Yes, our goal as budget savvy cooks is to save money on the food we serve our families, but eating food that might be questionable won’t help your budget if you get sick and end up with a doctor’s bill. I’ve always wondered about those ‘expiration and best by’ dates you see on packages? Can they be trusted and should you toss away anything with an expired ‘best by date’? Are you risking getting salmonella poisoning if you eat something that’s a couple of days past that date? I was surprised to learn that all the dates are simply guidelines. In fact, the worst case scenario is that the food doesn’t taste or isn’t’ as fresh as it should be. And eating something past its ‘best by’ or ‘expiration’ date doesn’t mean it’s turned bad and will make you sick. Of course, if something doesn’t taste right to you, don’t eat it.
Here is a site I found with a comprehensive list of food storage guidelines and tips.
Food Safety Concerns
And speaking of food safety, with the holidays just around the corner, lots of us are going to be spending more time in the kitchen, making food to give as gifts, cooking turkey, and then dealing with leftovers. So as not to waste any food or get sick, I went in search of some sites offering advice on everything from cooking temperatures to general food safety.
What’s the Temperature?
I always use a thermometer when I cook meat and poultry. If you’re not sure what temperature to aim for, here’s a Web site offering easy to follow guidelines-
Make sure you give the fridge and freezer a ‘spring cleaning about once a month’. And prior to the holidays is a great time to clean and purge the leftovers. If something’s been in there for awhile, use it up by putting it on the week’s menu. And make sure when you put something in the freezer to make a note on what’s inside and what date it was frozen. Here’s a site offering more tips on frozen foods.
Keep Them Separate
When you’re cooking in large quantities and in a cooking frenzy, it’s all too easy to let your good habits slide. One thing I always do is use two separate cutting boards. One for chopping things like chicken, the other exclusively for chopping things like fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc.
Wash The Hands, Wash the Produce
And one thing I always insist on is washing hands before you touch the food or help in the kitchen. If you having children helping you make cookies then make sure they wash their hands before they touch any of the ingredients. It’s a good habit to get them into and if they associate it with getting treats…i.e. the cookies, it becomes second nature to them too.
And the same goes for produce. I’ve been to dinner parties where I’ve seen the host open up a bag of salad and just tip it into the bowl. While it might say ‘triple washed’ on the bag, I always wash it again. And the same goes for things like melons and oranges. If there’s any bacteria lurking on the skin, when you cut through it, it can easily contaminate the rest of the food. When it comes to food safety, my saying is better safe than sorry.