Spring Clean Your Kitchen!

kitchen

Say goodbye to the winter blues, and hello to springtime!  The spring season is typically the time to get organized, clear out your clutter, and start fresh.  Add your refrigerator and pantry to your spring-cleaning to-do list! A clean fridge and pantry will help prevent foodborne illnesses and keep you and your family healthy!  Any food kept past its expiration date or at an improper temperature can be contaminated with bacteria that can cause illness. Refrigerators should be kept at a temperature between 34°F and 40°F to ensure proper storage of your food. 

 

When deep cleaning, remove any food or drink items before using warm, soapy water to clean away any grime, food particles, and unnoticed spills in your fridge. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, foods that need to be refrigerated should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.  If your fridge needs a spring cleaning that will take more than 2 hours, consider using a cooler to store any food you plan to keep.

 

Listed below are some tips to make your kitchen clean, safe, and healthy this springtime and all year round:    

  • Regularly wipe kitchen surfaces:       It is important to keep your kitchen counters and appliances clean by wiping them with warm, soapy water to avoid unintentionally spreading harmful bacteria to your food.  When cooking, clean any spills immediately to avoid any bacteria, odors, or cross-contamination.
  • Pay attention to the dates listed on your food:       Take time to sort through and discard any food items that are spoiled, expired, unwanted, or have an unusual odor or color.
    • Pro-tip: Common dates found on many foods include best by and sell by dates.  It is important to note that these are not safety dates, but they rather indicate quality of the product.
      • A best by date indicates when a product will retain peak flavor or quality.
      • A sell by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.

Many packaged foods will still be safe to eat beyond these dates if stored and      handled properly.  

Keep an eye out for spoiled foods that look or smell strange and throw these out. Never taste food that you suspect is spoiled. In addition, throw away any cans that are leaking and rusted. A good rule of thumb for food safety is when in doubt, throw it out! As a helpful tip for the future, keep a permanent marker or pen and notepad near the fridge and pantry to label and date your food packaging before storing it.

  • Organize your fridge and pantry:      Dedicate areas of your fridge or pantry for certain types of food, so that you know where to look every time you need something.  For example, have specific parts of your fridge for produce, meat, drinks, leftovers, and condiments. To maintain food safety, keep raw meats in sealed containers on the bottom shelf, while storing ready-to-eat foods, such as leftovers and dairy products towards the top of the fridge to prevent any cross contamination. Fresh fruits and vegetables should also be stored in a drawer or crisper to protect your produce from raw meat and maintain optimal freshness.  Keep kid-friendly snacks at or below eye-level to make it easy for little hands to grab. Also, creating zones within your fridge and pantry and keeping it clean will allow you to see what needs to be replaced during your next trip to the store.
  • Shop your freezer before you go grocery shopping: Your freezer is a great place to store staples such as meats, frozen vegetables, and leftover meals, such as casserole and soups.  Before you head out to the store, be sure to look in your freezer for any foods that can be incorporated into your next      meal. This will help you consume the foods in your freezer within an appropriate period of time and not forget about any items that have been pushed to the back. 

 

Be sure to check out USDA’s Cold Food Storage Chart to ensure the proper storage and safety of your food.

For more tips on spring cleaning, take a look at USDA’s Checklist for a Food-Safe Pantry and Refrigerator.

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