Developing a shelf-stable kitchen can save you money and time, reduce food waste and add nutrients to your diet. Plus, buying shelf-stable food can mean fewer trips to the grocery store and cutting the overall amount of time you spend there.
Connie Cheng, Gold’s Gym Nutrition Expert, shares her shopping secrets for buying food with a long shelf life and maintaining a healthy and shelf-stable diet.
Fresh Fruits and Veggies
“Fresh produce are some of the trickiest items to keep stable in your fridge,” says Connie, “So I recommend stocking up on these sturdier, high fibrous veggies that last longer:”
Fruits such as apples, grapefruit and oranges keep longer than other fruits. “Before freezing bananas,” says Connie, “peel and slice them. They’ll be perfect for smoothies.”
Meats, Seafood and Dairy
Beef, pork and fish are easy and convenient items to store in your freezer, lasting months rather than just days in your fridge. Connie reminds you that the safest way to let meat thaw is at room temp or in the refrigerator rather than in a microwave, which can easily heat meat to a temperature where bacteria multiplies.
For your dairy needs, shelf-stable milk options can be stored at room temp. You may have seen options such as almond or coconut milk in paper cartons. Connie tells us that UTP (ultra-high temperature pasteurization) kills more bacteria for longer in shelf-stable milk, which extends shelf life.
One common misconception is that canned foods aren’t nutritious. “In fact,” Connie says, “important nutrients like vitamin A — which is key for an optimal immune system — are actually preserved in canned foods.” Healthy canned food examples include beans, carrots, tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Connie suggests looking for low-sodium options in the canned food aisle. Reduce the sodium in canned beans by simply rinsing under cold water. Be careful of canned fruit, which is frequently packed with added sugars.
“Frozen foods can actually better maintain nutritional content because of the decreased exposure to heat,” says Connie. So, stock that freezer with your favorite vegetables and fruit. Just read the fine print to ensure that your frozen broccoli, for instance, doesn’t have added salt or butter, and your frozen fruit doesn’t have added sugar.
One of Connie’s favorite frozen items is protein waffles like Kodiak Cakes, which blend protein with whole-grain oat flour. Incorporating protein into breakfast can be difficult for some. This item hits protein and carbs in one quick and easy, shelf-stable item.
Frozen Storage Length: Connie’s Go-to Checklist
- Soups, stews, cooked beans: 2-3months
- Cooked or ground meat and poultry: 3-6 months
- Berries, chopped fruit in freezer bags: 6-8 months
- Veggies, if blanched: 8-12 months
For more nutrition advice from Connie, watch her video on Smart Grocery Shopping.
Get more tips from Gold’s Gym experts:
(Meal) Prep School
How to Create the Perfect Healthy Plate
5 Meal Prep Hacks