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... for Great Food Handling

Here's some ideas for food handling for greater safety, better nutrition, thriftiness and convenience.

  1. I hate to clean my refrigerator.  (I'm talking about dismantling every part and scrubbing it thoroughly.)   But I do mini-cleans weekly.   I clean and disinfect the counter nearest the fridge.  Starting with the top shelf, I remove everything.  I spray the shelf with a disinfecting cleaning spray such as Fuller's Spray 'N San, and wipe with a damp cloth shammy, and then rinse the shammy and the shelf.   Then I check the expiration dates and quality of each food item and return it to the refrigerator, organizing as I go.  If there was a spill, I wipe the bottoms of the containers, too.   If any food is good but should be used promptly, I make immediate plans for a dish that uses it at put it at the very front.  I continue on down the shelves, ending with a good sorting and checking of the produce drawer.  This is a good time to make Dump Soup.
  2. Don't store any fruits or veggies in sealed plastic.  They are alive, and need to breathe.  Yank open a hole in plastic-wrapped packages of mushrooms.  Put bulky items loose in a newspaper- or paper towel-lined produce drawer.   Put celery, carrots and green onions into a container with a lifted drainer bottom, such as Tupperware« has.    Rinse greens, removing any damaged outer leaves, shake off and wrap firmly in a terrycloth towel.  Lay each bundle in a warmer section of the refrigerator.
  3. Always store grains and other dry goods in plastic or glass.  If you cannot afford the costly kind, even washed and dried mayonnaise or other food jars with screw tops will do fine.  Don't forget to cut out or tear off the instructions and tuck it into the container.  Label everything!   On perishables, such as dried fruit, grains or cereals with whole wheat, or anything else rarely used or likely to turn rancid, put the date of purchase on the label.  If you do get a bug in something, put the entire container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  That will stop bug infestation in its tracks!  Items I need on hand but rarely use go into the freezer in a freezer bag.labeled.
  4. Always store meats, poultry and fish in a dish or meat drawer, even though they are packaged in plastic from the store.  They can and do leak and can spread dangerous germs in your refrigerator.   If you use your meat drawer for raw meat, poultry or fish, don't store ready-to-eat foods in the same drawer to avoid ugly contamination.
  5. When you buy canned or bottled goods that you already have on hand, place them to the rear of the older ones.
  6. Store cooked foods promptly in the refrigerator.  Don't cool them down first; that gives germs time to grow.  You can store them safely while still fairly hot if you use a microwave-safe storage container like Tupperware« has, or enamelware such as CorningWare.
  7. How often have you checked a leftover in the refrigerator and wondered "When did I put this in here?" Date-label leftovers and opened bottles or cans of perishable foods when you first put them into the fridge,  for safety, thriftiness and better flavor.  
  8. When I cook more of a dish than we will use in a couple of days, I cool it in the refrigerator, and then put the excess into a zipper freezer bag while it's still fresh.   Squeeze the air out and flatten.  Label with a medium size permanent felt-tip marker with name and date.   Lay flat to freeze quickly (since it's thin, it will defrost quickly too, another safety factor).
  9. Save scraps and leftovers in the freezer.  Small amounts of tomato paste, grated ginger, chopped onions or other such items can be frozen in a pint freezer bag.  Break off pieces as needed to add to cooked dishes.  If you have leftover broth, tomato sauce, lemon juice or canned milk, freeze it in ice cube trays.   has a covered ice cube tray that's great for this.  When frozen, dump cubes into a labeled zipper freezer bag.    Leftover crumbs, flour or cornmeal used for breading can be stored in Tupperware« or in a labeled zipper bag in the freezer too (leaving it unfrozen might allow dangerous germs to grow).  Dry stale (but not moldy) bread or bread crusts for croutons, or grind dried bread or crackers for crumbs.  Throw washed celery leaves, bell pepper and onion trimmings, cabbage cores or other leftover veggies in a zipper freezer bag labeled "soup".  Dump contents into chicken or soup bones you are cooking for broth, then strain out and discard after they have given up their flavor and nutrition.   Save the labeled zipper bags in the freezer even when empty; you can reuse them for the same purpose several times.
  10. Organize your freezer with wire baskets.  You'll be able to haul out a basket and sort through for the oldest date.  You'll save electricity, too, as you won't have to hold the door open while you scrounge.

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