March 22, 2020
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Here’s how to make your food last during the coronavirus

Micky Bedell | BDN
Micky Bedell | BDN
Learning how to make food last longer can help limit trips to the grocery store.

As of noon Sunday, March 22, 89 Maine residents have been confirmed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

Now that the novel coronavirus has officially made its way to Maine, people have been stocking up on food, preparing for potential social distancing, self-isolation or self-quarantine. Canned and non-perishable foods especially have been flying off the shelves.

If you are worried about your stockpiles of more perishable food going to waste, there are ways to keep food fresher for longer. Besides, even though it is smart to stock up on pressure-canned beans, meat and vegetables and for long-term storage (here are some tips for organizing that stockpiled pantry, by the way), maintaining your health with fresh, healthy food is never more important than in the face of a global pandemic.

You can still go to the grocery store while practicing social distancing, self-isolation and self-quarantine, but the best way to keep yourself from getting sick is to avoid going out as much as possible. Here is a roundup of tips to make sure your food stockpiles will last as long as possible, and that you don’t waste anything that might be valuable to use.

Sam Schipani | BDN
Sam Schipani | BDN
Mesh produce bags holding various forms of produce at the Hannaford's on Union Street in Bangor.

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Store produce properly

Fruits and vegetables all have different requirements for storage. Some stay crisp in the refrigerator, while others will dry out in the cold. Produce, like apples, onions and tomatoes, emit a gas called ethylene as they ripen and should be kept away from produce like cucumbers, peppers and leafy greens that are sensitive to the gas and will spoil faster if stored with ethylene-emitting fruits and vegetables.

Here is a comprehensive roundup of the best way to store all different types of produce to make your fresh food stores last as long as possible.

Freeze extra produce

Storing food in the freezer will not only prevent spoilage, but it will help preserve some of its quality. Here are some foods you didn’t know you could freeze for longer storage. You can also save a range of foodstuffs in old ice cube trays to use for later, including broth, buttermilk and bacon drippings.

Make your own produce wash

Though transmission of the novel coronavirus to persons from contaminated surfaces has not been documented, current evidence suggests that it may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces. If you do venture out to the grocery store, that means taking extra precautions while grocery shopping. Given the number of hands that dive in and dig around in produce bins, it would be wise to take extra precautions by washing your fruits and vegetables in a disinfecting wash. Here’s how to make your own produce wash from white vinegar, water and lemon.

Store dried beans properly

Though canned beans are convenient, dried beans are cheaper, healthier and more sustainable than their canned counterparts. Proper storage will help them last without getting moldy or drying out. Here’s how to properly store dried beans for maximum longevity.

Regrow your produce

After cooking, save the ends of the green onion bulbs with the roots attached. Place the bulbs root-end down in a small jar or glass and add enough water to cover the roots. Set the jar on a sunny windowsill, and, after about two weeks, your green onions will have formed long green shoots, and you will be ready to reap the rewards (yes, this trick works).

Leeks and fennel can be regrown with the same technique, though they take a little longer to grow. You can put the heart of romaine lettuce and the base of celery in water and it will regrow leaves. Many herbs — including basil, mint and rosemary — can also be placed in water to grow new roots and transfer to a pot of soil.

Save scraps for broth

Reutilizing food scraps will make sure that nothing goes to waste. Here is how to make your own vegetable broth out of vegetable scraps, and how to make your own turkey broth out of a bird carcass (the same, more or less, goes for a chicken carcass).

Save citrus rinds for cleaning

Please don’t replace the CDC recommendations for cleaning with only orange peels. If cleaning products are not available at stores and your house is getting a little stale after some time in self-isolation, citrus rinds can help freshen things up. Here’s what you can do with all those leftover lemon, orange and lime peels.

Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease

 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that hydrogen peroxide and water solution would work for washing produce in a pinch. This was based on data from 2006. More recent information indicates that peroxyacetic acid (PAA) is a commercial sanitizer consisting of a specific ratio of acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide for use in the food industry. According to Robson Machado, Assistant Extension Professor and Food Scientist and Jason Bolton, Associate Extension Professor, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, this chemical is commercially manufactured, and you should never attempt to make it yourself.

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