By Kristi Winkels, RDN, LD
Cleaning the kitchen might not be your idea of fun but research shows that a clean, organized kitchen helps you eat healthier overall. Here are a few tips to get started:
The Refrigerator and Freezer
Remove all items one section at a time. Wipe down shelves, drawers, and sticky jars with hot, soapy water and toss foods that are past their prime. Leftovers and open lunch meat should be tossed after 3 days and opened condiments are generally good for 6-12 months. If the item’s “best by” date has just passed but you don’t notice an off odor or discoloration, it’s likely still safe to eat. For example, eggs can be eaten 2-3 weeks after, milk can be eaten 1 week after, and butter 1 month after the sell by date. Frozen foods are safe for a long time but the quality can diminish. Use up freezer burned meats in soups, stews, and casseroles. To stay organized, consider keeping a permanent marker on hand to write the date on the jar/package when the food is opened.
The Pantry and Spice Rack
Canned and boxed items like cake and pudding mixes, rice, and instant potatoes have a long shelf life, especially if they are stored in a cool, dark place.Group alike items together and place items with a close “use by” date toward the front so they’re used first. Items with a “use by” or “best by” date that has passed are likely still safe to eat if cans aren’t dented or rusted and boxes haven’t been exposed to moisture, however, the quality may be decreased.
Cooking oils stored in a cool, dark place are best within 1-3 months of opening and dried herbs and spices are generally good quality within 2-4 years of opening. And remember the most important food safety tip: When in doubt, throw it out!