A recent column on the proper storage for fresh fruits and vegetables generated a lot of great reader feedback — plus dozens of new tips and tricks to make all grocery items last longer. I love this stuff so much, I must admit to being slightly compulsive — gathering, testing and assessing techniques. Here are a few of my new favorites:
BERRIES: Are you familiar with that sick feeling that comes when you notice that the berries you bought yesterday are already showing signs of mold and turning brown? Here's the remedy: As soon as you bring them into the kitchen, prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) and ten parts water. Give the berries a bath in the mixture. Swirl them around a bit and then gently drain, rinse and place in the refrigerator. Don't worry. The solution is so weak, you will not taste the vinegar. This treatment should give your strawberries an additional two weeks of useful life and raspberries a week or more. Vinegar retards the growth of bacteria that causes berries to spoil so quickly.
POTATOES: To keep potatoes from growing big ugly sprouts before you have time to use them up, store them with a couple of apples. For some reason, that really works to halt the sprouting.
NUTS: Roast nuts and then store them in the freezer. This is for all kinds of nuts, even those you plan to use in baking. Roasting improves the flavor and increases the useful life; freezing keeps them from turning rancid. As soon as you get home from the store, spread the nuts in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Place in zip-type freezer bags or jars with lids and then pop them into the freezer.
DISINFECT THE FRIDGE. I plead guilty on this one. I just don't think about it if I can't see a mess. The truth is that any time something spoils in the refrigerator, it leaves behind mold you can't see, which then attacks the new, fresh stuff you put in there. Disinfecting the inside surfaces on a regular schedule will make everything last a little longer and smell a lot better.
ALUMINUM FOIL. Let me just say that I'm a believer! It drives me crazy that I do not know why this works, but it certainly does: Wrap celery, broccoli and lettuce in a single layer of aluminum foil before storing in the refrigerator. Celery will stay crisp and fresh for up to a month stored this way. It's simply amazing.
MUSHROOMS. Never store these guys in a plastic bag because that traps moisture, which just encourages the growth of mildew. Instead, store mushrooms in a paper bag. Now the air can circulate and the mushrooms will remain dry and lovely for weeks.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 23 books, including her 2013 release, "The Smart Woman's Guide to Planning for Retirement." You can email her at [email protected], or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.