Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Saving Money by Saving Food?

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Money is tight and people do not want to waste food by throwing it away. I understand not wasting perfectly good food, but my concern is in the safety of food that is kept longer than it should be, so here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

Number ONE rule: WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! If you are are not completely sure if that is mold on the bread, it probably is and should be thrown out. Smell is not always the best indicator, either.

Second rule: Make sure your fridge is at 40 degrees or cooler. Get a fridge thermometer and put it on an inside shelf. Leave it there indefinitely and check it occasionally to make sure you are at proper temperature to keep food safe. The freezer should be at 0 degrees.

Fridge Suggestions
  • Label leftovers. Put a piece of masking tape on your leftovers with the date you put it in the fridge. Most leftovers are only good for 3-5 days. Seafood or stuffing should be used up in 1-2 days.
  • Hard boiled eggs should be eaten within a week of hard boiling them.
  • Have ketchup, salad dressing, mayo, or olives that have been there for years? Throw them out!
  • Once opened, throw out after this amount of time:
  • Ketchup: 6 months
  • Salad dressing: 3 months
  • Mayo: 2 months
  • Salsa: 1 month
  • Pickles, olives: 1 month
  • Raw meat: Cook within 1-2 days
  • Cooked meat: Eat within 3-4 days

Freezer Suggestions
  • No food should stay in the freezer for longer than 1 year
  • The freezer does not "kill" bacteria, but simply stops it's growth when at frozen temperatures. Once thawed, the bacteria grows again.
  • Use thawed meats within 24 hours after thawing
  • Do not re-freeze thawed raw meat
  • You can freeze the meat again once it has been cooked
  • Freezer burn is not dangerous (with food pathogens) but simply does not taste good. Freezer burn happens when the food loses moisture after being frozen for a long time.

Pantry suggestions
  • Never eat food from a bulging can
  • Canned goods can last 2-5 years on the shelf
  • High acidic canned goods (like tomatoes) should be used up within 18 months
  • Vitamins and OTC drugs: Throw away when past date stamped on package. They ingredients are not as effective after the date stamped.

Label Lingo
  • Use By or Best If Used By: The last date the product is likely to be at peak flavor and quality. It does not mean you cannot eat it after that date, but it may not taste as fresh. Think cereal or chips.
  • Sell By: The last date a retailer should sell a product. It assumes that you will take it home and store it and use it within a week or so. Think milk, yogurt, etc.
  • Expiration Date: The last date a food should be eaten. Eggs are good for 3-5 weeks longer than

Oh, and one last thing: Never eat that pizza that sat in the box on the counter overnight! All perishable food should be refrigerated within 2 hours or thrown out!

For more information, check out www.homefoodsafety.org
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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