It’s finally spring! As I walk around the neighbourhood, I see little shoots of green sticking their heads out of the ground and these early signs represent a time of new energy and hope. It’s also a time when we do spring cleaning and a good place to start is your kitchen. So here are a few tips to get you started:
- This is the perfect time to throw away things that are way beyond their expiration date. If you have a pantry or other storage area for canned foods, first make sure that none are leaking, bulging or cracked. Those should go directly to the garbage.
- Get into the habit of dating cans before you put them in the cupboard and keeping the older cans at the front of the shelves and the newer at the back. Although many canned goods have a long life, for nutritional quality, they are best eaten in the first year. High acid foods like tomatoes can be stored for up to 18 months. Canned vegetables which are less acidic can be safely stored for 2 to 5 years.
- Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are set at the correct temperatures: 4o C (40o F) or colder for the fridge and -18o C (0o F) for the freezer. Empty them out and give both a good cleaning to wipe up any of the little spills that have happened day to day. It’s a perfect time to throw out condiments or other foods that have been sitting in the fridge for months (or even years).
- Date any foods that go into the freezer. Freezer burn doesn’t make a food unsafe, it does affect quality and if the burn is pretty heavy, the food should probably be thrown out.
- “Best Before” dates refer to the quality of a food, not safety. You can eat a food after the date, but it won’t be as fresh, perhaps not as flavourful and the nutrition profile may be less. The date also applies only to unopened products. Once you have opened the package, the date is no longer valid.
- If your trip through the fridge shows mould growing on food, for the most part, they should be put in the garbage. This is especially true of foods with high-moisture content like luncheon meats, yogurt, soft cheeses, leftovers, breads and baked goods.
- When it comes to oils and vinegars, storage times and method vary. Check the label for storage information or look on the company’s website or call their 1-800 number.
- If you are like me, your cupboard contains spices/herbs that have been there a very long time. While they aren’t likely to make you ill, they are most likely to have lost much of their flavor over time and its likely time to replace them. Store herbs and spices in airtight bottles away from light or heat.
- This can be a good time to check your cutting boards and if they are badly scratched or cut up, maybe invest in a couple of new ones.