How to Refresh Stale Ingredients

We’re all trying to minimize the amount of trips to the grocery store. Here’s how to save the foods you’ve already got in the kitchen.

Published Apr. 15, 2020.

Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite activity. I can be a bit impatient and it’s usually while I’m strolling the aisles that I realize it’s been exactly three hours since my last meal and I’m suddenly very hungry. But recently, venturing to the store has taken on a bit more meaning: the last few months I’ve been home on maternity leave with my new baby girl and these once-mundane trips have suddenly become much more. They were moments of “me” time—an adventure with the baby where I would recite her the name of every piece of produce; even an opportunity to think about my ATK coworkers, who were all, at that moment, humming along in the test kitchen. 

Now, running to the grocery store feels like a luxury (or a risk) that shouldn’t be taken for granted. So, my husband and I are trying to be more resourceful with what food is already in the house. One of the ways we’re doing that is rethinking what we’re tossing in the trash. A lot of foods that might seem less than pristine since the day we bought them can be restored with a little help. I’m not telling you to salvage moldy cheese or use oil that's gone rancid (some foods can’t be saved) but there are some foods that you shouldn’t be quick to throw out.

How to Revive Wilted Produce

If leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula) are looking a little drab, soak them in ice water for 30 minutes.

To revive vegetables with stalks or stems (broccoli, asparagus, scallions, celery parsley): Trim stalks or stems on the bias to expose more water-wicking capillaries and stand the produce in a container filled with cold water for 1 hour.

How to Save Stale Cookies

Place hardened, stale cookies on a plate and microwave for 10 seconds. It is important to eat the cookies while they are warm before they lose their softness.

How to Save Stale Chips and Crackers

Spread stale crackers, potato chips, or tortilla chips in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet (larger items such as graham crackers should be on a wire rack set in a baking sheet) and place on the middle rack of a 225-degree oven for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the item, until the food is crisp again, stirring (or flipping) halfway through baking.

How to Soften Rock-Hard Brown Sugar

If your brown sugar has dried out and formed rock-hard clumps, you can use a coffee grinder to quickly break up what you need (up to ¼ cup at a time). A grater is also a useful tool for this problem; running the block of sugar along the tool’s sharp holes quickly breaks it down into a measurable, usable state.

To keep brown sugar soft indefinitely, store it in a sealed container with a terra cotta Brown Sugar Bear, which gets a brief soak in water before being added to the sugar.

How to Liquify Crystallized Honey

To bring honey back to its translucent, liquid state, use a pot of simmering water or a microwave. Put the opened jar of honey in a saucepan filled with about an inch of water and place over very low heat, stirring the honey often, until the crystals melt.

Alternatively, heat the opened jar in the microwave on high power in 10-second increments, stirring intermittently, until it has liquified. Once cooled, use the honey or screw the lid back on for storage. The honey will eventually recrystallize, but it should flow freely for several weeks.

If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, heat your honey with a small amount of light corn syrup (2 teaspoons per cup of honey).

For more cooking resources and recipe recommendations, check out these posts:


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