Shopping, Cleaning, and Storing Food During Coronavirus

At this point in time, most of us have grinded to a halt and hopefully have become very strategic in how we grocery shop – resulting in fewer trips to the store and making the most of it when we do go. Keep up the good work! Here are some tips on staying safe and prolonging the shelf-life of your daily staples.

Shopping

Wipe down your cart with a disinfectant wipe immediately. If no wipes are available at the store, bring your own wipes, like DIY sanitizer made with alcohol & hydrogen peroxide or very diluted bleach solution. Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines of 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon, or 4 teaspoons per quart of water.

Use produce bags to pick up and handle any loose produce.

Don’t touch and handle products on shelves. Pick up only what you intend to  put in your cart.

If your store allows you to pack your own bags, do so by keeping fruits and veggies together; plastic packaging, cartons, cans, and glass together; meats, cheeses, and bread together. If it is the store’s policy to bag themselves, put these items on the belt in these groupings to make it easier to unload and disinfect in batches.

If you wear gloves while shopping, carefully remove and contain them on entering your car. Treat them as if they’re contaminated. Wipe your hands down with sanitizer and give the steering wheel and gear shift and door pull a wipe for good measure. If you are carrying your groceries home by foot, absolutely remove gloves and disinfect hands before entering your home. Wash hands with warm, soapy water when you’ve finished your unpacking.

Disinfecting Groceries

If possible, leave grocery bags outside your home and unload from there. If this is impossible, take them directly to the tub or shower to unload groceries in batches and transfer to the kitchen. Once they are unloaded you can easily give your bags a disinfecting bath by wiping down with soapy water or disinfectant. If you use cloth bags, throw them in the washing machine or give them a bath on the spot.

Transfer groceries in batches. All fruits and some veggies can go into a soapy bath in the sink immediately. For lettuces and veggies that shouldn’t be immersed before use, transfer them to a moist paper towel or dish towel wrap. This will keep them fresh in the fridge until you wash them thoroughly before use. (See Leafy Greens storage below)

This Fruit & Veggie wash is great in general, and especially for produce that you’ve washed with soap – to get rid of any residue. Mix up a batch and keep in the fridge to spritz on lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and cruciferous veggies before a good rinse.

Fruit & Veggie Wash

½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

½ cup Distilled water

½ cup Lemon juice

1 Tablespoon 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (optional)*

* Hydrogen Peroxide gives an added antibacterial/antifungal boost

Items contained in plastic, cartons, cans, and glass can all be washed with warm, soapy water. This goes for packaged meats and cheeses as well. No need to waste precious disinfectant on these items! 

Boxed items can be left outside for 24 hours, or in most cases, the inner envelope with contents can be removed and the box can be discarded. As for eggs, I usually transfer them into a bowl – but if they are in a pulp (paper) carton, storing outside or in the fridge for 24 hours will render the package safe. Use a disinfectant wipe for any other carton materials. Do your best to avoid polystyrene – for the environment’s sake.

Storing Food

Most of us have never experienced a time in our lives in which being this mindful of meal planning and food waste has been more paramount. In a country where 40 to 50 percent of all food purchased is wasted, this a learning moment, and hopefully will influence our behavior around the consumption and waste of food in the future.

Perishable items are the first casualties of ‘best intentions’. While shopping at this time of Coronavirus, these tips will help you store your food more efficiently.

Potatoes, Garlic, and Onions

With refrigerator real estate at a premium these days, it’s good to know that potatoes, onions, and garlic don’t require refrigeration – but love a cool, well ventilated, dark place. You can store loose or in perforated, breathable bags. Garlic can even go in freezer without any adverse effect.

Fresh Herbs

Herbs can go and go if stems are trimmed and placed bouquet style in an inch of water. Refrigerating herbs this way increases their shelf-life. They may also be set out on counter if you are continuously using them throughout the day.

Eggs

Eggs last longest (3 to 5 weeks) in the back of fridge, where it’s coldest. Storing eggs in the door compartments isn’t ideal because fridge doors are generally the least cool space in a fridge due to constant use, exposing the interior to warm air. 

Dairy

Dairy, as with eggs, should also be stored in the coldest part of fridge. If you have a drawer for deli meats and cheeses, push the cheese to the back of the drawer. If cheese is wrapped in deli paper, add another layer of protection – either a storage container or a waxed wrap like Bee’s Wrap. Used plastic produce bags work as a second layer – as long as you recycle them in the plastic bin at the store when you no longer need them.

Leafy Greens

The trick to making leafy greens last is to not trap moisture in whatever is containing them. If you feel best rinsing them before storing, be sure to dry them using a spinner or tea towel to suck up moisture. They like to breath as well, so loosen them up and store in a cloth produce bag or wrap in a towel and leave in a crisper. You can even place them like a bouquet in fridge in one to two inches of water if you have the room. If a towel – paper or cloth – is containing them, it can be a bit moist but not sopping wet. If a lidded container or spinner is containing them, line container with a dry towel or napkin to suck up any excess moisture.

Berries

At this time, frozen berries make a lot of sense. If you must have fresh berries, blueberries last the longest – up to two weeks. Blackberries last up to a week. Raspberries, two to three days. And strawberries, three to four days. Don’t wash berries until you are ready to use. It is recommended to keep berries refrigerated in their containers until use.

Whole Grains & Flours

Did you know that you can freeze grains and flours? Grains in particular will last up to a year in the freezer. If you’re stocking up at the moment, this is good information. Otherwise, an airtight container does the trick for most grains and All-purpose flour when stored in a pantry. Nut, flax, hemp flours do best if stored in the fridge or freezer. This goes for bread as well. 

Seeds & Nuts

Store seeds and nuts in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. They will last up to six months in the fridge and one to two years in the freezer. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans easily can go up to two years when frozen.

 

Oils

Always buy olive oil in a dark bottle and don’t store in the fridge as condensation ruins flavor. Also avoid storing in hot spots like a window or next to stovetop. In general, most oils do best stored in a dark pantry as exposure to oxygen, light or heat will subject the oil to oxidation, eventually turning it rancid. 

Making the most of our food may be the silver lining of this Pandemic. Food waste is a huge problem for the environment. At this unprecedented time, we are sometimes forced to use materials that aren’t ideal for our ecosystem – mostly due to scarcity. But try to keep in mind that respect and advocacy for the environment should hopefully be heightened at this time, not the opposite. Buy products in glass or paper as much as possible. Re-use your glass jars as storage containers. Make your own cleaners. Continue to use biodegradable soap. Avoid plastic as much as possible. Buy 100% post consumer waste, recycled tissue and napkins. Buy Fair Trade and Organic as much as possible. Do your best for the world that you want to live in.

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

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