If there is one thing that I really hate, it’s buying an ingredient to cook a meal with and then watching it spoil and go to waste within a couple of days; usually because I don’t have anything to use it for again. We all love using fresh ingredients and definitely know that they make meals hit that next level. So here are a few staple items that I pick up at the store every week that go with a lot of the meals I cook. Here are Caveman’s Tips on how to make those ingredients last long enough to get your money’s worth out of them.
Onions are an item I use in a lot of dishes, soups, sauces, rice, other sides and salads. I like yellow onions as they get that sweet caramelized flavor when sautéed. I will also pick up a red onion, as I prefer them in the raw state in my Mexican dishes. A taco night or burrito night is pretty common in my house, it makes for a quick, easy and tasty meal after work.
I tend to not over buy onions, but if stored in a dark cool dry area they can last weeks. The only drawback is that most recipes only end up using about a half an onion. What I like to do is chop the whole onion, use what I need, and then store the remainder in an airtight container in the fridge. It will easily last several days, as I mentioned most of my meals include an onion in one way or another.
Another option is the shallot, it is a smaller version of the onion and a bit more potent, but when sautéed with oil and salt, it also turns sweet. The thing I like about the shallot is that they are smaller and will allow you to use only what you need without wasting half. They are a bit more expensive though. Shallots should be stored in the same way as the onion which is a dark cool dry environment such as a panty; you don’t want them to start sprouting.
Fresh and Easy sells onions and shallots in mesh bags; this works good to hang in your kitchen or pantry which stops any mold from accumulating on the bottom of the onion. Just screw a small hook in your pantry.
Celery is another one of those items that adds great flavor and texture to soups, sauces, rice, side dishes, salads, and I just eat it as a snack. (I know celery is not “traditional” caveman style but come on guys! I want to be able to enjoy life with my cavewoman and delicious food well into my 70’s & 80’s…I don’t want to die of a heart attack at 50! So, occasionally, snacking on celery at work or just sitting around the house isn’t such a bad idea. Just sayin’…)
Now, I like to buy the celery that has been trimmed, washed and packaged (you will still want to wash prior to use). This celery seems to last me at least 7 days in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. I have bought this at most grocery stores.
This type of celery tends to be a little more expensive than just the normal celery bunches so if you are on a budget, and believe me there are weeks the caveman is on a budget, pick those up instead. Make sure you look through them for condition and cleanliness. Do not just grab the first one available; usually the grocery stores will put the new stock in the back so don’t be afraid to dig in there. Look for really green and healthy-looking celery and particularly look at the leaves. You want to find celery where the leaves haven’t tuned brown and the stalks aren’t bruised. You want bright, fresh, and green. Grab those.
When you get home you need to decide how to store them. The method I have read about simply said to wrap the celery in foil and store it in the vegetable drawer. Me personally, I don’t want to waste the tin foil, that stuff is not cheap. I like to clean, cut, and trim my celery when I get home. Then, I place it in a jar or plastic pitcher of water as seen in the picture. (I pilfered this picture off the internet as I currently have the prepackaged celery in my refrigerator.) You want to then cover the top with a plastic bag, (one you brought home from the grocery store will do just fine) and put it over the top of the pitcher and seal with string or a rubber band. This will allow the celery to last at least a week. Just pull off the plastic when you need celery, and re-attach to store.
Again, carrots are another one of those items that adds great flavor to soups, sauces, rice, side dishes, salads and I eat it as a snack. Carrots are very versatile and will store for over a week in the fridge. I prefer to buy the packages of pre-cut and peeled carrots, they are just that much easier to work with and make great snacks.
If you want to go the raw unprocessed carrots I have heard this is the best method. You will want to trim all but 2” of the green off the top of the carrot, do not peel or cut anything else on the carrot. Put the carrots in an airtight container and store in the vegetable drawer of the fridge, they will last at least a week.
I never used to like mushrooms but recently, I have really acquired a taste for them. They add that deep earthy flavor to salads or a sweet mild earth flavor when sautéed over chicken or steak. I really like using them in sauces and gravy for steak, chicken, and mashed potatoes. I even like making stuffed mushrooms as a tasty appetizer. (Check out my Chicken with Mushroom Gravy recipe or the Stroganoff that I really enjoy.)
There a many types of mushrooms used for cooking, and I prefer the portabella. It typically has an earthy meaty flavor but if you prefer a milder flavor, try your standard white mushroom. (I do typically keep a package of dried shitake mushrooms in the panty, because I really love Asian foods, I can rehydrate them as necessary when I cook an Asian dish).
Keeping mushrooms can be tricky but if done right they can be stored up to a week. Choose those mushrooms with a firm texture and even color with tightly-closed caps. If the gills are showing, it’s an indication of age, and they are probably past their prime. Discolored, broken and damaged mushrooms with soft spots should be avoided. I prefer to store them in a brown paper bag. I usually get one form the store when I do my weekly shopping trip. Do not wash them! In fact, pat dry if they are wet from the store, put a layer of mushrooms in the bottom of the brown paper bag, don’t overcrowd them to the point they are all touching. If you have more, place a paper towel down to separate the layers. Loosely fold the top of the paper bag as you want the air to be able to get in the bag and place in the crisper section of the fridge. If you picked good ones they should last.
**Caveman Tip: never wash mushrooms, they are like a sponge and will absorb liquid and become soggy. Just brush the dirt off with either a soft vegetable brush or a paper towel
Not only have I given some insight to the things any regular person should have in their fridge on a weekly basis, but I’ve also shared how to keep them fresh and get the most bang for your buck. I really hope this helps. Feel free to let us know by posting your thoughts.