Storing food for longevity is one way to ensure that you are maximizing your food budgeting dollars. What sense does it make if you are a thrifty shopper but you end up throwing food away? In this lesson we will share with you some of the essentials for proper food storage.
Mason Jar Madness
Home decor designers and bloggers would like to convince us that Mason jars were a fad that has passed us by. We beg to differ! Your standard glass Mason jars are one of the single most versatile tools you can add to your food storage arsenal. Used with the caps and seals, these containers can keep a sleeve of opened crackers from going stale for months! Also used for extending the life of ground items, such as flour, coffee, bread crumbs, and cornmeal. Dried beans, fruit, and even jerky benefit from the storage life of these jars. We use them in the fridge also. You can construct a Mason jar salad and keep it for four days in the fridge without it getting soggy.
Other Food Storage Types
If you are freezing foods, having a vacuum sealer is quite helpful. It keeps air out of the product which will help reduce freezer burn. It can prolong the life of some cheeses also. We only use ours for high end cheese and meats since the bags add a storage cost. Another advantage of vacuum sealing is removing the air takes up less space. When placing the items in your freezer you can easily lay the food flat and stack it.
Bags, Wraps, Seals
When it comes to plastic baggies, we will admit that we do use them. We do try to alternate with a mix of reusable bags wherever possible to reduce the amount of plastic waste. The reusable bags pictured below were found at Target and have held up in the freezer. The manufacturer claims they are dishwasher friendly however we have learned from experience they will hold up better if hand washed.
You can use cloth or silicone lid covers for bowls when heating or storing food in the refrigerator for short periods of time. We have also fallen in love with bees wax recently. This has been a great way to wrap up lemons, limes, and other partially-used fruits. Once the beeswax begins to dry out, you simply pop it in the oven on a low temp and it will rejuvenate. Don’t forget wax paper, this is a budget friendly way to wrap items that you want to keep separated such as individually wrapped freezer sandwiches. We then place the wax paper sandwiches in a large reusable bag.
Whenever freezing or storing, take a tip from commercial food service. One of their best practices is labeling food items. Not only will this help to identify what is in a container but the label should be dated when the food item was packaged. Foods properly stored in the freezer will not quickly spoil, however they do start to lose their flavor and texture over time. Managing the food that you have by rotating your stock is easily done when you have clearly marked dates. Food that is properly labeled and managed reduces waste and saves money.
Meal Prep Meal Containers
When it comes to the kinds of containers that you can store your individual meals in, the possibilities are endless. We try to consider all the options when choosing the packing of individual meals. Selecting the right container depends on how the food will be transported, by whom, and the contents of the container.
Before placing food into a container, ask yourself a few simple questions. Such as:
- Where is the meal going to be eaten?
- Will the item be frozen and then heated in the microwave?
- Will parts of the meal need to be kept away from other items in order to retain its flavor or to prevent it from becoming soggy?
Once you have determined a bit about your meal, take your questioning a step further.
- Do you want to be able to clearly see the contents inside the container?
- Are you sending the food with others with whom you may have a safety concern?
- Glass does not travel well with small children, or may not be a good option for anyone unsteady on their feet.
- Are you sending the containers with someone who is likely to leave the containers behind by accident?
- If so, maybe select less expensive reusable options for those meals.
We try to consider all the options when choosing the packing the individual meals.
What Container Brands Are The Best?
This is a question that comes up often. There are many options to choose from in the world of meal prepping. Since we are not paid to endorse any one product, we feel free to share information about the containers that we have tried out. We have some brands we like such as Lock and Lock, and Mainstays Triton collection. Rubbermaid makes a good three compartment glass set that is good for storing and reheating your meal.
Our favorite go to container seems to be the Ello Duraglass product for several reasons. They have a non slip woven silicone liner on the outside of the glass. This makes it easy to handle, eat from and carry. They stack easily and don’t clang around in the cabinet like the other glass containers. The sets are multicolored with matching lids so you can code by day or by person. They are dishwasher, microwave, oven, and freezer safe. A set of five glass containers with lids sells for just under $50.00. All have held up for us in the dishwasher. We only place the containers on the top shelf of the dishwasher.
Regardless of what manufacturer or container type you select, it is prudent to read the manufacturers instructions to be sure that the dish you are using is safe for heating, freezing, or changing temperatures.
Now that you have used up most of your food items on hand, cleaned all your food storage areas, have your food prep containers, it is time to move on to more food planning and budgeting lessons.