Free Food by Avoiding Wasted Food

by Michael Smith

Have you ever felt you were throwing away more food than you were eating? It would appear that that is exactly what we are doing, whether in Britain or the USA. In fact we all throw away tons and tons of perfectly good food every year simply because we did not store it properly, or also because we assume that the “best before” date on a product means that it cannot be used a day or so afterwards. A “use by” date is a different story.

Many people do not buy much fresh produce because they are afraid that it will go bad before it gets eaten. The problem is that often people simply store fruit and vegetables wrong. Bananas, for instance, must never be put together with other fruit as the, the bananas, give off a gas that will cause apples, pears, and other fruit to go off much quicker than would normally be the case.

The proper kind of storage can make your produce last longer and, doing it right, you can avoid throwing good food – well it was before it went rotten – into the trash or the compost heap.

If you think everything should be stored in the refrigerator think again. Some people seem to stuff just about everything into the fridge but that could be the wrong place entirely for some produce. Potatoes, for instance, should never be refrigerated.

Avoiding wasted food is a bit like getting free food. OK, I know, you did pay for it to start with but I am sure you know what I mean.

Improper storage very often is the cause of food going to waste, in our homes as much as elsewhere. This can, however, be avoided by employing some rather simple storage habits which may help your food stay fresh days – if not months, even:


Store apples on the counter, away from other produce. For long-term storage, wrap perfect apples (no spots, bruises or blemishes) individually in paper. Then, place them in a box and store in a cool, dark place.


Store bananas at room temperature until they ripen. Store ripe bananas in the refrigerator to impede further ripening.

Note: When you refrigerate or freeze bananas, the peel will turn black, but the fruit will still be good.

Do not store bananas with other fruit. Bananas exude a gas that will prematurely spoil other fruit.


Store bread in a breadbox or on the counter. The best kind would be of wood.


Store butter in its original packaging inside the refrigerator compartment (not inside the door). Butter can also be frozen for up to six months.


Remove cheese from its original packaging. Then, re-wrap it in a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper, and seal it inside a plastic bag. Some hard cheese benefit from being packaged in a breathable cloth, such as muslin, and then stored in the fridge.


Store eggs in their original carton inside the refrigerator and not inside the refrigerator door, despite the fact that the inside of the fridge door tends to have a compartment for eggs; use that for something else.


Freeze flour for 48 hours to kill any insect eggs that might be present. Then, place in a tight-sealing container; and store in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight. Keep whole-grain flours in the refrigerator or freezer to extend their life.


Store heads of garlic unpeeled in an open container in a cool, dry place. For long-term storage, garlic can also be dried and braided.


Store honey in a cool, dark place in an air-tight container. No need to put it in the fridge though.


Remove the lettuce from its store packaging. Then, wrap it in paper toweling, and place it in an open storage bag.


Store fresh mushrooms in a paper bag inside of the refrigerator. Do not keep them in the crisper.


Store nuts in the shell until you are ready to use them. Refrigerate or freeze any that you plan to keep for more than three months.


Store whole onions in a cool, dark place away from moisture. For bulk storage, cut the legs off of a pair of pantyhose; drop an onion into one of the legs, and tie it off. Then, drop in another onion and tie it off again. Continue doing this until the legs are full. Then, hang.

Note: Potatoes give off a gas that ripens onions, so be sure to store them separately.


Store whole pineapples unwrapped in the refrigerator. Store cut pineapples in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.


Store potatoes unwashed in a paper bag, pantyhose or a similarly vented container. Then, place in a cool, dark and dry spot. Not so long ago I reviewed the “Potato Bag” from Lakeland and I must say that it certainly does the job. The same can also be achieved with a good old-fashioned burlap or Hessian sack, like those that peanuts often come in to the stores., if a potato sack itself it too bog for your storage requirements.


Store tomatoes at room temperature. Keep out of the sun, once they have ripened.

The correct storage of food is what will keep it from spoiling too early and keep us from wasting food. We can certainly here take a few leaves out of the books of the old ones who managed to keep food better than we seem to do today.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009