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Here’s some food storage for thought.
About one-third of all the food produced for humans to eat — roughly 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. And Americans are particularly wasteful, throwing out $165 billion worth of food annually — that’s almost $450 a year for every man, woman and child in America. Produce is our biggest waste, with Consumer Reports revealing that we throw out more than a quarter of the produce we buy. That’s why MarketWatch asked chefs and experts which storage containers and solutions — including a vacuum sealer system, which was what chefs told us was their best food storage hack, for about $29 on Amazon — could prolong the life of our food. Here’s what we found out.
Multiple chefs told MarketWatch that vacuum sealers were their best-kept secret for keeping food fresh longer. “The best way to extend shelf life is to invest in a household vacuum sealer,” says chef Sam Talbot of Montauk eatery Morty’s Oyster Stand. “It’s also easier to portion control something and put it in the freezer that way,” says Talbot. Los Angeles-based chef and owner of Wolf and Top Chef runner-up Marcel Vigneron concurs: “If I buy chicken and I feel like it might turn, and I know I’ll be busy the next day, I’ll cook it the day before. If you sous vide something and it’s in a vacuum sealed bag, it takes out the oxygen which prolongs the shelf life,” he says.
This top-rated system vacuum seals bags with the touch of a button and comes with 10 bags and keeps food fresh up to five times longer in the freezer. “This is what we do in restaurants to prolong the life of the products we serve to our customers and clients, therefore it can work for the home cook as well,” says Talbot.
These crystal clear, unbreakable containers are stain and odor resistant and dishwasher safe. They’re what Vigneron says he opts for in the kitchen. “They’re reusable plastic containers that are portable and well made,” says Vigneron. Consumers like them too with one stating on Amazon, “Versatile product, have used it for food storage, brining and mixing food items and it’s also easy to clean.”
Sometimes the solution is even easier: Waldy Malouf, senior director of food and beverage operations at the Culinary Institute of America, says heavy duty ziplock bags are a great asset in the kitchen. “We fill each bag and then push the air out of them by submerging in cold water,” says Malouf. These BPA-free plastic bags can help you freeze meat, fish and vegetables with less freezer burn. At roughly 10 cents a bag, and 4.6 out of 5 stars, these are the most economical solution for food storage. “Although it’s not hermetically sealed, it has very little air in it,” says Malouf.
Consumer Reports recommends this product, adding that this food storage system comes in small, medium and large sizes and includes a carbon filter, elevated colander and adjustable vent to maintain optimum humidity levels for different kinds of produce.
With nearly 3,000 customer reviews on Amazon, a 4.4 out of 5-star rating and a recommendation from Consumer Reports, these highly rated dishwasher-safe containers feature FreshVent technology that regulates the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide for the ideal produce environment.
Of course, nothing can stay fresh forever. FoodSafety.gov recommends keeping refrigerated leftovers, including soups, stews, cooked meat, poultry and pizza, for a max of 3-4 days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends storing fresh fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator set to 40 degrees fahrenheit or below to preserve quality and safety. And, fruit and vegetables that have been cut, peeled or cooked should be refrigerated within two hours. For Vigneron, cleaning out his fridge using leftover items is another way he prevents food from going to waste. “I make a lot of garbage family meals using everything in the fridge, so I’ll make a meal using cauliflower, beets and arugula if that’s what’s in there,” says Vigneron.