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How many times have you brought home produce from the store, excited to cook and eat it, only to have to throw it away when it goes bad a few days later? Or put some leftovers in the fridge, forgotten for weeks until the mold is overtaking the Tupperware?  This National Nutrition Month, we’re “Going Further with Food,” with the best ways to store your food so that it lasts further in your kitchen and isn’t doomed to waste.

So what is it that makes our food go bad?  In most cases, room temperature. Our kitchens are constantly in the temperature “danger zone” (between 40 and 120º F).  Leaving non-shelf stable food out on the counter or sitting in the car creates a perfect breeding ground for molding, curdling, rotting–all those things we definitely do not want to eat.  Properly storing food in the refrigerator or freezer will keep your food edible, tasty and free of contaminants for virtually forever.

The most efficient way to avoid foods going bad in the fridge is to freeze what you know you probably won’t eat within a week. The next step is knowing how to freeze your food in the best way possible.  Luckily, there are a few simple tricks to help you out:

  • Keep your freezer at or below 0º F. This ensures your food is frozen completely through, preventing even small amounts of contamination that may grow.

 

  • Keep food in airtight containers.  Excess air around your frozen food can lead to freezer burn.  While freezer burn is not harmful, it certainly isn’t appetizing.  You can use freezable cans or glass jars, plastic freezing containers, heavyweight aluminum foil, plastic-coated freezer paper, polyethylene bags and wraps, or freezer safe bags.  
  • Blanch fruits and vegetables before freezing.  Fruits and vegetables typically don’t freeze as well as other foods items, but blanching helps preserve the quality and nutritional value.

When you are ready to use your frozen food, simply move it from the freezer to the refrigerator to defrost overnight.  Avoid leaving it out on the counter or table, as this is not the safest method of defrosting.

Make sure when you do freeze food, that you do it when it is fresh! Freezing your food is like freezing it in time — and you definitely don’t want to freeze food as it’s already deteriorating.  Leftovers should be frozen within 3-4 days of cooking, while uncooked foods vary. You can check out this great resource on the best freshness and freezing times for almost any food you can think of at https://www.savethefood.com/food-storage.

For an additional comprehensive guide to storing food and minimizing waste, check out this great article from groom and style!

Ultimately, you know if a food is good to eat or not.  If you see mold or notice a funny smell, don’t risk it! Your health and wellness is always more important than using up that extra food.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of our series next week focusing on creative ways to repurpose your leftovers!

Happy freezing and storing this National Nutrition Month!

**Written by Madison Smith**

Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”

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