Put It Away—The Right Way!

We are spending more money on our food lately than we have in past years. Properly storing food at home saves food dollars, preserves the quality and nutrients, and prevents foodborne illness caused by harmful bacteria.

Many staples and canned foods have a lengthy shelf life. However, foods stored for longer than recommended times or beyond package date may change quality, color, and flavor. Periodically check for expiration dates and discard foods showing any signs of spoilage.

Store perishable foods in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below. Items like meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, and fish should be in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Store them in airtight wraps or containers to prevent juices from dripping and contaminating other foods.

Freezer temperatures should be maintained at 0°F or below. Package items for the freezer in moisture- and vapor-proof wraps or containers, using freezer-grade foil, plastic wrap or bags, or freezer paper or containers. Label all freezer foods with the date, food item, and weight or number of servings. For more information on how long foods last, check the FoodKeeper App, www.foodsafety.gov.

Sources:
EatRight, www.eatright.org
UNL Food, food.unl.edu
Texas Agricultural Extension Service, nchfp.uga.edu

Refrigerator Tetris—Where should the food go?

Storing food correctly helps prevent food waste. The refrigerator is the most important kitchen appliance for keeping food safe. Refrigerators should be kept at 40°F or below while the freezer needs to be set at 0°F or below.

Where food is stored in the refrigerator is just as important as keeping it at the correct temperature.

  • Door shelves are good for storing condiments and salad dressings since that is the warmest part of the refrigerator. Do not store eggs or milk here.
  • Sealed crisper drawers provide an optimal storage environment for fruits and vegetables. Vegetables prefer higher humidity and fruits lower humidity, so adjust drawer controls accordingly. This will help the produce last longer.
  • Middle shelves are good places to put ready-to-eat foods like salads, desserts, or leftovers.
  • Lowest shelf is where you should place raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Place them in a sealed container or wrapped securely to prevent meat juices from dripping and contaminating other foods.

Source: USDA, www.fsis.usda.gov.

Frozen Food Facts

March is National Frozen Food Month! To celebrate, try these nutritious and delicious options from and helpful tips for the frozen food section:

  • Frozen Produce–Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent option when purchasing out of season produce. Frozen varieties are packed with nutrients, sometimes more than fresh items, because they are packaged at the peak of harvest season. Frozen produce is a great way to save money without sacrificing flavor.
  • Frozen Meat, Poultry, Seafood–Fresh animal protein can be expensive behind the counter, but frozen options can be just as nutritious and delicious when carefully selected. Proteins not breaded or fried are the best options. The frozen section is also a terrific place to find several meat alternatives, such as plant-based burgers or tofu meatballs.
  • Check the saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar content on the Nutrition Facts Label; try to purchase products with less than 10% of the Daily Value.
  • Save frozen entrées and pizzas for busy nights; add other items to these meals and snacks, such as steamed vegetables, sliced apples with nut butter, or a side salad, to increase nutrient density.

To start stocking your freezer, here is a chart with recommended storage times for common frozen food items:

Food Storage:  Time in Freezer (0° or below)

Ground Meats:  3–4 months
Fresh Meat (steaks, chops, roasts):  4–12 months
Fresh Poultry:  9 months (pieces), 1 year (whole)
Cooked Meat or Poultry:  2–6 months
Soups and Stews:  2–3 months
Breaded Poultry (chicken nuggets/patties):  1–3 months
Pizza:  1–2 months
Frozen Dinners or Entrées:  2–3 months
Leftovers (casseroles, pasta):  2–3 months

 

Sources: Frozen food: Convenient and nutritious. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; McDonald, L. (2012). Freezer foods. Supermarket savvy: Aisle-by-aisle teaching modules; Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer

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