Regular load shedding might just become a norm for Mzansi. The duration and frequency of hours of no power might potentially affect the safety of food, particularly fruit and vegetables in our fridges and storage units.
According to Faaizah Laher, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, the proper storage of all fruits and vegetables will extend their shelf life, preserve their nutritious value, and prevent spoiling.
If you have a perishable item, move it to the front of the line so it may be prepared as soon as possible. Bananas can be used to make banana bread, while tomatoes can be used to make a sauce or stews.
According to celebrity chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo, vegetables should be preserved according to their storage needs.
She illustrates an example with potatoes which she says should be put on a rack. Potatoes require airflow to prevent the build-up of moisture, which can result in rotting.
She adds that leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce must be refrigerated in an airtight container and consumed quickly. The best way to keep whole tomatoes for an extended period of time is in the freezer.
“Freezing fresh tomatoes from the farmers market or grocery store increases the shelf life by twelve to eighteen months.”
She says that freezing whole tomatoes is one of the best long-term storage methods. “Store raw meat, poultry, and shellfish on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination caused by juices.”
Be resourceful in the dark
Meat should be placed on a plate or in a container during defrosting in the refrigerator to avoid juices from contaminating other items.
Mdlankomo suggests that the best methods for preserving vegetables include canning and pickling, especially during load shedding.
Laher, meanwhile, suggests that you get a refrigerator thermometer to help you determine the exact temperature of your refrigerator or freezer in the event of load shedding.
“A fridge needs to be at a minimum of two degrees to keep its contents cold and viable. Bacteria can grow from five degrees upwards, and these temperatures can pose a risk for food-borne illnesses.”
Since perishable foods go bad quickly, Laher recommends just going grocery shopping once a week. She also recommends taking advantage of sales to stock up on canned goods, nut butter, canned fruit, and legumes.
“Also, you can buy bricks and fill two-litre plastic bottles with water to keep in the freezer,” she says.
He says that these frozen bottles of water will ensure that your fridge or freezer remains cold during long hours of no power.
How to store your foods
All raw meats including lamb, beef, and fish must be stored separately at the bottom of your refrigerator. Laher warns against tossing them in with the vegetables because it could spread harmful bacteria.
“Store wrapped in cling film or in an airtight container. With load shedding, try to use up meats as quickly as you can, as the change in temperature encourages microorganism growth. Anything that won’t be used within a week should be kept in the freezer to extend its shelf life.”
According to Laher, this is how you can store your foods to avoid spoiling:
- Anything with leaves (lettuce/ herbs/ greens) rinse out, pat dry, wrap in a cloth/ paper towel and store in an airtight container or zip-bag.
- Tomatoes are best if bought slightly unripe. Store them at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
- Potatoes and other tubers should be stored in a dark, well-ventilated cupboard. Perhaps even keep them in the bag they are bought in.
- Mushrooms keep well in a paper bag in the fridge crisper/ drawer.
- Green beans and other runner beans sit well in the fridge until ready to use. To extend the time you will use them, lightly blanch them in boiling water, cool them down and freeze them. Use directly from frozen in stir fries/ stews or salads.
- Freezing vegetables at home is an easy and fast way to preserve nutrients and enjoy them for longer.
- Berries, apples, grapes, and pears all store well in the packaging they are bought in and will stay in the crisper in the fridge.
- Fruit that keeps well on the counter: apricots, avocados, guavas, kiwis, melons, mangoes, papaya, peaches, bananas and plums. Once these are ripe, transfer them to the drawer and use them up soon.
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