How to store and use common leftover ingredients
Here’s what to do with those pesky ingredients lurking in the back of your pantry or refrigerator.
Sometimes a recipe calls for only half an onion, a handful of coriander or a splash of cream, so what are you meant to do with the leftover ingredients? And how and for what length of time should you store them? We have the answers.
Fruit and vegetables
Tightly wrap sliced or diced tomato and onion in plastic wrap or keep them in a covered container in the fridge. Tomatoes will last for three to four days and onions for up to 10 days.
Carrots can also be stored in the refrigerator and if you keep them away from moisture, they can last for up to a month. Use a plastic bag that has little holes in it or wrap them in a paper towel before placing them into a bag to prevent condensation forming.
RECIPE TO TRY: Carrots also make a nutritious soup. Bonus: this recipe also uses lentils (but if you don’t have them, don’t stress, carrots work well on their own), and you can swap the red onion for white onion or leeks if that’s what you have.
Apples also last for about a month in the refrigerator. They have a tendency to absorb flavours, so keep them in the crisper, along with your other fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than near onions or other strong-smelling food. Apples will also turn brown once you cut into them, so you want to eat the whole apple on the same day. If you have half an apple with breakfast, for example, and want to keep the other half for a mid-afternoon snack that day, sprinkle the apple with some lemon juice to delay the oxidation.
Leftover herbs can keep for a couple of weeks when loosely wrapped in damp paper towel and refrigerated. You can also freeze them in oil or water in ice cube trays then pop them as is into your dish for a burst of flavour. Herbs or flowers frozen in ice blocks also make for a pretty addition to a drink.
ALSO READ: Substitute the fresh herbs in these 12 hearty and soul-soothing stews with herbs from the freezer
Transfer your flour into an airtight plastic or glass container. If kept out of sunlight, it will stay fresh for a few weeks, but if you want to keep it for longer than that, store it in the refrigerator (for up to one year). Note that ideally you want baking ingredients to be as fresh as possible, so don’t be tempted to buy flour in bulk – rather buy as you need.
ALSO READ: If you’ve stocked up on flour and you’re looking for inspiration, check out our top 10 baking recipes of all time.
If you place it in an airtight container, stoneground polenta will keep in the fridge for up to two months while fine-ground polenta will keep for up to two years in a dark cupboard or pantry. Unopened instant polenta will last for two months, but once you open it you can only store it in the fridge for up to two days. Otherwise, you can grill or fry it, slice it and freeze it for up to three months.
ALSO READ: Polenta can be substituted for many other grains in recipes – read more about this pantry should-be staple.
Uncooked white rice will keep in an airtight container for up to one year, while cooked white rice can be stored for a week in the refrigerator. You can also portion and freeze cooked rice for up to six months so that the next time you’re whipping up a stew or curry, you have a ready-to-go side.
ALSO READ: Rice can also be the main event – check out these rice dishes Survivor SA contestants wish they were eating to see what we mean.
Did you know you can freeze eggs for up to one year? Lightly whisk them, pour into a freezer-friendly container and seal. Just be sure to label them with the date you froze them and the number of eggs in the container. If you want to keep your eggs separate, you can first whisk one egg at a time and freeze them in individual compartments of an ice tray (one egg per section). Remove them when fully frozen and place them into the larger container.
For shorter-term storage, store eggs in the refrigerator and use them within the best-before date. In many cases, eggs will last beyond this date, but they won’t be as fresh. You can check the freshness of the egg by carefully placing it into a full glass of water. If it sinks, you’re good to go. If it floats, throw it out.
You can also separate your eggs before freezing them. Egg whites can be frozen using the same method as for whole eggs. Egg yolks can gel, so add a pinch of salt to every four egg yolks you freeze to prevent that from happening.
ALSO READ: Eggs can be used in so many different ways. For ideas to use up whole eggs, read 10 different ways to enjoy eggs for breakfast. If you find yourself with a batch of egg whites, find out how to make the perfect meringue and what to use it for. The yolks can also be used in multiple ways – for example, why not whip up your own mayonnaise or aïoli?