Keep or Toss?

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23 Apr Keep or Toss?

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Solve one problem. Create another. Let’s say I make a grocery list, eat a full meal and then shop at break-neck speed, never straying from the items on my list. When I get home with my planned purchases — and only my planned purchases — how do I ensure they don’t go to waste before I need them? Take these lovely apples for instance. Do I shove them in a bag and drop them into the crisper? Or do I leave them in a bowl on the table and see how long it takes for the cats to bat them into bruised balls?

While the proper storage of a hardy apple is a passing bother when unpacking groceries, perishable meat is a constant topic of conversation in our house. Several times a week Andrew asks me if the leftover chicken is still good. My answer? “I ate some a few hours ago and am fine.” The We’ll-Die-Together approach isn’t very reassuring, but without a reliable resource, potentially sacrificing my body for the cause is my only option.

Then there are the times when I defrost chicken and don’t use it as soon as planned. Raised on the mantra, “Never refreeze meat without cooking it first,” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stayed up late roasting poultry so it wouldn’t go to waste. Is this really necessary?

And don’t even get me started on the vat of steaming chili I have 10 minutes to deal with. Knowing I’ll be gone for the day, should I leave it on the counter to cool entirely and refrigerate upon my return, or do I shove the still-warm pot in the fridge before racing out the door?

Thanks to my sister Robin, the answers to these and pretty much all my shelf-life questions are just a few clicks away. She told me about an easy-to-navigate and very informative site, Still Tasty. Not only does it provide storing, freezing and defrosting advice, it gives “Keep It or Toss It” guidance on almost every food imaginable — from produce to proteins, dairy to drinks.

The guidelines posted on Still Tasty are based mostly on US government recommendations, so they err on the side of caution. And yet, it contains a few “not to worry” surprises. For example:

  • How you store apples depends on how ripe they are. Are the apples ready to eat? Pop them in a bag and refrigerate. Too firm or tart? Leave them at room temperature to ripen and then go the refrigerator route.
  • You can, in fact, refreeze meat without cooking it first, but it depends on how you defrosted it.
  • Refrigerating hot food won’t break your appliance or damage other items in the fridge. However, you should put it into shallow containers so it will cool quickly.

Who knew? I didn’t. I’m bookmarking this site and adding it to my link list for future reference. In the meantime, any storage tips or dilemmas you care to share?

No Comments
  • Divawrites
    Posted at 11:22h, 23 April Reply

    you thaw meat ahead of time? Now there’s a thought…I usually gasp about 4:30pm and dash for the freezer…
    Dave likes to buy fruit that I can’t/won’t eat like Kiwi and oranges. We have kiwi on the counter right now that are questionable…and my daughter likes oranges, but I can’t peel them unless I want contact dermatitis all over my hands, so I’ve been slicing them for her (holding the orange in a paper towel)
    Bagged salad and leftover cooked vegetables seem to make it to our green bin faster than we can eat them and Bologna, normally bought while grocery shopping to appease small child doesn’t last as long as you would think a preservatives and nitrates laden product would…have to bookmark that site.

  • Cheri Sicard
    Posted at 12:10h, 23 April Reply

    One tip, while you can refrigerate hot foods, you should cool them first before freezing , as freezing hot foods would create huge ice crystals.

    I also compost over ripe produce, so at least it doesn’t go to complete waste.

  • Debbie
    Posted at 13:40h, 23 April Reply

    Charmian, I laughed my head off when I read this. I have many of the same questions as you. I generally sniff left overs, if they smell o.k., I eat them.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 14:12h, 23 April Reply

    I’m with Debbie. Chicken, in particular, stinks to high heaven and develops a slimy film when it’s past due — I always toss. But if it’s been in there a few days and still looks and smells fresh? I’ll probably eat it and take my chances.

    Still Tasty sounds like a good resource. I’ll check it out.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 17:04h, 23 April Reply

    What a great tip, Charmian! I’m bookmarking Still Tasty immediately. Thanks!

    I’m of the when in doubt, throw it out variety. Beyond that I’m good for freezing a bunch of leftovers and never using them. :(

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 17:04h, 23 April Reply

    What a great tip, Charmian! I’m bookmarking Still Tasty immediately. Thanks!

    I’m of the when in doubt, throw it out variety. Beyond that I’m good for freezing a bunch of leftovers and never using them. :(

  • Roving Lemon
    Posted at 17:16h, 23 April Reply

    I am generally pretty lax about food safety–if it smells okay and isn’t growing anything weird, I’ll probably eat it. I might be a little more careful about feeding it to the kid, but so far so good.

  • danamccauley
    Posted at 19:57h, 23 April Reply

    Health Canada & deititians of Canada are good resources for this kind of info, too.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 20:06h, 23 April Reply

    good to know about the web site -I also rely a lot on the “sniff” test and have had some nasty surprises! ( really bad cottage cheese !)

  • Elyse
    Posted at 00:48h, 24 April Reply

    Thanks for pointing me to this website! I can’t wait to read up on the topic. I always have questions about storing food!

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 09:08h, 24 April Reply

    DivaLisa, like you, I think I put more bagged salad in the compost bin than in my mouth.

    Cheri, great tip on freezing!! Thanks.

    Debbie, the sniff test hasn’t lead me astray yet. Glad to know I’m not alone.

    Cheryl, I’ve no trouble identifying bad raw chicken, but Andrew is leery about cooked chicken as well. I think this site will save me a lot of grief.

    Diva on a Diet, oh I have so many frozen and forgotten leftovers it’s embarrassing!!

    Roving Lemon, I am fairly lax on food safety too. I have either been very lucky or have strengthened my digestive system without knowing it.

    Dana, thanks for mentioning Health Canada. I’ll see if they have a site I can bookmark.

    Anonymous, bad cottage cheese? That ranks as one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.

    Elyse, the site has some really good tips. Especially when it comes to proper freezing techniques. It’s one thing to save the food from going bad. It’s another to save it in a way you can use later.

    Thanks to all for your comments. I feel much better knowing I’m not alone in this.

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