Food Storage 101
Raise your hand if you’ve ever peered into a food-storage container, sniffed and shrugged. Should you eat it? Or not? Yep, our hands are up, too.
Fortunately, you can eliminate this problem completely with the simple how-tos of food storage, keeping the foods in your fridge safe and edible. Plus, you’ll save money and help the inside of your refrigerator smell the way it should.
To get started, let common sense be your guide. No matter what the expiration date is, never eat foods that smell off or funky. Never!
Now that we’ve established the ground rules, let’s arm you with an understanding of how long certain foods can be expected to last and the best ways to keep them.
THE PANTRY’S GOLDEN RULE
Airtight storage means extended freshness. To maximize shelf life, protect pantry items from exposure to moisture and air by transferring to sealed containers once opened, like Snapware® Airtight Food Storage containers with silicone-sealed flip-top lids. Label containers with the item’s name and expiration date. (You don’t necessarily need to throw these items out after the date passes, but be aware of any changes in quality.) Recommended items to transfer include:
•Baking goods like flour, sugar and chocolate chips
•Dried beans and lentils
•Nuts and dried fruits
•Snacks like pretzels, chips and crackers
PROTECTING YOUR PRODUCE
Produce varies considerably in how long things keep, but you can extend the life of many different fruits and vegetables by following some easy tips:
•Cold storage: Most produce lasts longer in the fridge, even if normally kept out. For example, whole onions can last for 2 months in the fridge, but half that time on the counter.
•Keep whole: Keep produce intact—chopping it before you’re ready to use it makes it ripen or spoil more quickly.
•Deep freeze: If you work ahead, wash, chop and freeze green beans, carrots and broccoli for use in future recipes.
•Less than 1 week: Leafy greens, asparagus, cucumbers and similar veggies usually last about 5 days in the fridge.
•Root stellar: Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips can last up to a few months if stored in a cool dry place.
•Fresh berries: Berries should be washed just before eating.
•Go bananas: Never refrigerate bananas—keep them on the counter to ripen. If they get too ripe before you eat them, they can be frozen and used later for baking or smoothies.
Then there are the dishes you’ve prepared that are so good that you never want to let go of even a single serving. It’s a little more difficult to analyze a casserole in a food-storage container vs. a green vegetable that wilts and has clear signs that it’s seen better days. So, don’t! It’s best to apply these hard-core food-storage rules:
•Leftover shelf life: In general, you can refrigerate leftovers for 3 or 4 days.
•Extended freeze: For longer storage, keep leftovers in labeled containers in the freezer, where they can last as long as a couple of months. Snapware® Airtight Food Storage pieces are perfectly happy in either environment and come in a variety of sizes.
•Two hours or less. Be sure to get any leftovers in the fridge within 2 hours; any longer and they may not be safe to eat. If the temperature is above 90°F, cut that time in half to 1 hour.
•Cool before cold. Always cool hot foods before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing foods in smaller portions and in shallow containers will help cool them quicker.
•Use by date. It’s smart to label all your leftovers in the fridge and freezer with a “use by” date. All Snapware® Total Solution™ and other food storage containers have a place on the lids where you can write this important information with any marker. And, it wipes off so you can label again and again.
SIMPLIFY AND ORGANIZE
Whether you use a notebook, smartphone app or dry-erase board (great for busy families), keep an organized list of staples and update as you run low or run out. Divide it into two organized columns or sections:
•Fresh and often used items that need to be purchased weekly.
•Nonperishables and foods that are simply nice to have on hand for throwing together quick dinners or entertaining unexpected guests.
Keeping track will help you shop more efficiently, and storing wisely will help you make the most of what you buy.
Digging Deeper: To keep your foods safely stored, follow USDA food storage guidelines. For your convenience, we’ve included these references:
USDA “Leftovers and Food Safety”
USDA “Basics of Handling Food Safely”
FoodSafety.gov “Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer”
FoodSafety.gov “Egg Storage Chart” are helpful resources from FoodSafety.gov.
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