Spring cleaning the fridge

Published on Wednesday, 9 April 2014 00:20 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

Last week in FLAVOR we tackled some kitchen spring cleaning by taking a look in the pantry and figuring out what items were expired.

This week it’s time to go through the refrigerator and freezer. This can be a scary venture — forgotten Tupperware containers pushed to the back of the refrigerator, bottles of condiments that have been in the door for months, unidentifiable frozen objects that are covered in frost.

I cleaned out my freezer last week and couldn’t believe how many random things I found and couldn’t remember why I froze them in the first place. Lesson number one is to start labeling everything. Secondly, clean things out more often. The amount of space that is freed up is an amazing reward.

So before we start tossing things out, it’s good to review some refrigerator basics. The following guidelines from the United States Food and Drug Administration should be followed:

n Make sure your fridge and freezer are cooled to the right temperature. Your fridge should be between 40 and 32 degrees, and your freezer should be zero or below. (Invest in a refrigerator thermometer.) Some bacteria thrive at cold temperatures, and if present, will multiply in the refrigerator over time and could cause illness. This is why it is important to monitor how long condiments and other packaged goods have remained in the refrigerator.

n Once a week, make it a habit to throw out perishable foods that should no longer be eaten. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage for cooked leftovers is 4 days; raw poultry and ground meats, 1 to 2 days. Label products and containers with the date they were placed in the refrigerator or freezer.

Here’s a list with some of the most popular refrigerator and freezer products. For the refrigerator products this is the shelf life after opening:

Butter: 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, 6 to 9 months in the freezer.

Cream Cheese: 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

Hard cheeses (Swiss or cheddar): 2 months in the refrigerator, 6 months in the freezer.

Tortillas: 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Ricotta: 5 days in the refrigerator, freezing not advised.

Parmesan: 2 to 4 months in the refrigerator (not grated).

Milk: 1 week in the refrigerator.

Whipped topping in can: 3 months in refrigerator.

Yogurt: 10 to 14 days in refrigerator.

Eggs: 3 to 4 weeks in refrigerator, egg whites 3 days, egg yolks 2 days, hard-boiled 1 week, deviled 2 to 3 days. Do not store eggs in door of refrigerator.

Fish Filets: 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 2 to 3 months in the freezer.

Fried fish products: 3 months in the freezer.

Scallops: 3 months in the freezer.

Uncooked shrimp: 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 12 months in freezer.

Cooked shrimp or fish: 2 to 3 days in refrigerator, 3 months in freezer.

Canned tuna or shellfish: 1 day in refrigerator.

Canned fruit: 1 week in refrigerator.

Juice: (container, fresh, reconstituted, canned): 6 days in refrigerator, 12 months in freezer.

Meat(beef, pork, lamb, whole cuts): 2 to 4 days in refrigerator, 6 months in freezer.

Meat (beef, pork, lamb, ground or chopped): 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 2 to 3 months in freezer.

Fresh sausage: 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 1 to 2 months in freezer.

Smoked or dry sausage: 1 to 2 weeks in refrigerator; 1 month in freezer.

Frozen dinners with meat: 2 to 3 months in freezer.

Bacon: 5 to 7 days in refrigerator, 1 month in freezer.

Hot dogs: 1 week in refrigerator, 1 to 2 months freezer.

Lunch meat: 3 to 5 days in refrigerator, 1 to 2 months freezer.

Fresh poultry: 2 to 3 days in refrigerator; 6 to 12 months in freezer. (Pieces – 6 months, Whole – 12 months)

Frozen dinners with chicken: 3 months in freezer.

Frozen fruit: 12 months in freezer.

Frozen vegetables: 8 months in freezer.

Chocolate syrup: 6 months in refrigerator.

Mayonnaise: 3 months in refrigerator.

Jelly/jam: 6 months in refrigerator.

Salad dressing: 3 months in refrigerator (store-bought, bottled), 2 weeks (made from mix or homemade)

Baby food: 2 to 3 days in refrigerator

Nuts: 3 months in freezer

Olives/pickles (commercial, jarred): 2 to 3 months in refrigerator.

Salsa: 1 to 2 months

Tomato-based condiments (ketchup, barbecue, cocktail or chili sauce): 6 months in refrigerator.

Spaghetti sauce (commercial): 4 days in refrigerator.

Horseradish: 3 to 4 months in refrigerator.

Mustard: 12 months in refrigerator.

Worchestershire sauce/hot sauce (Tabasco, Sriracha, Louisiana): 1 year in refrigerator.

Asian sauces (soy, Teriyaki, sweet and sour): 2 months in refrigerator.

Sources: Food Marketing Institute, USDA, Texas Agricultural Extension Service