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Storing excess food and ingredients

I've been cooking for only several months and wanted to asked everyone here at CH suggestions on storing any leftover food and/or ingredients.

I cook via recipe and a lot of times i will have excess herbs, cheese, stock, meat, fish, sauce, etc...

Now, i know storage and longevity of each item varies greatly according to the item. But i was wondering does anyone think its worthy to invest in jars and also in things that suck the air out of bags and such? will the food really stay fresher this way?

Also could everyone just give me a small idea of where to keep certain things... E.g. should herbs be kept in the fridge? or just in an room temperature area of the kitchen? Can most sauces be frozen and then taken out of the fridge when you want to use them?

I always have an issue with having excess sauce when using recipes and many times the sauces go to waste because i cant use it all up within the amount of time i keep it in the fridge in a glad container, before it goes bad...

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  1. I work during the day and am the family cook when I get home. This means that I'm kinda busy so I plan our menu for the coming week on the weekend. One thing I have been doing is leftover planning. Not just "Ooh, that meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy is going to be great for lunch," but things like "If we have meatloaf on Sunday, I can use the leftover to make chili on Thursday." As a result I have a lot less stuff going bad in the fridge. Something to consider.

    1. I live alone and so I tend to have a lot of leftovers. One thing I do is make 'tv dinners' for a future meal and freeze them. It's great when you come home late and too tired to cook. Cheese - well, I just try to eat it up. I'm not big on preserving it by freezing. I just wrap it snugly in a ziploc bag, usually. Stock and meat, I freeze if I'm not going to use it within 2 days. Most sauces can easily be frozen and I do it a lot. Just try it and you will learn what works. Experiment with freezing your sauces. Herbs can be dried. I just keep mine in the fridge but I tend to waste a lot of herbs because I think I will use them up and I don't. That is my weakness. I think you could freeze them for short term use (less than a month).

      As far as jars, I just save jars from other products I buy. I have a ton of canning jars, too, because I do a lot of canning, and they are great.

      1. I love the Reynolds Handi-Vac and use it almost daily for most everything.
        http://threedogkitchen.com/ has a recent post about how happy she is with hers.
        I keep herbs in the fridge in an opened plastic bag that I've added a paper towel to, they seem to last longer that way for me.
        I would be careful with freezing cream sauces but most others should be just fine frozen.
        I have a white sauce in the freezer now as an experiment to see how well that freezes.

        I find that cutting a recipe in half helps with having too many leftovers.

        Catherine
        http://www.kokoscorner.typepad.com

        1. One way to make leafy herbs (such as basil, parsley, cilantro) last longer is to wash them as soon as you bring them home, then, without drying, lay them out in a single layer on paper towels. Roll up the towels with the herbs inside, and put them in the fridge.

          8 Replies
          1. re: jlafler

            Do you ever freeze them? I seem to have a lot that go to waste.

            1. re: sarah galvin

              I freeze coriander - just wash it, chop it finely and stick in the freezer in plastic bag. It's defrosts pretty much on contact with hot food, so is very handy to have around.

              1. re: sarah galvin

                I've never tried freezing them, but it's worth a try. The traditional preservation method for herbs is drying, of course, but you need room somewhere to hang them up.

                One thing I do when I have fresh herbs I need to use up is make a pesto-style condiment. I throw the herbs in a food processor with garlic, olive oil, and whatever other flavorings seem appropriate. Just don't mix too many different types of herbs together, or it may not be edible.

                1. re: jlafler

                  "The traditional preservation method for herbs is drying, of course..."

                  Not necessarily, it depends on the herb. Drying works well for herbs like oregano and thyme, but try it with basil or cilantro and you'll end up with a near-tasteless powder. And others, like tarragon, acquire a very different flavor when dried - not bad, but so different that you generally wouldn't want to substitute dried for fresh (or vice versa) in recipes.

                  1. re: BobB

                    Oh no! I have a big bunch of cilantro hanging on my back porch right now from last fall's farmers market. I don't use it often, so I dried it. I hate to throw it out - I think I'll try a little bit and see how the flavor is.

                    I dry flowers to make potpourri, so I have a couple of clotheslines hung in my back porch. I just strung the cilantro up alongside the roses. :-)

                    1. re: BobB

                      can you do anything with excess cilantro or Italian flat leaf parsley?

                  2. re: sarah galvin

                    I froze fresh basil and it was beautiful and fragrant when I took some of it out recently, for use in lasagna; that was from nine months ago (basil has not progressed enough in herb garden to use it yet...) I've frozed sage and thyme, too.
                    I just wash them and freeze them.

                    When I'm not growing it, I try to buy herbs with roots (or at least the bulb or base intact) on them. I trim them, (removing and using the least fresh parts first) and get them into water as soon as I can. If they are loose cuttings I re-trim the ends. I tent plastic over them (to keep the humidity up) and set in the warmest part of fridge. I have done this for close to ten years and haven't found a better method of prolonging the life of cilantro or parsley.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      I am going to start freezing my herbs. I waste way too much.

                2. I'm a big advocate of freezing. I'd suggest getting some small containers for those extra bits of sauce. With meat, I think it's better to avoid cooking what you don't need. Freeze it raw and use it later. I freeze stock in cup-sized portions (though it's pretty concentrated because I boil it down) to use in soups, etc. Cheese also freezes well, though it also lasts long enough in the fridge that I never have to freeze it.

                  For me, the way to keep cilantro and parsley is to wash, trim the stems, and keep like a bouquet in a jar of water in the fridge. They literally stay fresh for weeks that way. I haven't had the same luck with basil, for some reason, so I prefer to keep a basil plant around and just clip what I need.