Consumers are turning to innovative food storage containers to help stretch their food budgets amid the economic slowdown.

Companies are keeping up with demand by giving plastic freezer bags, soy sauce dispensers and instant coffee refill cartridges a technological edge.

"Vegetables really last long," said a 36-year-old homemaker in Tokyo. "I no longer have to worry about inadvertently letting them rot."

She said the P-Plus vegetable preservation bag sold by Tokyo-based Sumitomo Bakelite Co. helps her keep household expenses down.

With invisible microholes embedded in the bag, P-Plus bags are capable of retaining low oxygen and high carbon dioxide so that vegetables kept in it can stay fresh longer, according to company officials.

They said vegetables held in an ordinary bag do not get oxygen and start to go bad, whereas those in P-Plus bags get a moderate amount that radically slows the vegetables' deterioration.

P-Plus was originally marketed 18 years ago for commercial use by grocers, whose orders still account for the bulk of the company's shipments.

However, shipments for ordinary consumers during the first half of fiscal 2009 registered a 15 percent increase from the same period of the previous year.

To cater to thrifty consumers, companies like soy sauce manufacturer Yamasa Corp. in Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, and Nestle Japan Ltd. of Kobe have been selling new products to keep their products fresh as long as they can.

Yamasa marketed last August a special soy sauce product in a 500-milliliter pouch in a dispenser designed to maintain its freshness for 70 days.

Nestle Japan's Nestle Charge is an instant coffee refill cartridge that is placed atop an empty open jar after removing its plastic lid but keeping its inside opening sealed.

It allows the refill process to be completed without exposing coffee to outside air.