We all seem to be hanging on to foods in our refrigerators (and freezers) that has passed its prime. Not only will it be unappetizing to eat and losing nutrients, it could be dangerous to you and your family. Given time on the shelf in your refrigerator, bacteria has had opportunity to grow and you most likely won’t be able to overcome it with cooking. Your refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees F.
When storing produce, keep it in the refrigerator for freshness. Most types of produce likes to have air circulation so that the moisture content doesn’t cause it to wilt or ripen too quickly. Therefore, if you are putting your produce items in plastic bags you should poke a few holes to let the air flow. For specific items, use this chart: Produce Storage Tips.
My personal trick for keeping my lettuce leaves crisp in the refrigerator after I washed them is to add a dry paper towel to the bag. It seems to draw out any loose moisture to keep the leaves crisp. Most produce likes to be washed when you are ready to eat not before you put it in the refrigerator. You may be more successful by putting fruit in one drawer and vegetables in another as some can give off gases that increase the ripening of other produce.
Other foods that you store in the refrigerator need careful handling such as eggs, dairy and ready to eat foods like deli meats. Eggs in the shell can be stored for up to 4-5 weeks. Hard cooked eggs can be kept for one week. Milk and other dairy should be used within a week. Deli meats once opened should be used within five days. If they haven’t been opened yet they can be kept up to 2 weeks.
Fresh meats should be used within one week. Poultry and fish are usually best within a few days. Mixed salads like potato or macaroni should be used within 3 to 5 days. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours and kept for 3 to 4 days.
Don’t forget to check the expiration dates on these foods and discard by that date no matter how long you have had it.
It is a good idea to check everything in your refrigerator once a week. When making the next grocery list it is an ideal time to wipe down any spills or messes on the refrigerator shelves, check expiration dates and toss out old foods.
It may be a cliché but it is true for you and your families’ health – when in doubt, throw it out!