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IBM created a freezer that can detect expiring food so that food supply chains can prevent contamination
As our leading nutrition providers, food supply chains have a responsibility to make sure the food we buy is fresh and healthy, not damaged or spoiled. So International Business Machines (IBM) created a freezer that detects when food items are reaching their expiration dates, according to Forbes.
The freezer uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), which provides continuous temperature regulation of perishable foods. It can also alert staff when a certain item is low and needs to be restocked.
In 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which requires food regulators to be accountable for preventing contamination rather than just responding after the fact.
So new technologies like this freezer are being created to help food supply chains prevent contamination before it happens.
New Freezer Technology Detects Food Expiration - Recipes
I contacted Hormel and inquired about the shelf life limits on their meat products. I was gratified to learn that ALL their products, including chili and Dinty Moore beef stew, have unlimited shelf life as long as oxygen has not made contact with the contents.
I also spoke to Star Kist about shelf life of their tuna, and was told that the shelf life is 4 to 6 years.
Can anyone confirm these responses? Is Hormel saying that their products will never go bad, or that whenever they do. oxygen has seeped in? Comments?
The answers you got may be true. However, when I have looked at the dates on the cans they usually expire within 2-4 years. I noticed Campbell's soups in the stores right now expire around 10/2000. Of course, the expiration date on the can may not mean that the contents won't be any good after that.
There is a bit of a difference between 'going bad' (i.e. spoiled, unfit to eat) and 'nutritional value'. Canned goods in general store for a long time 3-5 years (there are exceptions) without spoiling. But their contents continually lose nutrional value over that time. In general, the cooler and drier the storage (above freezing though), the better. That's one reason a lot of folks are recommending that you purchase suplemmental vitamins and/or also store and grow sproutable seeds such as alfalfa (very cheap and very easy to grow).
A good reference is:
Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens
-- Arnie Rimmer ([email protected]), November 02, 1998.
What they are telling you is true. SPAM for instance has an everlasting shelf life. The quality may not be the same as when it was canned, but what the heck, when your hungry you'll eat it and not complain. Vitamins do not have a very long shelf life so if a disaster is a prolonged one then we are all basically screwed nutrition wise. except for those who have a garden, water and fertizlier to maintain it.
Learn how to SPROUT! Sprout seeds preferably organic will last up to 5 years and are tremendous in maintaining good health. Protein from beans and rice. Grind fresh flour from wheat berries with a hand mill. Yes, I will have some canned goods like tuna and such but there are many ways to eat healthy through all this. Try starting now to develop your skills and good health! Diana
I don't know, but I strongly suspect that, for legal reasons, the expiration dates on any food are extremely conservative. Can you imagine the lawsuits if canned foods have gone bad within the nominal expiration period and the can is not damaged? Sometimes I even suspect that these are conveniently quick pull dates from retail shelves, to encourage ordering more often.
Flint: I like those "quick pull dates." The first place I stop at the store are the discount baskets. Great bargains and there's nothing wrong with the products. You are probably right that the dates are put on there so reordering is sooner than later.
Oyur wonderful nanny hath decreed that there shall be no expiration date greater than 3 years into the future for anything which might expire. Thus, you have the pull dates, etc.
Remember the scene from "Road Warrior" when Mel was eating the can of dog food? Wonder if he or his dog were worried about the sell by date on the can? There are some earlier threads that have links to shelf life info and how to read codes on packaged food. Even Pepsi has a date on it now. Maybe we'll have "vintage" Pepsi in the post- y2k world. Lets open a fine can of 11/98. Remember in 98 when .
USEFUL SHELF-LIFE OF LONG-TERM STORAGE FOODS
Due to the type of processing and inadequate packaging, Regular Canned Goods & Dry Foods packaged in Cardboard Boxes & Plastic Bags as purchased from the shelves in Grocery Stores ARE NOT SUITED FOR A LONG-TERM FOOD STORAGE PROGRAM!
This Summary Outline provides guidance on the various Types & Storage Methods of Specialty Food Products that are processed and packaged to go far beyond the Short Shelf-Life of Regular Canned, Boxed and Bagged Foods.
While it is possible to acquire enough expertise to determine the various different types and quantities of food needed for a Nutritionally-Sound Balanced Diet using Wet-Packed, Dried and Dehydrated Foods, the biggest obstacle for most individuals planning their own Long-Term Food Storage Program is how to package and store the food for Maximum Useful Shelf-Life.
The first questions are:
What sort of containers should I use?
Must the containers be Food Grade?
When using Plastic Bags inside a container, must the Plastic Bag be Food Grade?
How many Plastic Bags must I use to make certain that no air or moisture will get in the food?
How do I seal the Plastic Bags? Wire-Twist Ties? Tape? Both?
What should I do to prevent Bugs & Other Vermin from contaminating the food? Use Dry Bay Leaves ?
Do I need a Vacuum Suction Pump to remove excess air from the food container?
How do I remove Moisture & Oxygen from the food container?
What sort of Desiccant do I use to remove Moisture -- and where can I buy them?
What do I use to remove Oxygen -- Nitrogen, Dry Ice or other method?
All of these questions are very logical, and require Expert Answers that are not always readily available.
Everyone has opinions and different recommendations as to the types of Containers, Method of Packing, Extracting Moisture & Oxygen, Sealing and Storing the food.
Does it hurt dry food to be frozen? Is it alright to store food in your attic since Im short of storage space, and also want to hide my food supply from prying eyes?
The absolutely worst environment for any type of food [dry or wet] is a Warm or Hot Place.
No, it doesnt hurt Dry Foods [Wheat, Rice, Lentils, Corn, Beans, Granulated Sugar, Cereals etc] to be frozen. In fact, freezing is desirable to extend the Useful Shelf-Life of Dry Foods -- and certain types of Wet Packed Foods. Since water expands when frozen, you obviously dont want to freeze food in a Glass Jar, Metal Container or Other Container that will break, distend or rupture from expansion due to freezing.
For those who dont know how -- or who dont have the time to Plan, Assemble, Pack and Store their own Long-Term Food Storage Rations -- Safe Trek Foods takes all the Guessing & Frustration out of the equation, and provides you with a Fully Planned, Nutritionally- Balanced Menu of Essential Foods for Long-Term Storage.
Safe Trek Foods is the LARGEST, Most Completely Stocked, Cheapest, Reliable and Responsive Supplier in the USA for Long-Term Food Storage.
Safe Trek purchases all food items directly from the Actual Producers -- with all Food Processing, Canning and Packaging done on-site by Safe Trek itself.
All Safe Trek food products are packed in #10 Size Metal Cans [approximately 1 U.S. Gallon]. the #10 cans are Double-Enameled [coated twice inside the can and twice outside] to provide extra preservative capability and safeguard against rust and other corrosion.
Oxygen-Absorber Packets are inserted into these Storage Containers. Oxygen Levels are thus reduced, and the Useful Shelf-Life of the food is greatly increased. These foods will retain their nutritional value and good taste for 5-15 years, if stored in a cooler environment. No refrigeration is needed.
By using the Autoclave Thermostabilized Retort-Pouch Technology employed in the manufacture of U.S. Military Meals Ready to Eat [MRE], the Useful Shelf-Life of food products can be extended to as long as 130 months [10 Years & 10 Months], if such Autoclave Thermostabilized Products are stored at a constant temperature of 60F -- with an Indefinite Shelf-Life if stored frozen.
Extensive testing done by the U.S. Army Natick Laboratories determined that the Useful Shelf-Life of a MRE stored at various temperatures is as follows:
1 month @ 120F
5 months @110F
22 months @100F
55 months @ 90F
76 months @80F
100 months @ 70F
130 months @ 60 F
MREs have an Indefinite Shelf-Life when stored frozen -- but you must avoid fluctuating temperatures in and out of the freezing zone.
Time & Temperature have a Cumulative Effect on the Useful Shelf-Life of any food. For example, a MRE stored at 100F for 11 months, and then moved to a different storage location where the temperature is 70F, would result in a loss of 1/2 of the 70F Useful Shelf-Life.
While on the subject of MREs, a WARNING is in order! MREs being advertised by various companies as U.S. Military Surplus, Contract Over-Run Production, Manufacturers Excess Inventory etc, are in fact FACTORY-REJECTED PRODUCT! In addition, there is no way to determine the Date of Manufacture or the various locations and varying temperatures under which such MREs have been stored before you purchased them.
A full dissertation on Military Surplus MREs is available on Internet Site http://www.conquestinc.com -- or we will E-Mail or Fax a copy to you on request.
The answer to Military MREs is Factory-Fresh Commercial MREs called HeaterMeals -- The Meal With The Stove Inside! Such MREs consist of a delicious > pound entree, fork, salt, pepper and napkin -- plus a 2 ounce packet of water to activate the Flameless Chemical Food Heater.
The HeaterMeals entree has been manufactured using the same Autoclave Thermostabilized Technology as with Military MREs, in which the food is cooked twice -- once before and once after packaging.
Instead of the MRE & Heater being separate as used by the U.S. Military, for Commercial Application/Civilian Sales both the MRE and the Heater have been combined into 1 New and Innovative Product: HeaterMeals!
our company [Conquest International Corporation] was the Exclusive Foreign Marketing & Sales Agent for 1 of the 3 former Prime Contractors to the U.S. Government for Military Meals Ready to Eat [MRE]. The manufacturer of HeaterMeals was the Sole Provider to the U.S. Military of their Patented Food Heaters, producing and selling over 70 million such heaters since 1990.
Conquest International Corporation is a distributor for HeaterMeals WITH IMMEDIATE DELIVERY of Factory-Fresh Brand-New Product! Full details, menus, pricing and ordering information is available on our Internet Site.
For those who dont have the time or are unable to plan their own Long-Term Food Storage Program, Safe Trek Foods and Conquest International Corporation have developed 2 Pre-Assembled Food Packages with a great variety of items to provide a 1 year supply of Balanced Menu Essential Foods for 1 person plus a second package that provides 4 people with a 1 year supply of food [or 1 person with 4 year food supply].
In addition to Specialty Processed & Packaged Long-Term Food Storage Kits from SafeTrek Foods, Conquest International Corporation provides HeaterMeals as Quick Ready to Eat Meals to supplement your Long-Term Food Storage Program in preparation for The Coming Bad Times!
Safe Trek & Conquest specialize in PREPAREDNESS FOR PERILOUS TIMES
PLEASE REFER ALL INQUIRIES TO
Conquest International Corporation 1109 SW 8th Street, Plainville, Kansas 67663 Tel  434 2483 Fax  434 2736 E-Mail: [email protected] Internet: http://www.conquestinc.com
-- Conquest International Corporation ([email protected]), November 03, 1998.
Just a report on our experiments with Granola.
Over the last couple of days we made both granola recipe's that were in The Last Whole Earth Catalog which we posted. The smaller was easy and dried hard. It was cut into bars prior to drying. Tasted like the jello flavor. We used Orange and forgot the sugar on one batch. Very good. The Rasberry batch with sugar was a little too sweet for me.
The larger recipe turned out to be granular granola. My mind was locked onto making dry bars so I didn't think about any other outcome. Was surprised but not disappointed. It is delicious. 1- 1/2 order filled a gallon freezer bag completely.
In going for bars again, we modified the granular recipe to have it come out hard like the smaller recipe. This time we used whatever grains were left over. We used a larger amount of soy compared to the oats & bran to get more protien production. (Is 50/50 beans/grain the way to go for max. protien or is there a better ratio?) We replaced the veg. oil with dry milk left out the jello and threw in about half the sugar we thought it would otherwise take.
Came out excellent. A little too thick on the pan to dry completely in 12 hours but that can be fixed. The taste is nicer natural with no jello flavor.
One thing in looking for all the grains needed, we paid way too much for Seseme at the Supermarket and couldn't find ground soy or flax at all. After looking around we went into fairly large health food store. They had everything we needed and at surprisingly low prices. Paid about half for the same amount of Seseme, for instance. Most of the items seemed lower compared to our Supermarket.
Still looking for grain mill. Where's best potential local outlet? Any suggestions please? Walmarts not got!
Roy, I found a web site that has a 19 page shelf life recommendation information sheet. I printed a copy for me and the in-laws. The web site is www.glitchproof.com Hope this has info you were looking for. Also, on the side, I sent you an order for Aerobic 07 the other day. Mary
Expiration dates on long-life goods are often chosen by the retailer. They don't think customers like seeing dates ten years in the future the customers might start thinking that some of the rest of the stock in the shop has been going stale for the past decade! Therefore they'll often choose (say) 1 year ahead, even if the particular product is good for many years more.
And, of course, if customers chuck stucc fecause it's gone past its sell-by date after purchase, it generates replacement sales.
Should You Toss That Food? Let Your Senses Help You Decide
by Lisa Arbetter, AARP, September 23, 2019 | Comments: 0
En español | No one wants to waste food. Yet 90 percent of us are guilty of occasionally throwing out still-fresh food, which makes up the majority of what's dumped in our landfills.
Worse, once there, items from our fridge rot and release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. At least part of the reason we toss out too much, experts say, is some understandable confusion over when food goes bad and what “best by” or “use by” labels printed on packages actually mean.
With the exception of infant formula, such labels are not federally regulated. "Manufacturers set shelf-life dates to assure quality, but those dates are only best estimates and depend on the food,” says Donald W. Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science and distinguished professor at Rutgers University. “A given food consumed after its ‘best before’ date may taste just fine.”
To help clarify things, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement in May supporting the food industry's efforts to standardize the use of the term “Best If Used By” on packaged food. But if we can't depend on the dates stamped on our food to tell us when it's time to throw it out, how do we decide what to pitch and what to keep?
Use your senses to detect food spoilage
"The best way to detect whether food is still good is by relying on your senses,” says Yvette Cabrera, project manager of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Food Matters initiative, which partners with cities to reduce food waste. “Smell it, taste it. Use what your body gave you in order to figure out if something's spoiled or not.” If you're unsure, don't risk it. “We do want people to not waste food, but our general guideline is: When in doubt throw it out,” says FDA spokesperson Paul Cassell.
Understand that spoiled doesn't mean contaminated
"There is often a misconception that spoiled food will make you sick,” Schaffner says. “Generally, the bacteria that spoil food are not the same bacteria that make us sick. A food can be spoiled but also be pathogen-free. A food may also contain pathogens but not be overtly spoiled.” Milk is a great example. When it's spoiled, it smells and tastes really bad, but because it's pasteurized, drinking it won't make you ill (though it may make you gag). As a matter of fact, sour milk can be great in recipes such as sour-milk corn bread or sour-milk pancakes.
Store food correctly to avoid illness
Optimal storage conditions are more important than sell-by dates when it comes to food safety. Even if the date expires during home storage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines say that a product should be “safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly and kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below."
Bacteria multiplies rapidly between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, something that can happen anytime, regardless of the date on the package. If refrigerated at the proper temperature, safe storage ranges for some common items include:
- Ground meats, fresh poultry: 1 to 2 days
- Fresh beef, veal, lamb and pork (roasts, chops and steaks): 3 to 5 days
- Lunch meat, opened package/deli sliced: 3 to 5 days unopened package: 2 weeks
- Leftovers: 3 to 4 days
- Cut fruit: 4 days
- Hard-boiled eggs: 1 week
- Chopped vegetables stored in an air-tight container: 1 week
- Pasteurized milk: 1 week beyond sell-by date
- Raw eggs in shell: 3 to 5 weeks
- Soft cheese, opened: 2 weeks. If mold develops, toss it.
- Hard cheese, opened: 3 to 4 weeks. If it develops a blue-green mold on the exterior, cut away the mold plus an additional half inch below it.
A note about produce: Visibly aging produce can emit gases that speed the ripening of other produce. Use immediately or compost it.
For expert tips to help feel your best, get AARP’s monthly Health newsletter.
Know that you can't smell or taste contamination
This is where things get tricky. Salmonella, listeria and other foodborne pathogens are stealthy and, unfortunately, older people are more likely to get ill from them. Lessening your risk takes knowledge about the proper handling of food and where such pathogens are most likely to show up.
According to the FDA, deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, anything made with unpasteurized milk, store-prepared deli salads and ready-to-eat foods are at risk of contamination. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adhering to four chief tenets when handling food to avoid illness: Clean, separate, cook and chill.
- Clean hands, utensils, cutting boards, counters and fresh fruits and veggies even if you plan to cut or peel them. “If a melon has salmonella on the outside, and it's cut, this will transfer the pathogen to the surface of the cut melon,” Schaffner says.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from ready-to-eat foods in both your refrigerator and grocery basket, and use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
- Cook to the right internal temperature. Use a thermometer and this chart to tell you what that temperature should be.
- Chill perishable food within two hours (one hour if it's above 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside) and thaw frozen food in cold water in the fridge or in the microwave, never on the countertop.
Make good use of your freezer
Doing so can extend the life of some foods up to a year. And the array of foods that can be frozen may surprise you — flour, milk, cheese, eggs (not in their shell), to name a few. Of course, some foods work better than others. Cooked meals tend to freeze well in airtight containers. Foods with high moisture content, such as salad greens, tomatoes or watermelon are not recommended as they tend to become mushy when frozen and thawed. If the texture does change, consider using the food in sauces or other cooked dishes. “Frozen cheese is perfectly fine to melt on a burger or for mac and cheese, but if you're planning to thaw it and eat it by itself, that may not be the best experience for you,” Cassell says.
Most items are easy to freeze — just put them into an airtight container to avoid freezer burn. Fruits and veggies, however, benefit from blanching, which preserves their quality, color and vitamin content. And, as long as you defrost properly, you can actually refreeze food.
So how long can food sit in the freezer before you consume it? Here's a rough guide for some common items:
- Soups, stews and cooked beans: 2 to 3 months
- Cooked or ground meat and poultry: 3 to 6 months
- Berries and chopped fruit: 6 to 8 months
- Vegetables, if blanched: 8 to 12 months (depending on the vegetable)
Next time you're about to pitch something, take a moment to think of alternate uses. Mushy and brown fruits and leftover pulp can be used for baking or smoothies. Carrot trimmings, celery leaves, parsley stems, mushroom stems and onion skins can be used to make a stock. Stale bread can be toasted and made into bread crumbs or croutons. Even wilted veggies can be revived by soaking them in ice water for 10 to 20 minutes. Red wine, that has turned acidic can be cooked down into a pasta sauce.
How Long You Can Store (Almost) Anything in the Fridge and Freezer
Of all the things we waste, food is one of the areas you can make a serious impact. Follow these guidelines to know what is still fresh―and what to toss.
Is that chicken breast at the bottom of your freezer still safe to eat? How about the soy sauce that’s been in your fridge for who knows how long?
Itꃊn be difficult to know when food needs to be tossed and when it’s perfectly safe to salvage. Safety comes first, of course, but the United States tosses nearly 40 percent of its food every year. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, that adds up to over $160 billion wasted annually.
If you’re feeling guilty thinking about all of the food your family may be unnecessarily tossing out every week, don’t worry. There are endless easy ways to change your habits to waste fewer ingredients, starting with knowing exactly how long foods stay fresh in your fridge and freezer and keeping your refrigerator temperature at the right level. We’ve demystified the process with this handy guide, which incorporates advice from the USDA, food scientists, and food manufacturers. (Scroll down for downloadable versions that are perfect for hanging on the fridge). Remember: Expiration dates should be taken with a grain of salt, as they’re not federally regulated. A “use by” or st by” date typically says when the product will be at its best quality. When in doubt, remember that your nose knows. If you notice off odors or a change in appearance in your food, do not consume it.
Common Concerns About Smart Refrigerators
With all of the features and connectivity, many people have concerns about whether a smart refrigerator is a smart decision. Let's go over some of the common concerns many people have when it comes to making the investment in a smart fridge.
Aren't smart refrigerators much more expensive than regular refrigerators?
While they started out quite a bit more expensive, the prices have come down significantly as more brands and models have become available. Choosing a smart fridge over (non-smart) ones with a bottom-drawer freezer or a french-door style could cost as little a couple hundred bucks more or as much as a couple of thousand dollars more. It all depends on the model and brand you choose.
Can someone hack my smart refrigerator and take it over or use it against me in some nefarious way?
The important thing to remember about all smart home technology that connects to the internet is that it typically uses the same Wi-Fi access you have set up for your other devices to access the internet, such as your smartphones, tablets, computers, and TV streamer devices. You always want to have your modem or router configured with proper security and complex passwords to ensure the safety of all of your connected devices and appliances.
You might also be wondering what could be hacked. Well, the smart in smart refrigerator usually means a built-in computer with a screen and access to the internet. You can log into services you use every day so that, for instance, your calendar appears on the refrigerator's screen. That login information could be taken and used in other places (another reason why unique passwords for every service you use makes a lot of sense). Everything has some sort of vulnerability, so it remains to be seen how manufacturers handle these kinds of problems.
Are repairs for smart refrigerators more expensive than ordinary refrigerators?
Yes and no. The main components of the refrigerator such as condenser coils, fans, compressors, and so on would cost the same to maintain or repair as a regular refrigerator. It's still a fridge, ultimately. Where there could potentially be extra costs for repairs would be if special features such as hands-free door opening sensors, built-in coffee maker, or the touchscreen interface were to break down or fail. However, manufacturers designed smart refrigerators with typical family use and the average fridge lifespan (about 15 years) in mind.
Will my smart refrigerator become obsolete when a new model comes out?
Wi-Fi connectivity means your smart refrigerator could receive new software updates and likely new features as they are developed and released. Your smart fridge should get smarter and stay up-to-date with the latest technology over time. And most technology companies send through software updates during the night to avoid hassles for users, so updates should seem almost seamless.
10 Recipes for Frozen Smoothie Packs
A busy lifestyle can be streamlined with make-ahead frozen smoothie packs in a variety of whole-food combinations. Just wash, chop, measure, and bag smoothie ingredients together and place them in the fridge or freezer. Then just add them with liquid or ice to your Vitamix container and blend for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack.
For easy grab-and-go assembly, place several smoothie packs on the same shelf of your freezer. If desired, place your chosen recipe next to your Vitamix machine, along with travel mugs and napkins. This strategy is particularly helpful for caregivers and older children, who may arrive home before adult family members, hungry at the end of their school day or athletic practice.
Try these 10 Vitamix smoothie recipes to store as frozen smoothie packs:
With a little preparation, anyone can easily whip up a whole-food smoothie in just a few steps, making it easier to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day.
This 'smart' kitchen recognizes the food in your fridge, creates recipes, and then cooks your meals
There are two reasons why I don’t make ribs at home: The cooking process can take up to three hours, and I doubt I could make them as delicious as a trained chef.
But if I use the new oven from smart kitchen startup Innit, making gourmet ribs takes 40 minutes, and all I have to do is press a few buttons.
The technology aims to make cooking gourmet meals fast and efficient. Innit senses what's in your fridge, helps you decide on a recipe and then makes it for you based on algorithms that figure out the perfect way to cook any given food.
The secret sauce: facial recognition sensors and cameras located inside WiFi-enabled ovens and fridges, which connect to an app that controls the whole experience.
The app features thousands of recipes from publications like Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Good Housekeeping, and The New York Times. Once you choose a recipe, the app sends the cooking directions directly to the oven, which automatically follows them.
I recently had the chance to try out the technology and cook a slab of ribs. Here’s how it works.
A Pig’s Journey to North America
Christopher Columbus was said to have deliver eight pigs to Cuba for his demanding princess. Hernando De Soto, a Spanish explorer, brought 13 pigs to Tampa Bay in 1539, and the Native Americans found they loved the taste of pig.
Three years later, after De Soto was killed during his rule, his men had over 700 pigs. thus, the pork industry in America had begun.
During World War II in America , bacon fat that was left over from home cooking was brought back to the butcher and ultimately donated to the war effort. Because pig meat was an affordable means of food, it was used in high quantities for cooking and making incendiary devices and explosives.
Last year, the foodservice industry in America used 13,000 pigs worth of bacon to serve their guests.
We can see that pig production has come a long way!
50 Things in Your Kitchen to Get Rid Of Right Now
Imagine how blissful it will feel to reach into decluttered cabinets!
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From Trash to Treasure
The kitchen is easily the most lived-in room in the house. It&rsquos where food is prepared, shared and stored, but it also serves as the meeting place for family and friends. Achievements are fastened to fridges, homework is completed at its counters, debates are held at its tables &mdash it&rsquos the lifeforce of the house. So, it&rsquos no wonder our kitchens are overrun with stuff and the residue of those experiences.
Here are a few ways to help you separate the treasures from the trash and keep your favorite room in the house decluttered and in tiptop working order.
Mildewed Kitchen Sponge
Those squishy sponges you use to scrub your dishes clean are leading a double life &mdash as a sanitizer and haven for nasty microbes &mdash which is why your kitchen sponge has a shelf life of about one to two weeks. In the meantime, you can sanitize your sponge in the top rack of your dishwasher.
Scratched Nonstick Pans
The glossy coating that keeps omelets from sticking and stir-fries stirring eventually starts to break down. As soon as the gloss is gone, or a dreaded scratch appears, it&rsquos time to toss the pan. After all, no one wants their food stuck to the bottom of the pan.
To keep your pans like new longer, avoid using metal tools on them. If you stack your pans in the cupboard, place a protective sheet of paper towel in between them to prevent scratches.
Lidless Tupperware falls under the useless category. A storage container that can no longer stow has no business cluttering precious cabinet space. Much like the missing sock mate situation, the Tupperware/lid mystery may not be solvable either, except to discard those useless containers.
BPA Plastic Containers
BPA, or bisphenol, is an industrial chemical used in plastics and resins. Worries that the chemical can seep into food and drink has pushed manufacturers to produce more and more BPA-free products. So, while you&rsquore pairing your food containers with their lids, go ahead and toss out any old containers with recycle codes 3, 6 and 7 that might contain the toxic chemical.
Leaky or Lidless Travel Mugs
Leaky mugs, lidless travel cups &mdash they all need to go. Edit your collection down to your favorite one or two travel mugs and you won&rsquot have to sift through the noncontenders each morning.
Broken Blenders, Mix-less Mixers, Oh My!
We may be calling out the broken blender, but we are looking at you, too, hand mixer with no beaters and waffle iron that no longer crisps. Get rid of all those small appliances that have outlived their usefulness. Honestly, if you haven't fixed 'em by now, it's not going to happen.
Sprouted, Shriveled Potatoes
The best place to store potatoes is in a cool, dark place. Unfortunately, that means potatoes are often forgotten until found shriveled and rotten in the back of your pantry. Don&rsquot be a victim of pungent gases from rotten potatoes. Designate a basket for your light-sensitive root vegetables that can be easily checked for spoilage.
Old Spices and Herbs
Have you looked in your spice cabinet lately? When&rsquos the last time you reached for the fenugreek? It may be time to clean out and refresh old spices and herbs. Like anything else in your kitchen, spices and dried herbs have a "best by" date. They might not mold, but they will start to lose their potency &mdash about three years for whole spices, two years for ground, and one to two years for dried herbs.
Rancid Cooking Oils
On a whim, you reach for the dusty, sticky bottle of canola oil in the back of your pantry you&rsquore going to make brownies. Unfortunately, that tackiness on the outside of the bottle is a bad omen for what&rsquos on the inside: metallic-smelling, rancid oil.
Fruit and vegetable oils are particularly susceptible to spoilage. The less saturated the fat, the faster the oil will turn. Keep the very sensitive ones, like walnut and toasted sesame oils, in the fridge to extend their shelf life. After opening, expect most oils, like olive oil and canola, to last six months if stored properly in a cool, dark place.
Past-Their-Prime Pantry Staples
Pasta, rice, flour and all your other favorite grains eventually go bad. Check expiration dates or give it a good sniff to check for that rancid oil smell. Storing your rice, flour and pasta in airtight containers, rather than their opened boxes and bags, will help keep your dry goods fresher longer.
Dried pasta typically lasts up to two years (whole grain up to six months). Brown rice lasts up to one year white rice is closer to two years. All-purpose flour lasts about one year.
Expired Baking Powder
Nothing is worse than working all day on a baking project only for it to fall flat because your chemical leaven of choice, baking powder, is past its prime. Throw out opened baking powder after one year. But if you need to do a quick spot check, drop some in warm water. If it activates and bubbles vigorously, then it&rsquos good to use.
Maybe your eyes were bigger than your beer belly when you shopped for that party in July. Now you need to either drink or ditch that extra beer on the verge of spoilage. In the pantry, beer will last six to nine months in the fridge, it's good for six months to two years.
Canned foods are safe to eat indefinitely, says the USDA, so long as they are not dented, bulging or exposed to freezing temperatures or those above 90 degrees F. But that doesn't mean they will always taste great. For the best flavor and quality, follow these guidelines:
High-Acid Canned Foods (tomatoes, fruit): Up to one-and-a-half years at room temperature
Low-Acid Canned Foods (chicken broth, beans, vegetables, meats): Up to five years at room temperature
Liquor with a Shelf Life
High-proof alcohol will last what feels like indefinitely, but other items on your drink cart should be stored properly and tossed more frequently.
Specifically, noncreamy liqueurs spoil more easily than plain spirits, so toss after one year or when you detect discoloration, crystallization or odor. Keep creamy liqueurs in the fridge for up to six months after opening, but check the bottle for an official expiration date. Bitters last for years, even after opening, so hang on to those.
If you can&rsquot remember the last time you reached for that bag of coffee, it&rsquos best to toss it. Whole or ground beans in a vacuum-packed bag will last up to four months, unopened, on the counter and up to one week once opened. In a can, whole or ground beans will last one year unoepened and one week once opened.
Rancid Peanut Butter
Peanut butter lingering on the shelves isn&rsquot likely to happen in most houses, but just in case, remember to throw out peanut butter that has been sitting for more than three months. Just like other oils, the unsaturated fat in peanut butter will quickly turn rancid and bitter.
Opened Jars of Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is often the last-minute dinner saving grace. But, once opened, tomato sauce has a surprisingly short shelf life. Store it in the fridge for five to seven days, then that jar has got to go.
Stale Snack Foods
The bag of chips you reached for once and banished to the back of the pantry is so stale it&rsquos destined for the trash. Prevent these lost snacks by designating an opened snack basket in the front of your pantry, easy for all hungry parties to find.
Check your condiments, particularly those one-off items you bought for a recipe a year ago and never touched again. If you see separation, off-color or odor, it is best to throw those sauces out. (The same goes for salad dressings.)
If you can&rsquot remember eating it the first time, it's probably safe to assume you shouldn&rsquot be eating it a second time. Leftovers pushed to the back of the fridge are lost to the trash in the end. Try dating your containers and using a FIFO (first in, first out) system to keep track of leftovers.
Opened Stocks and Broths
Prepared stocks last only up to four days in the fridge. Go ahead and throw out any past-date stock. Going forward, freeze leftover broths and stocks in ice cube trays, then store in airtight bags to increase the shelf life.
Freezer burn isn&rsquot just something you can brush off your food. It&rsquos damage caused by dehydration and oxidation when food isn&rsquot properly wrapped and stored in the freezer.
And while the USDA deems freezer burn no risk to your health, it&rsquos probably safe to assume that the chicken, peas, ice cream or steak that fell victim to your freezer&rsquos icy ways won&rsquot taste all that great.
Some tips to prevent freezer burn include wrapping items tightly in plastic wrap and then storing in an airtight container, taking extra care to push out all the air from freezer bags, and cooling hot foods to room temperature before storing those foods in an airtight container in the freezer.
Maxed-Out Baking Soda Air Freshener
Don&rsquot want your food stored in your refrigerator to smell like, well, the fridge? Placing a box of odor-absorbent baking soda on a shelf will do the trick. But just as all good things must come to an end, the baking soda&rsquos stench-removal powers will last only so long &mdash about three months. Take the guesswork out of this one by writing the date on the box each time you replace your odor absorber.
Past-Due Water Filter
Pitchers with built-in water filters are great for providing your family with purified water without relying on bottled water, but don&rsquot forget to replace old filters every 40 gallons or so.
Chipped and Stained Bowls, Cups and Plates
Do you have an abundance of dishware and glassware? Then it&rsquos probably time to toss out that chipped beer glass from college. Also, consider losing any stained mugs or cracked cereal bowls from the rotation.
Pressureless Fire Extinguisher
Most manufacturers give a shelf life of anywhere from five to 15 years for fire extinguishers. That&rsquos a huge range! How can you be sure yours will put out the fire when you need it most? Set a reminder to check your equipment monthly. Make sure the tamper seal is on the extinguisher, that it's holding the pin in firmly, and that it hasn't been damaged. Also, make sure the extinguisher is full just by weighing it/lifting it.
We rely on cleaning products to keep our kitchen safe and sanitized. But those cleaning products that keep last night&rsquos chicken from contaminating this morning&rsquos fruit bowl eventually lose their effectiveness. Date your bottles so you know when to replace them. Most antibacterial products last about one year multipurpose cleaners without antibacterials can last up to two years.
Yes, we used to keep drawers of takeaway menus, but now, with online delivery services and menus, this paper trail is virtually (pun intended) obsolete. However, if your favorite place still takes call-in orders, or you just like to have a physical menu on hand, consider whittling down your collection to only those restaurants you&rsquove ordered from in the past six months.
Old Sauce Packets
The drive-thru sauces packets &mdash it always feels wrong to throw them out, doesn&rsquot it? That is, until you have a drawer full of mystery sauces. Declutter. Dump anything that looks off and limit yourself to just one small jar of sauce packets for on-the-go meals .
It&rsquos time to adult. Rather than surviving on stolen spoons and mismatched flatware, invest in a good-quality, dishwasher safe set that can go from every day to dinner party without you rifling through the drawer to find four matching forks.
Stained Dish Towels and Holey Oven Mitts
It&rsquos time to take stock of that dish towel collection. Consider the danger of grabbing a hot pan only to find your oven mitt has a gaping hole in the thumb. Stained, ripped or torn towels and oven mitts should be tossed.
Cracked Wooden Spoons
Over time, wooden spoons lose their moisture and crack, and those cracks become home to bacteria. Since nobody wants to stir their dinner stew with a bacteria-rich spoon, it&rsquos safer to just replace those tools. The same rule applies to wooden cutting boards.
Warped Cutting Boards
For plastic cutting boards, which are easier to disinfect, the greatest tell that your board has run its course is warping. Eventually, enough hot rinses will cause your cutting board to bow. A bowed cutting board isn&rsquot easily secured with a counter grip or towel, and it becomes a dangerous item on which to cut. Toss it.
Old Rubber Spatulas
Rubber spatulas are the great workhorse utensil in the kitchen &mdash perfect for folding batters, stirring together sauces and even spreading frosting. But all that wear and tear adds up to cracked spatulas, which can become home to bacteria, but also the dried rubber can start to flake off into food. Check and replace your spatulas as needed.
Broken Drawer Organizers
Even drawer organizers don&rsquot last forever. If you find your silverware caddy breaking down or you&rsquove outgrown that gadget drawer organizer, then there is really no need to hang on to a failing system.
Pans You Don’t Use
We&rsquove all done it: invested in the 10- or 12-piece (or more!) cookware set only to discover we use two, maybe three, of the pans on a day-to-day basis. Rather than throw out those pans (because you will need them for the next holiday cooking extravaganza), instead relocate those unused pans to a hall closet or shelf in the garage.
Overflowing Plastic Bag Stash
The stash of plastic bags is a well-intended effort to not just toss another plastic shopping bag into the landfill. But those intentions have turned into an unmanageable collection of bags. Instead, invest in some reusable shopping bags and keep them in the trunk of your car, so you are never caught shopping without them. Look for recycling centers and grocery stores that accept plastic bag recycling, as the bags usually don't go in with the regular plastics.
Those half-burned dinner candles from last week&rsquos dinner party are just taking up space in the drawer. Melt them down to make votives or toss to make way for a fresh set.
Magnets That Don’t Work
Don&rsquot use your fridge as a wall of advertisements, particularly if those cheap magnets can&rsquot even hold a simple grocery list on the fridge. Throw out the clutter.
Kitchenware Gifts You Don’t Use
Don&rsquot hang on any gadget, platter or serving utensil just because it was a gift. If you haven&rsquot used the item in years, consider donating it.
Un-Sharp Can Opener
Ever found yourself muscling through to open that can of corn with a very dull can opener? Toss it immediately so you never find yourself disappointed by that can opener again.
Baby Utensils You No Longer Need
If your kids are out of their booster chairs and strolling into middle school, you can probably toss the Toy Story plates and Barbie sippy cups.
Unitaskers That Clutter
Avocado knives, butter dispenser, apple slicer, hot dog slicer, strawberry slicer, egg slicer . so many one-note slicers. If you&rsquove fallen prey to these drawer-cluttering unitaskers in the past, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" Is an avocado knife better than a chef&rsquos knife and spoon combo?
Any cook would agree: Good tools makes for easier work. And while we wouldn&rsquot suggest you haphazardly start throwing out bakeware, anything that&rsquos starting to rust is better not cooked in.
The junk drawer, where batteries go to die. Rather than play Russian roulette each time you need a battery, buy a small collection of fresh batteries and recycle or dispose of them properly when they&rsquove reached their expiration date. Pay a little more for the lithium batteries, as their shelf life is about five to 10 years longer than alkaline.
Have you ever noticed you always end up with way more takeout chopsticks than people? Consider this, if you order Chinese takeout once a week, and receive one extra pair per order, by the end of the year you&rsquoll have 52 pairs of chopsticks in your drawer &mdash that&rsquos way too many. For your next order make sure you check off the "no utensils" box.
Dried-Up Pens and Markers
You don&rsquot need a drawer full of markers and pens to run an effective kitchen &mdash just a one or two of each will get the job done. Then, keep them in a designated pen holder so you aren&rsquot searching around every time you want to label some leftovers.
Fridge Note Clutter
Clearing out the front of your fridge is the fastest way to provide at least the illusion of a tidy kitchen. Keep only the necessities on there, like a running grocery list, a dinner party prep list or the latest drawing from your kid.
Old Vitamins and Medicine
Don&rsquot let your medicine and first-aid kits grow out of control. Keep all medical supplies in one area of the kitchen. Check expiration dates and toss past-due pills and prescriptions. Then, inventory any first-aid supplies so bandages, burn cream and antibiotics are easy to find when you need them.
There are cookbooks with cracked spines and sticky pages that are a testament to just how beloved they are, and then there are pristine, barely read cookbooks in every kitchen. Once a year, take stock of the books you use and the books you don&rsquot. Give away or move out of the kitchen any cookbooks you don&rsquot cook from to make way for more-useful items.
Warning: You Might Be Throwing Out Perfectly Good Food
Don&rsquot let expiration dates confuse you&mdashor allow your favorite snack to go to waste.
Before you toss anything in your refrigerator𠅎xamine the label. Are you throwing it out because it’s past the use-by date or the sell-by date?
These terms on your favorite foods often cause confusion in the grocery store, and you might be wasting perfectly good food because you don’t understand the terminology. The three different dates—“use-by,” “sell-by,” and st-by”—have different implications for your groceries. A representative at the Institute of Food Technologists released a statement to clarify what each means so you can shop smarter and waste less.
Use-By: This is the date by which you should eat the food. But just because it’s a day or two past the use-by date doesn’t mean that consuming it will make you sick, although quality and safety do decline after this time.
Sell-By: If you’re at the grocery store, and the very last unit of your favorite yogurt has that day’s sell-by date, you can still buy it. This is a date for retailers, and helps them determine how long an item should remain on the shelf. According to the IFT, “one-third of a food’s shelf-life remains after the sell-by date for the consumer to use at home.”
Best-By: This is a quality assurance date, and serves as a “suggestion” for when you should eat the item to ensure that it’s at its peak.
Still concerned your food has gone bad? Consult our handy food storage guide, and find out how long (almost) everything lasts in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.