Great Refrigerator Clean Out
Is your fridge and freezer busting at the seams? Or, do you get frustrated looking for the pickles behind the milk, ketchup, jelly and storage containers of leftovers? You get the idea. An unorganized refrigerator or freezer is both a time and energy waster.
Here’s a quick guide to organizing and storing foods and leftovers, giving you a fresh start to kitchen organization where it matters most.
Be sure your refrigerator is set below 40°F. This will protect most foods from harmful bacteria, but not forever. Freezers should be set at 0°F or below.
WHAT STAYS, WHAT GOES
Not everything has to be gobbled up right away. Use these pointers to decide what leftovers to dish up first and what to freeze.
•DISH UP: If you have a lot of single foods in the refrigerator, like a carton of half-used whipping cream or just a part of a ham, try to use it before it goes bad. Look for recipes based around those ingredients. Many food apps and websites let you search recipes by ingredient.
The rules of thumb, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its in-depth Cold Storage Chart:
•Packaged foods: Use by expiration dates
•Cooked leftovers: Serve within 3 to 4 days
•Fresh chicken and turkey: Use within 1 to 2 days if properly stored below 40°F
•Fresh hamburger, ground meats and stew meats: Use within 1 to 2 days if properly stored below 40°F
•Fresh steaks, chops and roasts: Use within 3 to 5 days if properly stored below 40°F
•Others? Check out the full UDSA Cold Storage Chart for specific refrigerator and freezer storage times
•DISH UP (ASAP): Pasta salads or mayonnaise-based vegetable salads do not freeze well, so eat those items first, within 1 to 2 days if kept below 40°F. Make sure it has not sat out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if temp is above 90°F). After that, toss it.
•FREEZE: Most soups, stuffings, casseroles and meats can be frozen. The safest way to store leftovers is in shallow Snapware® Total Solution™ containers. That way they completely cool in the refrigerator within 2 hours.
•DISH UP OR FREEZE: Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb or pork within 3 to 5 days.
•FREEZE: Cooked ham, sausage and lunch meats can be stored in the freezer for 1 to 2 months as long as it is in an airtight container or wrapped in freezer paper or a freezer bag.
•FREEZE: Cooked meat and meat casseroles can be stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Slice it and stack in the proper size Snapware Total Solution container for quick meals later.
Check out the Basics for Handling Food Safely at the USDA website. It includes a handy Cold Storage Chart for the refrigerator and freezer.
WHAT TO TOSS, IMMEDIATELY
We know you hate to waste food. But, there comes a time—often sooner than you think—when you need to make the call, for your own sake.
Cooked food in the fridge should be used within 3-4 days, and reheated to a safe temperature of 165°F. Check out this food storage chart from FoodSafety.gov. Even simpler…if in doubt, throw it out! Here are some basic guidelines to think about:
•Produce: If a few days have gone by, you might be able to cut away some bruising or damage, but if leafy greens are wilted or an apple has gone from crisp to spongy, it’s time to toss.
•Visible mold: You can cut away a moldy bit of hard cheese. Besides that, toss out moldy bread, soft cheeses, soups and other liquids.
•Strong odors: If it smells rancid or sour, let it go. Need we say more?
•Dated material: Throw away food past its expiration date.
Always refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.
TIME TO REORGANIZE
As you stock your fridge with new food, and as new leftovers pile up, there are some easy steps you can take to keep it neat and tidy:
•Label leftovers with the date they were made. Snapware Total Solution lids can be written on with any marker, then easily wiped off once the leftovers are used. If there are a lot of extras, split them into two or more containers and freeze one.
•Organize by expiration date. If you have more than one of a product, such as multiple open bottles of ketchup, keep the older one closest to the front.
•Downsize purchases. If produce frequently goes bad, consider buying smaller portions, planning out their uses in advance or switching to frozen versions.
•Old reliable. Keep an open container of baking soda in the refrigerator to control odor; change it every month.
•Seal out air. Use airtight Snapware Total Solution containers to ensure that your food lasts as long as possible, while also preventing unwanted odors from seeping throughout the fridge.
Marinated meats can be stored in the refrigerator longer than just a few hours. Poultry can be stored for up to 2 days. Beef, veal, pork, chops and steaks and be marinated for up to 5 days.
Helpful Food Storage Guidelines:
USDA “Leftovers and Food Safety”
FoodSafety.gov Egg Storage Chart” are helpful resources from FoodSafety.gov. Book