Save money with these food preservation tips

Monday September 14 2020

In the fridge, place items such as raw meat, fish and poultry in sealable containers or place a plate underneath them to ensure that any juices don’t escape. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

By Beatrice Nakibuuka

Different foods require different environments to remain fresh without altering their taste and nutrient content. In any process of food handling, hygiene is important to increase shelf life. 
It is also important to remember that fresh food has a higher water content than dry food and so it gets rotten much more easily according to Amanda Twebaze, a nutritionist.
Lydia Aisu Pedun, a dietitian, says, foods such as onions, beans and maize that require drying once harvested or bought from the market, should be dried on a clean surface. This will minimise contamination from insects, birds and animals because this is likely to reduce the shelf life of these foods. 
“Take as much trouble to ensure that you minimise contamination during the drying process,” says Aisu. 
Once the foods are not dried well, she says, this will increase the moisture levels and attract mould, which causes aflatoxins, a type of toxin known to cause cancer of the liver and colon.
Also, minimise direct contact with soil during drying and storage. Have a wooden or plastic rack to avoid putting it directly on the floor which can attract moisture and stack them well to avoid rodents and other pests from contamination. 
Twebaze says although you can refrigerate fresh food to keep it for longer, remember to place it in separate containers and cover it tightly enough to prevent cross contamination. Also, ensure that the fridge is clean to prevent cross contamination.
Fragile fresh vegetables, herbs and spices such as mint, spring onions can also be placed in airtight polythene bags and kept in the fridge to keep crisp and fresher for longer.
If you do not have a fridge, a dark, clean and cool place of your house can also keep some foods fresh. 
Fruits, vegetables and herbs should also be put away from direct ice because it affects their texture, lowers their quality in terms of nutrients and bruises them in what is known as a freeze burn. 
Aisu says: “Remember that any food kept in the fridge should not go beyond four days. If you have cut a fruit or vegetable, it is likely to turn brown quickly so it is advisable that you consume it even before the four days.”
Keep at room temperature
Starches are better kept at room temperature where there is good aeration and away from the sunlight. For example, Aisu says, putting Irish potatoes in the sun leads to them developing green patches that are toxic. 
“Irish potatoes can be stored in a cool dry place but not under sunlight because they then develop solanin toxin (green patches) that can be fatal in children if consumed in large amounts at once. If your potatoes are muddy, wash them and dry them in a shade then keep them on a rack,” she advises.
Most starches are best kept in well aerated places with cool temperatures because higher temperatures activate the enzymes and bacteria that will affect them. 
You can only put out starches in the sunlight if you want them in dried form and ground into flour.