For Better Living: Increase the Shelf Life of Your Food - Check Your Refrigerator
Sandra Cain Bladen County Cooperative Extension
Everyone knows that is you leave food in the refrigerator for too long, it will spoil. By applying proper storage techniques, you can increase the shelf life and safety of your food.
Why does food go bad?
Have you ever seen mold on fruits, vegetables or leftovers? If so, you know the typical signs of spoilage. Spoilage of refrigerated foods is mainly caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or mold that are naturally present in the food or that contaminate the food through improper nutrition practices.
How can cold temperatures increase shelf life?
The first step in extending shelf life of refrigerated foods, as well as increasing their safety, is to keep food cold. Many consumers keep their refrigerators too warm, that is, at temperatures above 40 degrees.
Lowering the temperature of your refrigerator to between 36 - 38 degrees
can increase the time that it takes for food to spoil. Cold temperatures
can slow the growth of the spoilage microorganisms. When food temperatures are cold - 40 degrees of colder, the environment becomes less than ideal for damaging microorganisms to grow. They will continue to grow, but more slowly, so the food will not spoil as quickly.
Monitoring refrigerator temperatures
Turning down the temperature of your refrigerator is simple. Turn the control knob inside your refrigerator. Typically, the control is on the wall of the refrigerator. Check the owner’s manual to determine which way to turn the knob to decrease the temperature.
It is also important to monitor the temperature of your refrigerator as they often fluctuate in temperature. Put a thermometer inside the refrigerator near the door to keep track of the temperature. Adjust the control as needed to maintain a temperature between 34 and 38 degrees.
You can purchase a thermometer for about $5 at a grocery store, discount store or department store.
Tips of safe refrigerated storage
-Use plastic bags of a plate to prevent raw juices from dripping on other foods.
-Store meat and poultry in the back of the refrigerator where it is colder.
-Store uncut, whole produce in the crisper where it is more humid.
-Keep the refrigerator sanitized. Clean the inside and outside regularly with a solution of one tablespoon bleach per fall of warm water to remove mold spores.
-Use dated products within a safe time
-If refrigerator fails or the power goes off, keep the door closed.
Within four hours, you can cook the products or place them in another refrigerator of freezer.
Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Makeover Au Gratin Hash Browns
1 package (30 ounces) frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped onion
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) reduced-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 ½ cups cornflakes, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
In a large bowl, combine the hash browns, cheese, onion, salt and pepper. In another bowl, combine sour cream and soup. Pour over potato mixture and mix gently to combine. Put into a 3 qt. baking dish, sprayed with nonstick spray. Toss cornflakes and butter. Sprinkle over the top.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 – 55 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 12 servings
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