Storing Food Safely: What You Need to Know
In today’s economy, many of us are looking to do more with less – and many of us are eating out less often, making meals at home and making the most of leftovers. Home cooking can be healthier as well as more economically sound – but only if you play it safe. Here’s a guide to using food safely, storing it effectively and knowing when to say goodbye.
According to the FDA Web site, , there are 76 million annual cases of foodbourne illness, 325,000 people hospitalized with foodbourne illnesses, and 5,000 deaths from foodbourne illness. Thus, knowing basic food storage and preparation safety truly is a matter of life and death. How can you keep your food fresh and healthy?
Practice safer shopping
For safer eating, the FDA advises you to start at the store:
Don’t buy food in bulging or dented cans or jars with the safety seal on top already popped.
Look around the store. Do employees use safe food handling practices? Does the store look and smell clean?
Check expiration dates and check eggs to make sure none are cracked.
Put frozen foods, meats, poultry, fish and eggs in the shopping cart last.
Refrigerate perishables within two hours of purchasing them – if they sit out any longer the food may be warm enough for harmful bacteria to multiply.
Smarter storage strategies
Although you should make sure that your fridge is at 40 degrees or below (use an appliance thermometer to check), not all areas of your fridge are the same. Milk can go bad and lettuce can freeze to a useless icy mess all in the same fridge. It’s all about knowing what to store where:
Fridge door: Ideal for condiments, salsa, salad dressings and tomato sauce – not milk, cheese or cold cuts.
Freezer door: Flour, nuts, frozen fruits and vegetables.
Crisper drawers in fridge: Good for vegetables and fruits that need refrigeration such as apples and bell peppers.
Top shelf of fridge: Best for prepared foods and salads, cooked meat and poultry (which you should use or toss within three days).
Cheese drawer: Best for cheeses because it is more humid and a little warmer than the rest of the fridge since the cold air doesn’t circulate through it.
At the same time, there are some fruits and vegetables that should not go in the fridge at all including bananas and avocadoes. For the reason why and for more about valuable storage strategies like those listed above, see this helpful article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette or the FDA’s recommendations about safe food storage.
Making your own food, stretching your leftovers and buying in bulk are all excellent ways to save money and eat better, too. Just make sure to do it safely!