How to Keep Your Ingredients Fresher for Longer
We love using fresh ingredients and understand it can be tricky to know how to store them and how long they last.
We’ve pulled together our top tips to help you get the most out of your ingredients, whether it’s food in the fridge or store cupboard staples!
We’ve given some rough guidelines below, but as always, please use your best judgement when it comes to storing food and whether it’s safe to eat.
Where should I store meat?
Meat and dairy products like cheese and yoghurt are key ingredients to many of our recipes, but they can be home to harmful bacteria if they’re not stored correctly.
Almost all fresh meat and dairy should be kept chilled, but a good way to check is to look for a “use by” or “keep refrigerated” label on the package.
As a reminder, you should never eat products past the use by date, even if they look and smell fine.
There could be dangerous bacteria already present that could make you ill if you eat them!
“Best before” is usually an indicator of quality, so you can enjoy these after the best before date, but the taste or texture might not be as good.
Be sure to keep raw meat covered and on the bottom shelf to prevent any cross-contamination from dripping, and keep your fridge chilled to around 5°C.
Cooked meats should be stored on higher shelves, and once opened kept in an airtight container for up to three days.
Always check the packaging for any additional storage instructions, too!
We love cooking meat in batches and then freezing the leftovers for a quick and easy dinner another day, such as Pulled Pork: look out for the Freezable symbol!
For more information on chilling and freezing food, take a look at our Top Tips for Food Safety and Hygiene.
What about dairy products like milk and cheese?
Milk is usually kept in the door of the fridge for easy access but be careful: the door is often the warmest part.
You should try and keep milk on the shelf if possible, so it’s easy to grab but kept cooler for longer and at a more consistent temperature.
Nobody likes spoiled milk in their cuppa!
We love using cheese in recipes like our delicious Sneaky Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and if you’re as much of a fan of fromage as we are then you’ll want to keep your cheese fresh for as long as possible.
It’s best to wrap hard cheeses like parmesan in parchment or baking paper and then cling film, and semi-hard cheeses like cheddar can be wrapped just in cling film.
You can even write on the wrap what type of cheese it is and when you wrapped it!
Pop them in the salad drawer where the temperature is consistent, and you’ll have cheese on hand for two to three weeks.
You can use up leftover cheese in recipes like Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta for that creamy, indulgent taste without the extra calories!
Soft cheese is much more susceptible to nasties, and so once it’s opened you should try to eat it within a week or so, especially if it’s a spreadable cream cheese.
Keep an eye out for any mould on softer cheese, as this is a sign that it’s unsafe to eat.
How should I store fruit and vegetables?
Most fresh fruit will last longer if it’s kept in the fridge in its original packaging, including apples, berries and citrus fruits (pssst… they taste better if you bring them to room temperature before eating though!).
If you have stoned fruit like avocados and mangoes, it’s best to ripen them before refrigerating.
Fruit should last 5 days or so, but as always use sight, smell and touch to figure out if the fruit is still good to eat.
Some citrus fruits and apples can last quite a bit longer, up to a couple of weeks!
One big exception is bananas: if you’ve ever stored them in the fridge by mistake, you’ll know they turn an unappetising black colour! If your bananas start to look a little speckled, DON’T bin them! Blitz into smoothies or bake into soft and light Banana Bread instead!
So many veggies have labels telling us to “store in a cool, dry place”. This means the fridge, right? Nope!
The colder temperature can change the flavour and texture of certain vegetables, so the best place to store them is actually in the cupboard!
Onions and garlic have strong flavours, which is why we love using them in curries and stews, but these can accidentally infuse into other items in the fridge!
Believe it or not, stringing brown and red onions up in a pair of tights – yes, really! – or in a cloth bag in a cupboard can keep them fresh for weeks.
Spring onions, however, should be kept in the fridge for freshness and can last for a week.
You can peel off the outer layers if they start to brown.
Salad veggies, like lettuce, cucumber and radishes should likewise always be kept in the fridge, where they’ll last up for 5 days.
You should aim to keep moisture out, so only wash them when you’re ready to use them to cut down on any soggy leaves!
You can use up fresh spinach in Spinach and Pesto Hummus if it’s looking a little sad after a few days.
If you’re using a bag of pre-prepared veggies, these won’t last as long as uncut versions, but you could fold up a sheet or two of kitchen roll inside the bag to soak up any excess moisture.
This can make them last a little longer if you change the kitchen roll every day.
Don’t forget, you can freeze most vegetables if you want to cut down on food waste.
See more Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze for tips and tricks on reducing food waste!
What’s the best way to store eggs?
Despite many of us having fancy egg-holders or display boxes, the best way to store eggs is in the carton: it protects the eggs from any odours and flavours from other strong-smelling foods, and you can see the use by dates easily too!
In the UK, you’ll see eggs out on the supermarket shelves rather than in the fridge, and it’s usually fine to store them outside the fridge at home too, as long as the room isn’t too hot.
Most people store their eggs in the fridge to make sure they stay at a constant temperature, but you should bring them to room temperature for half an hour before using or you might find cooking times for dishes like Crustless Quiche Lorraine are a little longer than expected.
If you’re in the USA, eggs are washed and treated before sale, and should always be kept refrigerated. Make sure you check local guidance for your area regarding the storage of eggs to keep you and your family safe!
The eggs should last until the use by date. A quick way of testing the freshness of an egg, is to carefully lower it into a glass of cold water:
- If the egg sinks and lays flat, it’s fresh
- If it sinks but stands upright, it is edible but should be eaten as soon as possible
- If it floats, it shouldn’t be eaten!
How can I keep bread fresher for longer?
Some people store their bread in the fridge, but surprisingly, it actually lasts longer at room temperature!
Whether you’re a fan of flatbreads of a lover of sliced loaves, you can keep your bread at its best by fastening the bag with a clip or peg once you’ve taken a slice out. You can keep it in a bread bin or cupboard for up to a week.
Oh, and don’t throw away the end slice, crust, heel – whatever you call it, it’s useful for keeping the next slice fresh.
If you do end up with a few stale slices, you can blitz into breadcrumbs to prevent extra food waste. Chicken Kievs, anyone?!
Where should I store tinned and canned goods?
We always have a good supply of tinned food in the cupboard as it’s SO convenient, and it’s worth covering these handy staples in our tips for keeping food fresher for longer.
The process of canning food is really safe, and actually gets rid of all of the bacteria in the food which is why it lasts so long!
You’re fine to store any tinned food in the cupboard until the best before date, but do watch out for any dents or nicks in the tin that may allow air to get in and spoil the food.
If you suspect a hole in the tin, throw it in the bin!
If you don’t use a full tin, make sure you decant the contents to an airtight container rather than keeping them in the tin in the fridge: you may find a metallic taste transfers to the contents if not. So many of our recipes are perfect for throwing in leftovers, like leftover tomatoes and veggies in our Bolognese Risotto?
Have you used any of these tips or have your own top tips to share? Don’t forget to join our Facebook group where we have nearly 1 million members sharing their own stories, ideas and motivation, we’d love to see you there!