Summer is here, so this means that many of us will plan outdoor festivities with food and drinks. Grocery shopping becomes a little challenging when we know that the food will be exposed to air for a period of time, so beginning with storing the food properly after it’s purchased is important. I’ll share some tips I’ve learned and some of which surprised me.

Starting with meat, people usually store it in the freezer the minute they get home, but it doesn’t necessarily mean its freezer ready. Average meat wrappers found in your local grocers let in airflow, which means that the exposure can produce bacteria, lowering the quality of your meat. You should always rewrap your meat with freezer paper, forcing out any additional air before freezing it.

Fresh vegetables should be blanched before you freeze them. The boiling water will help stop enzymatic action, which usually strip the flavor and freshness from your vegetables. If you do this prior to any outdoor activity…it will help keep them fresher vs just washing and storing them in your refrigerator. Crisp is best.

It is important to keep yourself hydrated outdoors, and lemon water is not only great tasting, but it helps to sooth your digestive system as well as ridding yourself of unwanted bloating. I love to keep lemons on hand, and storing them in foil in the refrigerator keeps them a tad longer. Also, a lot of people love to bring pineapple to outdoor functions. The best part of this tropical fruit is that it contains the enzyme bromelain; a source used for centuries to treat indigestion and helps reduce inflammation. Sometimes if humidity is high, our bodies can swell depending on individual medical issues, and we all react differently to different types of heat.

Kiwi is another favorite fruit which has high levels of potassium and reduces bloating. These are all excellent things to take on a picnic, especially when it’s hot outside and you’re eating meat (foods) you may not normally be accustom to during the winter months. Cantaloupe is the perfect melon, low in calories and has a very high water content; you could never eat too much of this fruit. It is also full of anti-bloating potassium, but again…water intake during summer months is crucial for better health.

If you find yourself serving these types of items outdoors, try and find a large stainless steel bowl, filling it with ice… so you may put your fruits on top (in another dish) of the ice. Remember, cutting and freezing first helps your allotted time it may be used outside. Many times people leave out dishes of food way too long outside; it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and other microorganisms that surely will make you and your guests ill. Have a great summer and happy cooking!

Make your week count.