If you've ever tossed an old, dusty can of beans from your pantry or
wilting spinach from your fridge, you're not alone. The United States
Department of Agriculture reports that 133 billion pounds of food are
thrown out each year in America because people aren't sure if they're
still safe to eat. One way to guarantee optimum freshness for your food
is to follow proper food storage methods. (And as a bonus, storing your
food correctly also prevents bacterial growth--fitting, since September--just
around the corner--is National Food Safety Education Month.) The next
time you're unloading your grocery bags, keep these five storage tips in mind.
1. Keep it cool. To prevent bacteria from spreading, the temperature on your refrigerator
shouldn't be higher than 40 degrees; the freezer should be set at
2. Keep it spacious. A jam-packed fridge is an inefficient fridge--cold air can't properly
circulate, which can lead to quicker spoilage. Leave some space around
each beverage or food item--about an inch--and avoid placing anything
against the fridge air vents.
3. Keep the meat on the bottom. Raw meat or poultry should be stored on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator
so the raw juices can't leak out and drip onto other foods and contaminate them.
4. Keep tabs on your cans. The USDA's general rule of thumb is that canned tomatoes, fruits or
other high-acid foods are best from 12 to 18 months after purchase, while
low-acid meats and veggies can last between two to five years. And take
stock of your pantry--If you've got cans that are still good, but
you don't think you'll use them, give them to someone who will.
The St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund supports the work of
food banks and other organizations that serve those in hunger and need,
and donations of nonperishable canned goods to these types of programs
are always welcome and needed. To make a donation, please contact the
St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Keep track of your food. The USDA, in partnership with Cornell University and the Food Marketing
Institute, developed the FoodKeeper app. Not only does it offer the shelf
life guidelines for more than 400 foods and drinks, it also will set calendar
reminders for when your food has passed its date for freshness. Plus,
there's a wealth of basic food safety information.