6 Things to Do as Soon as You Unload Your Groceries
These smart tips will help you make the most of your supermarket haul.
Say Farewell to Carrot Tops
We admit to being suckers for beets or carrots with their greens attached—vegetables with their leaves attached are just more appealing than ones that are naked in the bag. Here's the thing about those greens, though: They sap moisture from the roots (aka the beets or carrots), causing them to dry out and soften more quickly. So, says Heather Crosby, author of YumUniverse Pantry to Plate, unless you plan to use the vegetables within a day or two, remove the greens as soon as you unpack the vegetables (just snap and twist, and they'll come right off). Save the leaves for vegetable stock, soups, smoothies and salads (you can even turn them into a delicious stuffing for chicken), storing them as you would mixed greens or herbs for two to three days.
Make an Herb Bouquet
Those plastic containers of basil, mint, rosemary and thyme you picked up in the produce aisle might seem like the perfect storage boxes, but Lily Diamond, author of Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table, says that's not necessarily the case. She uses herbs in everything from salad dressing to face masks, and the first thing she does when she gets home with an array of fresh herbs is separate them into tender and hardy categories. Herbs with soft, pliable leaves like basil, cilantro and mint should be stored like a bouquet of flowers, Diamond says. Trim their stems and place them in a glass with water at the bottom. Cover them loosely with a plastic bag and set the glass in the fridge—except for basil, which should be kept (bag-free) at room temperature. Don't wash the leaves until you're ready to use them. Hardy herbs, such as rosemary and sage, can stay refrigerated in their plastic clamshell boxes but, Diamond notes, they'll last longer if you wash them, pat them dry, wrap them in paper towels and keep them in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge.
Stock Your Fridge Like the Supermarket
Even if you have a tiny refrigerator, you can steal a dairy-aisle trick from The Quick Six Fix author Stuart O'Keeffe. He always puts the newer item—such as yogurt, eggs or cold cuts—behind or under the older one, so he reaches for nearer-to-expiring foods first when cooking. And before you open up the crisper drawer and lay a new bag of spinach over the half-empty one you bought last week, Small Victories author Julia Turshen has one word for you: frittata. These omelet-like dishes are the perfect way to use small amounts of leftover produce.
Open Up the Snacks
You've probably heard nutritionists say they like to wash and cut fruits and vegetables and store them in the refrigerator for easy and healthy snacking. Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez, authors of 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot, do this with big bags of salty snacks, too. The registered dietitians divvy up nuts, popcorn and trail mix into small, zip-top bags as soon as they get home from the store, and tuck the bags into places where they know they'll need them later, such as their purses, glove compartments, gym bags and desks.
Get the Flour Out of the Bag
Alternative flours are becoming increasingly popular with home bakers, whether or not they're following a gluten-free diet. Varieties made with whole wheat, brown rice and even green bananas can be healthier than traditional refined white flour, but they tend to spoil more quickly since they contain oil, which oxidizes when exposed to air (and eventually becomes rancid). Experts advise storing all flours in glass or airtight containers to deter pests; most whole grain flours will keep for one to three months at room temperature, or two to six months in the freezer.
Deal with the Bags
It's a good idea to place raw meat, fish and poultry in a separate plastic bag from your other groceries when you're at the store (leaking juices—enough said!). And though it might be tempting to reuse those bags at home, it's best to just throw them out, to avoid cross-contamination. As for reusable bags, a small study by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University (note: funded by the American Chemistry Council, which represents plastic makers), found that almost every reusable bag that consumers were bringing into the store contained large amounts of bacteria (E. Coli was found in 8 percent of the bags). The researchers suggest running reusable cloth bags through the washer or handwashing with detergent to reduce and wipe out the bacteria almost completely. If your bags are insulated, hand wash or wipe with disinfecting wipes, especially along the seams.