from direct sunlight.
However, Grow Veg does have some tips for freezing basil: “Simply chop the leaves, stuff them into ice cube trays, cover with cold water, and freeze. The frozen basil bits will turn black as soon as they thaw, but they will still taste like basil.”
Peaches, plums and pears
Many fruits including peaches, plums, and pears emit ethylene gas, which accelerates rotting in vegetables.
According to Sainsbury’s, which has plenty more tips for food storage on its Waste Less Save More website, some fruits and vegetables are higher producers of ethylene, while others are very sensitive to its effects. For example, spinach and kale will wilt if stored with apples or peaches.
Other high producers of the gas which should be kept separate from other foods include apples, apricots, avocados, ripe bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, figs, spring onions, grapes, honeydew melon, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, papaya, passion fruit, peaches, pears, plums, potatoes, prunes and tomatoes.
Foods most likely to ‘turn’ as a result of the gas include asparagus, unripe bananas, blackberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, aubergine, endive, garlic, green beans, kale and leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, raspberries, spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet potatoes, watercress and watermelon.
Avocados and bananas
If you’ve purchased an unripe avocado, don’t store it in the fridge as it slows down the ripening process. Keep it on the counter until it ripens and then place in the fridge if you don’t plan on eating it right away.
To keep a cut avocado from going brown, rub a little lemon or lime juice on the exposed flesh, wrap it in plastic cling wrap and refrigerate it for up to a day or two. You can also freeze avocado in slices or as a puree – this works well for smoothies, salad dressings and dips. Unripe bananas should also be kept out on the counter. Once they’re ripe enough, you can put them in the fridge to prevent further ripening.
Opinion is divided when it comes to the best place to store ketchup but the general rule is this: if you feel like you can finish it within a month, leave it out. If you think it’ll take you longer to get through the bottle, keep it in the fridge.
Onions, squash and potatoes
Find a cool, dark cupboard with low moisture levels and store them there instead of the fridge, with space to breathe. The sugars in onions turn to starch if they are kept chilled, which makes them go mushy. However, if kept too near the potatoes, the potatoes may sprout faster.However, according to The Good Housekeeping Institute, there is an exception – when they’ve already been chopped and peeled. Place chopped onions in a sealed container before refrigerating them, and they should last up to a week.
Nuts and oils
Nut products and natural oils can be kept in the fridge to maintain maximum freshness and quality.
Heat can accelerate oxidisation in foods containing saturated fat, like Brazil nuts and cashews, so keeping them in the fridge will help them to retain their moisture.
Unless your cake has an icing or filling that will go bad if not refrigerated (such as fresh fruit, fruit compotes or fresh dairy like cream, cream cheese, mascarpone or custard), it’s best to leave it out, as placing it in the fridge will dry it out.
The Hummingbird Bakery recommends eating homemade cakes within 24 hours of making them. Always wrap sponges, cupcakes or cake slices well in cling film. This is to create a protective barrier and to prevent them from drying out. Ensure all cut sides are completely covered to prevent the sponge from going dry.
Eggs are porous, so they absorb the smells around them. If you’ve got something particularly potent in your fridge, you’d be better off keeping your eggs away.
However, eggs are at their best when stored at a consistent temperature. According the British Egg Information Service, eggs should be kept at a constant temperature below 20ºC.
Source: The Telegraph