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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Ten Food Refrigeration Mistakes

Frugal Kitchens 101
Everyone is concerned with rising food costs so frugal purchasing is a must.  However a hidden cost of food is food spoilage.  Last month I came down with a horrid case of food poisoning that had me out of commission for a good week.  I'm not kidding, I was so sick it was a good week before I could eat anything solid!  We narrowed possible suspects to accidently ingesting mozzarella cheese that may have been part of the recent recall due to Listera monocytogenes and a commercially purchased salad dressing.  Foodborne illness is most often caused by food spoilage.  A considerable amount of food spoilage can avoided by proper refrigeration and storage methods.  Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses 10 refrigeration mistakes that cause food spoilage but can easily be corrected.

  • sloppy wrapping - Air, especially the drying air of refrigeration and moisture are food's worst enemy.  The solution is to be be sure all lids and caps are on tight.  Squeeze out as much air as possible in resealable bags or vacuum seal.  Avoid using foil wrap and plastic wrap as both can cause air leakage as well as being expensive and environmentally unfriendly.
  • not removing store wrap - Any original plastic wrap should be removed or other packaging should be removed from produce, meats, poultry and cold cuts.  There could be holes you can't see or a slightly lose flap that exposes food to air. 
  • storing in oversized containers - Leaving too much space at the top of the container can speed up spoilage and freezer burn.  Use the smallest sized re-usable container possible for refrigerator storage.
  • incorrect refrigerator temperature - A few degrees temperature fluctuation can mean food spoilage in the refrigerator.  The refrigerator should be set to 4ºC (40ºF) or lower; freezer set to -18ºC (0ºF) or lower.  Use a separate thermometer to confirm your temperature settings.  Too low of temperature settings in either compartment are energy wasters.  Avoid temporary overloading of unchilled food of either compartment that can cause temperatures to rise above the safe levels.
  • storing the wrong foods in the refrigerator door - The refrigerator door compartments are 3 to 5 degrees warmer than the shelves inside so will cause food stored there to spoil faster.  Perishables like eggs, milk and fresh deli condiments should not be stored in the door compartments.  Reserve this space for foods such as mustard, relish, and ketchup or other sauces.
  • refrigerating hot leftovers - Hot leftovers should be cooled before refrigerating to prevent warming food around it that increases the rate of bacterial growth.  Larger pots of soup and chili can be cooled in  a sink filled with ice water or transfered to smaller containers for cooling.  Be sure to get leftovers into the fridge within two hours to prevent any bacterial growth.
  • relying of the sniff test - The reality is some spoiled (eg. Listeria, botululin)  foods do not have any odour yet can make you very sick.  The number one rule of food storage is if in doubt throw it out! I cannot stress this rule enough.  Do not rely on the sniff test and never taste any food you may think is spoiled!
  • losing track of leftovers - Hey this has happened to everyone.  We live busy lives and sometimes are forgetful.  Any leftover that has been in the fridge for more than 3 - 4 days should be discarded.  I find it useful to have a leftover shelf in my fridge so I check what needs to be used there first.  If I immediately know a food on that shelf won't be used within the safe period I freeze it if possible.
  • not repackaging bulk quantities of food - Any family or club pack of meats, poultry or other food should be repackaged in the amount you will use within a 4 - 5 day period with remaining perishable foods being repackaged for freezing, canning or drying if appropriate for longer term storage.  If raw bulk perishable foods cannot be repackaged as per the latter they should be cooked then frozen.
  • not using appropriate food storage containers - Food containers such as take-out cartons, margarine tubs and yogurt containers may be suitable for very short term refrigerator storage but they are not suitable for longer term refrigerator or freezer storage.  Ideally use glass storage containers with lids in the refrigerator rather than plastic to prevent any potential leaching issues while the food is cooling or when reheating.

2 food lovers commented:

Rachele said...

Great tips. Trying to cool large bowls or pots of soup can be dangerous. Putting them in something that "spreads" it out is a good idea. You want to get the temperature from 140 to under 40 in 4 hours or less. Large pots make this difficult to do.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Rachel and thanks for visiting :) You are quite right about cooling foods as quick as possible. When I make large pots of anything what I do to quickly cool them it divide it down into smaller containers if possible. I also set the pot in the sink and surround it with ice cubes to help cool quickly. During the winter months I cool large stock pots quickly in the sunporch where it is below freezing.