- In a large spray bottle, mix together 1/4 cup vinegar with 4 cups water. Shake to distribute.
- To use, arrange fruit and vegetables on a dish towel and liberally spray. Allow produce to sit for 10 minutes, and then rinse. The vinegar naturally cleans fruits and veggies, removing any unwanted coatings from items. And giving your produce a splash washes everything down the drain.
- Or, if you've got a big batch of items to clean, clear out your sink, give it a good cleaning, and then fill halfway with water. Mix in 1 cup of vinegar and add the produce. Let soak for 10 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.
- Fresh apples: Place fresh, ripe apples in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to six months. They stay wonderfully crisp in a 30˚F to 40˚F humid spot in your fridge.
- Avocados: Once ripe, store in a plastic bag in the fridge for three to five days. Or peel and mash, adding a teaspoon of lemon juice for each avocado, and place in a zip-top bag. Pop it in the freezer, and the avocado stays tasty for up to six months — perfect for making guacamole any time of year.
- Milk: Opened milk is still safe to drink one week after the sell-by date. Store it in the center of the fridge where it's nice and cold, not in the door, which is warmer.
- Broccoli: Fresh broccoli stays crisp in the fridge for five days. Or blanch chopped broccoli, pat dry, store in a zip-top bag, and freeze, which keeps it fresh for up to 18 months. When freezing produce or meats, write the eat-by date on the plastic bag to remind you when it should be consumed.
- White flour: When stored in an airtight cool spot, white flour stays fresh for up to eight months. Or toss in the fridge, and it's good for two years.
- Butter: Unopened sticks of butter stay good in the fridge for up to one month after the sell-by date. But don't store it in the butter holder located in the door of the fridge — tuck it in the back, which keeps it fresh longer.
- Buy in bulk. If you buy in bulk, you have more leeway to negotiate. Keep that in mind if you find yourself needing to purchase more produce if you have many mouths to feed.
- Ask for overripe produce. Farmers will occasionally give you deals on overripe produce or items they need to get rid of. Depending on what kind of market it is, the overripe fruit might not be displayed. But ask for it, because sometimes the farmer has it hidden away.
- Visit the lower-priced markets. There are certain farmers markets that are lower-priced than the others. Rhodes says you can find out which ones they are by "word of mouth." Ask people around you where the best place to shop is, or you can even ask your friendly farmer. "The shoppers that go to certain markets are looking for bargains, so farmers usually send produce that don't look as good to them," says Rhodes. "They’ll send nicer looking or fancier — heirloom variety produce — to a higher-end market. In some locations, the customers are more price-conscious, so the farmers will take stuff that’s riper or bruised but still tastes good and sell it there."
We've all been there — you go to make a meal and realize your vegetables expired last week and you have to toss them all out. That feeling of having wasted food (and money) isn't a good one, and it's even worse when it happens all the time. That's where these pretty genius apps step in to make sure that never happens again. Soggy spinach be gone!
Fridge Pal (free) is a new app that promises to keep track of food so you use it on time. When you're at the market, you're able to scan the barcodes of the grocery items, which go into a virtual refrigerator or pantry. If the food doesn't have a barcode, you can still manually input the information. You'll see the expiration date and get reminders when something is about to go bad. Now you'll have no excuses for letting that pricey cheese go to waste.
FreshboxMuch like Fridge Pal, Freshbox (free) reminds you before food expires once you upload the production and expiration dates. What to do about certain items (lettuce, for example) that don't come with that info to begin with? Freshbox provides the recommended shelf life for fruits, veggies, and more. Another bonus is that you can keep track of other expiration-prone items like medicine and makeup.
Shelf LifeWhat we love about Shelf Life ($2) is that it doesn't just remind you before something is set to expire. It breaks down food into different statuses ranging from "fresh" to "past its prime," and more. Each status is determined by a color — green means good to eat, orange means there's still a little time left before it needs to be thrown out. The lesson here: whatever you do, don't let your food get to red.
- Canned food: The canning process helps to lengthen the shelf life of its contents. The USDA recommends using high-acid canned food, which includes fruits and tomatoes, in less than two years, and low-acid canned food, which includes meat and vegetables, in two to five years.
- White rice: Keep your white rice in an airtight container in a cool and dry area. There's not much moisture in the white rice for it to spoil. However, keep in mind that brown rice spoils much quicker because of its higher fat content.
- Sugar: Food spoils mostly due to bacteria growth, but sugar is a natural preservative, so bacteria can't grow and thrive with excess amounts.
- Honey: Honey is similar to sugar in that it doesn't spoil because of the high sugar content. Honey can crystallize over time, but you can always heat it up for use.
- Salt: Keep salt in a cool, dry place and it won't expire.
- Soda: Canned soda can usually last for about a year, although diet soda spoils much faster because of the artificial sweetener.
- Dried pasta: Dried pasta has very little moisture, which means that it can last for a very long time. It can last up to two years if unopened.
- Hard liquor: Hard liquor like vodka and whiskey doesn't really spoil, even after opening, since they are already aged and distilled. It's best to store it in a cool, dark area in your kitchen.
- Vinegar: This sour liquid can last indefinitely because of its acidity. Screw the cap closed after every use, and store it in a cool, dark area.
- Cereal: There's a reason why extreme couponers like to stock up on their favorite breakfast cereal; it has a long shelf life. It can last up to a year, although the quality of taste may start to degrade as time goes by.
Do you ever wander through the grocery store and end up spending more than you were budgeting for? Don't beat yourself up over it — supermarkets actually have several different strategies to trick customers into blowing bucks. Be on the alert and watch out for the sneaky psychology tactics these stores will try to use on you.
Prepare most of your meal. Woroch says, "The general rule for prepared foods is that they are more expensive, and it's cheaper to buy the ingredients to prepare yourself." For example, prepared veggie platters and fruit salads "are never a good deal" and aren't exactly the freshest produce. However, prepared potato salad at a regular supermarket is less expensive and will save you time in the kitchen.
Get chicken from the butcher. Buy chicken breasts from the butcher counter instead of the prepared packets. They tend to be cheaper and are generally more fresh.
Consider boxed wine. Save money by skipping the bottled wine and going for the box. "Boxed wine is an affordable option for large parties, and the quality has greatly improved in recent years," she says.
Buy liquor at a superstore. If you're insistent on a specific bottle, then check out warehouse clubs like Costco. There are better deals on wine, liquor, and beer at a superstore, according to Woroch. While you're there, pick the store's generic version of vodka for an even cheaper deal.
Make your own salad dressing and marinade. Check out recipes online — here's a list of over 60 different marinades to make. "Most people will already have the basic ingredients like olive oil, some type of vinegar, and herbs at home," she says. "Other ingredients like lemon or lime, soy sauce, or honey won't cost much extra."
Saving on groceries doesn't just stop at the supermarket checkout. Have your dollar go even further by preserving your food and using some tricks to extend the life of your groceries. If you're throwing away food, you're wasting cash, and all the tips you've used to save money at the grocery store will be for naught. By learning how to preserve food, you're helping your wallet and the environment by reducing waste. Read on to find out the best ways to make your groceries last a good while.
- Buy in-season fruits and vegetables. Buying fruits and vegetables can get expensive, so to cut down on costs, it's important to buy ones that are in season because if they aren't, they can cost twice as much.
- Play with overage. According to one extreme couponer, some stores like Walmart give overage, which means that if "you have a coupon for $3 and your item is only $2, that extra dollar goes towards your other items." You can apply overage toward items that rarely have coupons, like meat and milk.
- Access online coupons. Be sure to check out online coupon sites like Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, SmartSource.com, and CouponNetwork.com, which are apparently the best sites to print from. Further, "like" your favorite brands on Facebook to get access to some of the coupons they give out over the social media network.
- Make lists. Before you step out the door, it's always advisable to be more organized with your grocery shopping. Create a meal plan for the month, and based on that, start making a list of groceries you need to buy. If you follow the list, you won't be buying more than you need or buying unnecessary items. There are even free printable grocery lists online that let you check off which groceries you need. A good one to check out is the very detailed Ultimatest grocery list (they even have a vegetarian version).
- Use apps. Experiment with grocery shopping apps and consider keeping a running list of groceries on an app like Ziplist, which lets you sync up with lists of other people on your phone for convenience. You can even use discount-seeking apps like Grocery Pal, which shows you what items are on sale, and coupon locator apps like Coupon Sherpa or Yowza!!. The coupon apps will display bar codes, which the cashier can scan to give you the discount.
- Don't go hungry. Going to the grocery store with an empty stomach is never a good idea. You'll end up buying more than you need with hunger pangs clouding your judgment.
If you're grumbling about your grocery bill, you might want to check out this Buzzfeed video that shows how far $5 goes in different countries. You'll quickly realize that there isn't that much of a difference in food prices between first-world countries.
It's interesting to see the huge disparity in food prices between developing nations and countries with a higher cost of living. For example, $5 gets you only eight pounds of potatoes in the US while scoring you 31 pounds of potatoes in Ethiopia.