|The refrigerator is a marvelous invention, but how can we get the most out of it? Photo source Flickr, used under creative commons. |
Food’s expensive!! It’s disheartening to spend money on good food to feed our families, only to have to throw it out because it spoiled before we had a chance to use it. It’s hard on our pocketbooks and it’s a horrible waste of resources. The United Nations estimates that nearly one-third of all food produced in the world for human consumption – about 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted. Much of it ends up in landfill sites where it becomes a major source of the greenhouse gas methane. While much of this wastage is in the supply and distribution chain, households are also major contributors. We couldn’t find statistics for Canada but in the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that 32% of food purchased by households ends up being thrown out.
Proper food handling and storage starts the moment you begin shopping for your groceries. Be careful to check the "best before" date on your food (sometimes it pays to reach for that third carton of milk from the front). Keep your raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood away from other food in your grocery cart and when packing everything up at the end of your trip to avoid cross contamination. Pick up cold or frozen food at the end to prevent them from becoming overheated while you shop.
Take Your Fridge's Temperature
The key to food safety is keeping food out of the “danger zone” where bacteria can multiply like mad. This “danger zone” falls between 4 °C (40 °F) and 60 °C (140 °F). Keep your refrigerator at 4 °C (40 °F) or lower and your freezer at -18 °C (0 °F) or lower. If your fridge or freezer are too warm, bacteria can grow quickly causing food to spoil.. Check the thermostats in your fridge and freezer to ensure they are at the optimal temperatures for keeping your food safe. Of particular importance is the refrigerator
Finding the Right Spot
While it might be tempting to just cram foods wherever they'll fit, putting items in the right spot can help food taste better and last longer. Here we've laid out what works best for the different areas f your fridge and freezer.
In the Door
You can safely put condiments such as mustard, ketchup and jam in the door as well as pop and bottled water. Don't be fooled by those cute compartments for eggs and butter! Though it might seem like a perfect fit, the refrigerator door may not be cold enough for these items, especially in older model units. Instead, keep them in their own containers within the refrigerator, where the temperature is colder.
On Top and Middle Shelves
Great for cooked and ready-to-eat foods, including yogurt, butter and leftovers. Avoid placing anything that could spill or drip in these areas. Note: Bring hot leftovers to room temperature before refrigerating, but try to make sure they're in the fridge within two hours.
On the Bottom Shelf
The natural habitat for meat, fish, and poultry you plan on using shortly. Keep them in their original packaging and place on a tray for added protection from dripping. It's a good idea to store anything else that could drip or spill here as well. Cheeses also prefer the bottom of the fridge. Store them on the bottom shelf or even in the vegetable crisper alongside mellow scented vegetables. Wrapping cheeses in a layer of tin foil will help prevent them from drying out and protect them from outside odours from the rest of the fridge (and vice versa)!
In the Crisper
Most fruits and veggies will be happy here. Do not wash them before storing in the fridge as this can cause them to develop mold and rot faster. Wash produce just before preparing to eat instead.
If you have two crispers with adjustable humidity controls, keep one at a higher humidity and use it to store leafy greens such as lettuce or kale. Turn the humidity down on the other one and use it for root veggies and fruit.
Join us next week for Part 2 where we explore leftover lifespans, talk about temperamental foods, and delve into the mystery that is your freezer!