Watch out for those leftovers

By Linda Buroker | May 12, 2014
Linda Buroker

Recently I read an article about the importance of cleaning and organizing my refrigerator. The idea that frequently used items should be easily accessible made a lot of sense, but no matter how well organized you are, there is always going to be something hidden in the back of the beyond.

How many of you can proudly say that your refrigerator is sparkling clean, well organized, and free of leftovers? Wait a minute you say, you want to have those leftovers for dinner tonight. Well, OK, but only if they have just been in there for a day or two.

Every year, millions of Americans become ill because of food-borne illnesses. Many of these illnesses result from eating food that has spent too much time in the back of your refrigerator. Children, older people, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to food poisoning.

There is always going to be something of indeterminate age in your refrigerator. You don’t have to be anal about tossing everything that is a day or two past its sell-by date, but use common sense. You can’t always tell by sight or smell if a food is good to eat. Skip the poke and prod method and, if in doubt, throw it out.

The best way to keep track of leftover items is to know when you bought them, when you opened them or when it was you brought food home in that doggie bag. Keep a roll of masking tape and a marking pen on top of or next to the refrigerator, and label everything.

The freezer is a different story. As long as food is frozen, it is probably safe to eat. But if your package is frosted over, it isn’t going to be very tasty.

Know what is in your freezer, and use the food within a reasonable length of time. If you are thrifty and creative, it is a great way to save time and money, but if you freeze and forget… don’t bother.

Inspect your freezer on a weekly basis and rotate older items to the front, then plan your meals accordingly. Eat thriftily and eat safely. Your refrigerator can be your best friend if maintained wisely.

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