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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

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

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Spring Cleaning Part One: The Fridge

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We often think about spring cleaning the cobwebs from the ceiling and scrubbing the baseboards (or at least growing up my mother made me believe everyone did spring cleaning). You may clean out your closet and store or donate winter clothes you won’t need again for a while. Hardly anyone thinks about spring cleaning the “insides” of their kitchen, though. You may be good about wiping out the dusty shelves, but what about your ketchup? How long has that bottle been lurking in your fridge? I am going to devote the next three blog posts to spring cleaning your kitchen: the fridge, the freezer, and the pantry.

Why does it matter how long food sits around? Doesn’t most nonperishable food have a long shelf life? Yes, they do have long shelf lives, but many people keep foods much longer than that desirable window of time. The reason for cleaning out is twofold; Quality and Safety. Food loses it’s quality very fast when it gets old, and some of it can actually be unsafe.

The first rule for the fridge is to make sure it is at 40 degrees. Get a fridge thermometer and keep it in there and check it every week. Don’t keep it in the door, but rather near the back on a shelf.

Bacteria does not get killed while in the fridge, but the growth is simply halted. If you take food out of the fridge, like mayo, and keep taking it out and sitting it out at mealtime for an hour at a time 5-10 times throughout the life of the jar, more and more bacteria can grow. This especially happens if you don’t use a clean utensil when digging into the jar!

Here is a list of common foods in your fridge and how long they should stay around:
  • Eggs, in shell 3-5 weeks
  • Eggs, hard boiled 1 week
  • Cream cheese 2 weeks
  • Steaks, uncooked 3-5 days
  • Ground beef, uncooked 1-2 days
  • Ground beef, cooked 3-4 days
  • Poultry, uncooked 1-2 days
  • Margarine 6 months
  • Butter 1-3 months
  • Cheese, opened 3-4 weeks
  • Milk, opened 1 week
  • Ketchup, opened 6 months
  • Salad dressing, opened 3 months
  • Pickles 1-2 weeks
  • Mayo 2 months
  • Salsa, opened 1 month

For a one-page sheet with more foods and their time limit, click here. For more refrigerator safety tips, check out this link to the American Dietetic Association's Home Food Safety site. Most leftovers in people’s refrigerators are kept way too long. Don’t keep them past three days, and even try to use them up sooner than that. One to two days is ideal.

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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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