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20 tips to make your groceries last longer

April 08, 2020 11:30 IST
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A simple guide to keeping your food fresh through a lockdown

Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters.

There’s plenty of fresh vegetables coming into many of our markets, in spite of the lockdown.

But is it a great idea to keep going to the market to buy them? Or ordering them in every few days?

To keep your and your family’s exposure to COVID-19 down, it is suggested that trips and ordering be kept to a minimum.

So how do you make those groceries last, especially fresher items?


Many Indian virus experts, as a precaution against COVID-19, are suggesting that vegetables, fruits etc should be washed before storing.

So how does that work?

Vegetable market in Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

Here are some tips:

1. You can easily, after washing/wiping down the packets with a mild bleach solution, freeze fresh milk, butter and cheese. Take it down into the fridge/defrost on need basis. Grating the cheese before freezing works best.

2. Take your bunch of green onions, wash them and put in a clear glass of water, with the bulbs just below the waterline. And place on a windowsill so they get good sunlight. Cut off stalks and use as and when required.

3. Items like tomatoes, tindli, tinda, cabbage, watermelons, oranges, guava, apples, pomegranate, doodhi/loki, full kadoos (buy only full ones at this time), potatoes, onions, garlic (with peels), eggplant, baby eggplants can stay out in the open, unwashed, but segregated, in a basket, not tightly packed, and will remain fresh for quite a few days. Easily up to 5 to 6 days. So you don’t have to cram it all in the fridge. Wash well before using.

4. If you like your lettuce and want to stock your fridge with it, buy a large iceberg lettuce. They usually come well-sealed in plastic wrap. Don’t wash it before putting in the fridge. But seal it well in another clean plastic bag and wash the leaves before use.

Photograph: Jorge Cabrera/Reuters.

5. Wash green chillies, dry well with a dish towel and store in a sealed plastic container.

6. Wash grapes very well, several times. Allow to dry under the fan for several hours and store in a plastic dabba in the fridge.

7. Wash loose corn (dana) well. Drain and dry under the fan or in the open. Pack in plastic bags and seal. Place in the freezer.

Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters.

8. Wash a head of broccoli. Allow it to dry well under the fan or in the open for several hours and after it is thoroughly dry, store wrapped in foil and then in a clean plastic bag, tightly shut.

9. Do the exact same for baby corn as you did for broccoli.

10. Mushrooms come usually in their own sealed plastic packing. The packet should be wiped down with a mild bleach solution and wrapped in another plastic bag and stored in the fridge. They will last in the fridge for almost a week. When ready to use, discard the plastic packing.

Photograph: Annegret Hilse/Reuters.

11. Wash beans – all types (gavar, French beans, cholee, papri) – well. Allow it to dry well under the fan or in the open for several hours. Before storing pat dry so no moisture remains. Place in a clean plastic bag, tightly shut.

12. Exactly the same for bhindi (lady’s fingers/okra). But it won’t last more than a week in the fridge. That said, supermarkets abroad sell frozen okra which is washed okra blanched for three minutes in hot water.  If you plan to pan fry the bhindi later then cut each okra in half lengthwise, seal in plastic packets and freeze. You can do the same with round slices of washed zucchini. And also for beans -- cut well-washed, top-and-tailed beans to the size you like, blanch in boiling water for two or three or four minutes depending on the size you cut it to and then quickly drain, dunk into icy cold water, drain again, dry and freeze. Remember to label all frozen foods.

13. Store curry patta, unwashed in a sealed plastic dabba. It will last a week. Wash well before use.

14. Item like spinach, dill, parsley, green dhania/kotmir do not store for very long in the fridge. One way of preserving spinach is to wash well, using hot water. Then mildly blanch in a little boiling water on the gas. Drain water and freeze. You can’t wash and store dhania, dill, parsley. The best you can do is store them, segregated from your clean vegetables, wrapped in a paper towel to absorb moisture and then wrapped in clean plastic bags. 

Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters.

15. Like green dhania, dill etc, methi will not last long in the fridge. Maximum 4-5 days. Again you can’t wash and store it and the best you can do is store it, segregated from your clean vegetables, wrapped in a paper towel to absorb moisture and then wrapped in clean plastic bags.

Alternately you could do is to wash it well. Pick off the fatter stems and discard and fry it in a non-stick pan with a little oil till dry. Store the fried methi in the fridge till you need it to make methi alu or methi paneer or methi paratha.

16. Stock your freezer with frozen peas and cupboards with canned mushroom, tomato sauce etc.

Vegetable market in Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

17. What about bananas? If you wash a bunch they turn brown, although they are still good and firm. A tip online suggests wrapping the stems, where a bunch of bananas are joined, with plastic foil to prevent too quick ripening. Wash each banana well before eating.

18. There is not that much you can do to prolong the life of carrots, drumsticks, mulee (radish), turai (ridge gourd), cauliflower, capsicum or cucumbers. Wash and keep in the fridge. Carrots, cauliflower, mulee, turai and drumsticks will last a week, maybe. Capsicum and cucumbers slightly longer.

Photograph: Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters.

19. Eggs can lie out in the open for easily a week to 10 days. Wash each before using.

20. Buy sliced bread. Wipe down the exterior of the packet with mild bleach solution and freeze. Take out as many slices as you need at a time and don't defrost the whole loaf.

Photographs: Reuters.

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