Buying Long-Lasting, Low Cost Groceries on Food Stamps in Texas

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When making SNAP benefit purchases, it is a good idea to take into consideration which foods will last the longest, which foods to eat first, and how to preserve the foods with the shortest shelf life. Many people avoid purchasing fresh produce because it spoils more quickly, but fruits and veggies are also the most nutritious foods. The following tips can help you learn how to buy and preserve food while on Texas SNAP benefits.

How long does most produce last?

Common vegetables that last a week or longer include: broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, parsnips, artichokes, peppers, and cabbage. Longer lasting fruits include: apples, melons, pineapple, avocados, zucchini, and pears. Fruits like nectarines, bananas, peaches, and plums last a few days or more depending on how firm they are when you buy them. The problem is that unripe produce doesn’t always get ripe when you want it to. Having an assortment of fresh fruits ensures that some will be ready to eat each day. All fresh fruit can also be frozen to be used in smoothies, or for pie-making.

Also, make sure to store any leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking, since many foods, particularly meats, are exposed to bacteria that reproduce upon being left at room temperature. It is also good not to fill the refrigerator to capacity since restricted air flow can cause early spoilage.

What foods can be frozen?

Almost any food can be frozen if it is not going to be eaten within a few days. For example, avocados can be mashed or made into guacamole, and frozen. Milk, butter, and smoothies can also be frozen for future use. Sometimes, it’s better to make complete meals, like casserole or slow-cooked meals, and then freeze the left-overs to use whenever you. When it is inconvenient or too costly to go to the store, you will already have frozen food available.

How should I store dairy?

Dairy products, like yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream and milk, should be kept refrigerated in their store container. Hard cheese can be wrapped in wax or parchment paper since it needs to breath to prevent growing mold.

Storing Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should be kept separate, since they can spoil each other more quickly. The chief culprits are apples and melons because they release the chemical ethylene, which causes other fruits to ripen more quickly (one reason it helps to put an apple in a bag of avocados to get the avocados to ripen). It is best not to wash fruits before storing them, unless completely dried first, since wet fruits can begin to mold. Tomato, potatoes and squash should be stored outside of the fridge to prevent early spoiling. Bananas, citrus fruits and melons are also best left out of the fridge.

Storing Fresh Herbs and Spices

Fresh herbs like cilantro should be placed in a cup of water and covered loosely with a plastic sandwich or freezer bag. Other herbs, like basil, shouldn’t be refrigerated at all, since this causes browning. Rosemary can also be kept in the fridge with water, but can also be frozen, or placed in vinegar or olive oil to make an infusion.

What’s foods are best stored in the refrigerator crisper and door?

The crisper drawers at the bottom of the fridge are meant for storing fruits and veggies that need moisture, like lettuce and chives. The inside of the refrigerator door is best for items that don’t spoil easily, like jam, dressings, and ketchup, since this is the warmest place in the fridge.

How can I make olive oil last?

Olive oil is a healthy but delicate fat that quickly loses nutritional value after sitting or being left open. Exposure to oxygen, heat, and/or light, degrade the properties of the oil, lowering its overall anti-oxidant and vitamin E content. To preserve olive and other oils, make sure to always keep the lid on tight and buy small bottles when planning to use the oils for more than a few months.

How can I to make grain-based goods last?

Grains require dry, cool temperatures for proper storage. It is not a good idea to store them in clear containers, near a stove, on top of a refrigerator, or anywhere they will be exposed to light or heat. The fridge also doesn’t work for most grains since it is too moist. However, brown rice does store better in the fridge.

Storage Tips for Bread

Bread should always be stored at room temperature for up to two days, and then transferred to the freezer in a plastic freezer bag. Day-old bread can be revived in flavor by heating briefly in the over.