How to Keep Food Fresh Longer

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Most of us throw out lots of food because it's gone bad. But, as AOL consumer adviser Regina Lewis explained on "The Early Show," there are ways to prolong the time before foods spoil.

The average household tosses out, on average, 14 percent of the food they buy, according to Money magazine. That's nearly double what we threw out 20 years ago.

If the typical family of four spends $182 a week, that's $25 lost per week and approximately $1,325 per year.

Lewis spelled out ways you keep that food in your frig and money in your pocket:

Herbs

Herbs tend to be expensive, and you usually have to buy more than you need for one dish, so you want to make them last as long as possible. The best way to keep herbs fresh is to by storing them in whole bunches. First wash them, then seal them in zip lock bags and place them in the freezer. Storing them this way should keep them at peak freshness for up to a month. That's more than double them time they would last in the fridge. And when you are ready to use them, you'll find they are actually easier to chop frozen - and they'll defrost in a hurry once you toss them into a hot pan.

Flour, Rice, Pasta

Flour, rice and pasta aren't foods you typically have to worry about going bad anytime soon. Flour keeps for 6-12 months and pasta up to two years. But these foods are susceptible to little bugs called weevils. To help ward off the weevils try slipping a bay leaf into your storage container. The scent of the bay leave will help repel the bugs. Other items bay leaves will protect are barley, cornmeal and oatmeal. Most cereal products will be just fine for months with the bay leaves to protect them. Also consider scattering a few leaves on your pantry shelves to repel moths, roaches and mice.

Cheese

You probably never thought about putting butter on your cheese, but that's the key to keeping it moist when storing it in the refrigerator. Simple spread butter or margarine on the cut sides and you help seal in the moisture. This trick works best on hard cheeses sealed in wax.

Veggies

The reason these veggies wilt is due to water loss. The best way to re-crisp them is by putting them in ice water. You can let them soak in the ice water for up to a half hour. The ice water penetrates their cells and helps restore the crunch. Some foodies also suggest that tossing in a few slices of raw potato with the wilted veggies helps speed things up the re-crisping.

Salt

The key here is to keep the salt dry and keep it from clumping together. Anybody that lives down south where the humidity is particularly high probably has had their salt shakers clog up. If you put a little bit of dry rice in the shaker it will stop the salt from hardening. The rice works like a sponge, absorbing condensation that can cause clumps.

Stock up on butter

One staple you can stock up on when it's on sale is butter. If you shop in warehouse stores, such as Costco, don't be afraid to buy it in bulk. Butter will keep in your freezer for up to six months. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container or you run the risk of it taking on the flavor of other items in your freezer.

Cottage cheese

This tip goes for both cottage cheese and sour cream - neither have a very long shelf life, so here a way to make them last longer. Simply place the cottage cheese or sour cream container in the fridge upside down. What does that do? By inverting the tub it creates a vacuum effect that stifles the growth of bacteria that can cause the food to spoil.

Honey

This a great "did you know" for today: What is the only food that doesn't spoil? The answer: honey. The sugar in honey is itself a preservative. Honey is also acidic, which helps to keep bacteria out. While it doesn't go bad, all honey will crystallize at some point. But don't toss it out. The crystals are just sugar and with a little gentle warming you can make the honey clear again. Try microwaving it on medium heat for 30 seconds at a time.

Eggs

If you ever unsure of the freshness of your eggs -- maybe you don't quite trust the date on the carton -- there's a simple way to test the freshness. Fill up a container with water and place the eggs in it. Fresh eggs will sink; bad or spoiled eggs will float. According to the USDA website, an egg can float in water when its air cell has enlarged sufficiently to keep it buoyant. This means the egg is old, but it may be perfectly safe to use. Crack the egg into a bowl and examine it for an off-odor or unusual appearance before deciding to use or discard it. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, either when raw or cooked.
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