Did you know you can freeze a pumpkin pie for up to two months? The same thing is true of a pecan pie. And eggnog that you buy in a carton can be frozen for as long as six months. But beware the open eggnog in the refrigerator. That’s only good for three to five days after you open it.
During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to lose track of what is in the refrigerator and how long it has been there. Check out these tips to help make food storage safe and easy.
Check the chill
The first step in food safety is making sure your refrigerator is cold enough. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends keeping your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Your freezer should be at zero. Keep an inexpensive thermometer in both the freezer and fridge to make sure the temperature is holding where it should be.
Keep it cool
Foods left out at room temperature can quickly grow bacteria that can make you sick. And it only takes 20 minutes for the number of bacteria to multiply. So make sure leftovers don’t spend any extra time at room temperature. Put them in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as the meal is over, and always within two hours.
The same rules apply to doggie bags and carry-out foods. If you can’t get the food to the refrigerator in under two hours, don’t ask for a doggie bag.
Your refrigerator is designed to cool food, so putting food that is hot into the refrigerator won’t hurt the appliance. If you have large quantities of hot food, divide it into smaller containers to help it cool faster.
Your refrigerator works by surrounding food with cold air. If you pack the refrigerator too full, the air can’t circulate and the temperature will be uneven. So don’t put too much in the refrigerator. Throw out the old leftovers to make room for fresher foods.
Keep it clean
Some bacteria can grow even at refrigerator temperatures. So make sure to wipe up spills on your refrigerator shelves. Be especially careful of drips from raw meat that can run into other foods.
Check the expiration date
If a food is past the “use by” date, even if it has been refrigerated the whole time, throw it out. If anything looks or smells questionable, be safe and get rid of it.
Never thaw food by leaving it out at room temperature. Bacteria can grow on the outer, warmer parts of the food while the center is still frozen. There are three safe ways to thaw frozen foods: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. To thaw in water, change the water every half-hour to make sure it stays cold. If you thaw in the microwave, you need to cook the food immediately.
Practice safe storage
Keeping food in the refrigerator slows down but does not stop the growth of bacteria. Keep track of when you put food into the fridge. Check out these Food Safety Charts to learn how long how long you can safely keep food in there, and for tips on safe food preparation.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Buy, Store & Serve Safe Food. Web. December 2, 2013.
Foodsafety.gov. Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer. Web. December 2, 2013.
Reviewed December 4, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith