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How to extend the shelf life of food: Eggs, milk, greens, milk & more

As Canadians look to save money on food, extending the life of your groceries can also help.

Two bags full of food groceries on the floor. (Stock Image)
Here's how to extend the shelf life of food like eggs, bananas, bread and more.

Although overall inflation in Canada has slowed to 5.9 per cent — the price of groceries continues to increase.

According to Statistics Canada's latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report, food prices – which includes both groceries and food from restaurants – increased 10.4 per cent year-over-year in January, up from 10.1 per cent in December.

With the cost of food still rising, many Canadians are trying to get the most value from their grocery budget. One way you can do that is by extending the shelf life of your food with these tips.

Close up of young woman grocery shopping in supermarket. She is holding a box of fresh organic free range eggs in front of refrigerated section. Healthy eating lifestyle
How to keep eggs fresh for longer.

Eggs

Eggs can last longer if you store them properly. Here are some tips:

  • Store eggs in the refrigerator in the carton they came in.

  • Keep the carton on an inside shelf, as the temperature is more consistent.

  • Avoid storing eggs in the door of the refrigerator, as this area is exposed to more temperature fluctuations.

  • Don't wash eggs before storing them, as the natural coating on the egg helps protect it from bacteria.

  • Do not use any eggs that have cracks or breaks, as they can let bacteria in.

  • If you have a lot of eggs, you can also store them in the refrigerator in a sealed container, which will help to keep them fresh.

  • Eggs can last up to five weeks in the refrigerator, but use them before the carton expires.

Fresh greens

Fresh produce is particularly expensive right now, so here's how you can ensure your greens don't go bad:

  • Keep them in the refrigerator, ideally in the crisper drawer, which helps keep them fresh for longer.

  • Store greens in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel or in a container with a lid and a damp paper towel. This helps keep the greens fresh by maintaining the humidity.

  • Use greens as soon as possible after purchasing them, as they will become less fresh over time.

  • Before storing, gently wash the greens and dry them thoroughly. Any excess water can cause the greens to become slimy and spoil more quickly.

  • Sort through the greens and remove any spoiled leaves, as they can cause the rest of the greens to spoil more quickly.

Close-up of unrecognizable black woman picking up a gallon of milk at supermarket
Milk can be particularly challenging to keep fresh.

Milk

Milk can be particularly challenging to keep fresh. It often goes off before its expiration date once you've opened it. Keep it fresh longer with the following measures:

  • Get your milk last when you're shopping.

  • Go straight home and put it up quickly to keep it chilled.

  • Store milk in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator at or below 4°C (40°F).

  • Keep milk away from strong-smelling foods.

  • Check the expiration date, and use the milk before it expires.

  • Trust your senses to determine if the milk has gone bad. It should have a fresh, mild smell and no visible lumps or discolorations.

Whole grains

Whole grains are more nutritious and more expensive than refined grains. Unfortunately, they also have a shorter shelf life. Here are some ways you can enjoy the taste and nutrients of whole grains longer:

  • Transfer whole grains to an airtight container.

  • Store whole grains in the freezer for the longest shelf life.

  • Place them as far away from the door as possible to avoid exposure to light and temperature shifts.

  • If you're really serious about extending the life of your whole grains, buy whole berries and grind them into flour yourself.

Bananas

Although banana bread is a delicious way to use up bananas that are past their prime, you can try these methods for storing them longer:

  • Hang your bananas from a hook instead of putting them in a fruit bowl to slow their ripening and prevent bruises.

  • Buy green bananas if you don't plan to use them immediately.

  • Wrap the stem of your bananas in plastic to slow the release of ethylene gas that causes ripening.

  • If your bananas ripen before you're ready to eat them, store them in the refrigerator.

  • Freeze bananas that you won't use for a while. Peel them first to make thawing them easier and less messy.

If stored correctly, you can make cheese last longer.
If stored correctly, you can make cheese last longer.

Cheese

Cheese can be a great option for vegetarian protein. You can save by buying it in bulk and using the following techniques to store it properly:

  • Keep cheese in the refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 2°C and 3°C (35°F and 38°F).

  • Wrap the cheese tightly in wax paper, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

  • Avoid storing cheese in the door of the refrigerator, as this area is prone to temperature fluctuations.

  • If the cheese has a rind, keep it intact, as it helps to protect the cheese inside.

  • If the cheese is moldy, you can cut off the moldy part before consuming the rest of the cheese.

  • If the cheese is soft cheese, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

  • You can freeze hard cheeses such as cheddar and Parmesan for up to six months. However, freezing can change the texture and make it crumbly. To avoid this, wrap the cheese tightly in plastic wrap before placing it in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag. Thaw the cheese in the refrigerator before using it.

Coffee beans

If you've given up your coffee shop habit to save money, making good coffee at home is especially important. Grinding your own coffee can give you the barista experience, and these tips will keep your coffee beans fresh for longer:

  • Store the beans in an airtight container, in a cool and dry place, away from light and moisture.

  • Keep the coffee beans away from strong odors, as coffee absorbs surrounding scents easily.

  • Try to use the coffee beans within two to three weeks of roasting.

  • Grind the beans just before brewing to preserve the freshness and flavor of the coffee.

Staying safe while saving money on groceries

With grocery prices relentlessly increasing, you undoubtedly want to do as much as possible to slash your grocery bill. While there are many steps you can take to stretch your budget, remember to put safety first. It's not worth saving a few dollars by eating spoiled food if it makes you sick. Always follow food safety guidelines for handling and storing your food.

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