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.
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.
A well-organized refrigerator helps reduce food waste and save money. You should aim to deep clean your refrigerator every three to four months. Follow these steps to clean and organize your refrigerator:
Remove everything. Throw out food that has spoiled or expired and leftovers more than four days old.
Put perishables, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and eggs, in a cooler with ice or ice packs to keep cold while cleaning the refrigerator.
Wash all shelves, drawers, and walls with hot soapy water. Rinse with clean, hot water and let air dry. Replace drawers and shelves once they are dry.
Make sure the refrigerator temperature is 40ºF or below, so your food is safe to eat.
Group similar foods together as you put them back in the refrigerator. Label and date all foods.
Crisper drawers: Keep fruits and vegetables.
Deli drawers: Store deli meats and cheeses.
Lowest shelf: Place raw meats on a plate, so they do not drip onto other foods.
Back of refrigerator: Keep milk and eggs, so they stay cold.
Door: Store sauces and condiments.
Once a year, clean the back and bottom of the fridge. This helps it to operate efficiently.
When in doubt, throw it out! To keep your family safe, keep leftovers for only three to four days in the refrigerator. Label condiments with the date you open them. Below is a list of how long they can last.
This is a good reminder to either eat or freeze Thanksgiving leftovers within three to four days. To handle leftovers safely, use the following guidelines:
Refrigerate food within two hours after cooking to keep it safe.
Eat or freeze leftovers within four days.
Use labels or masking tape and a black marker to write dates on food for the refrigerator or freezer. If you label leftovers in the refrigerator with the four-day-later date, you will see right away the last day you can safely eat them.
Use Food Safety Charts, www.foodsafety.gov, to learn how long food can be safely stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Learn more about leftover food, www.fsis.usda.gov.