Storing Half-used Ingredients

Half Used Ingredients

Do you throw away half-used ingredients such as the remaining portions of a carrot, cabbage or a big plump tomato? There are easy ways to keep them fresh and use them later. Food waste is a huge problem in this country and many people do not plan how to store or use their leftovers.  This contributes to increased landfills, economic loss (you paid for that food didn’t you?) and a waste or resources.  Before putting those half-used ingredients in the trash, let’s learn how to keep them fresh.

The problem with many ingredients, particularly vegetables, is that when oxidation begins, they not only lose their vital nutrients; they can also lose their color and crisp texture.  To keep them looking good and maintain as much nutrition as possible (once it’s cut you can’t avoid some nutrient loss) it’s important to store them properly.  This chart shows how long foods will last in at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or freezer.  Below are some storage tips to help extend the shelf-life of some half-used ingredients.

  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, or Chinese cabbage can be wrapped in dry towels before putting them in the fridge. You can also put them in containers to add exterior protection from moisture, extending their storage life even more.
  • Fresh herbs can be stored by snipping off the bottoms of the stems, placing them into a glass container with a small amount of water and tenting them with a plastic bag.  Change the water every day and they can stay fresh for 10 days or more.
  • Some fresh spices, such as ginger or garlic, store well in the freezer.  Peel them first and then store in a container until needed.
  • Just opened a bag of nuts to use in a recipe?  Store the remainder in the freezer to protect the oils which can easily go rancid if stored at warmer temperatures.
  • To store half of an onion, cutting the shoot end and leaving the root half uncut allows for longer storage; then place it in a lidded container to avoid odors in the refrigerator.
  • Avocados, apples, and other items which oxidize easily can be stored in containers after first sprinkling with lemon juice to help prevent discoloration.
  • For other firm vegetables such as celery, jicama, or carrot it’s helpful to cover the cut portion with a damp cloth napkin or towel.   Some people prefer to use paper towels, it’s important to avoid using an newspaper because the ink may be absorbed directly by your produce.
  • With other foods (such as spaghetti squash) the best way to store them is to actually cook the whole thing and then store the cooked portion in the refrigerator, if you’re going to use it within the week, or the freezer, if you need longer term storage.

Learn how to cut down on food waste and get rid of ingredients which
are harmful to your health.  Schedule your Pantry Party today.

Ron Lebya contributed to this article.  He is a Filipino food blogger who writes and shares recipes at

Photo: Banjo Brown

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at