Spring-cleaning your house for Chinese New Year? Grab the chance to give the inside of your fridge a detox too
Along with the curtains, wardrobes, dusty shelves and window sills, it’s time to give your refrigerator a thorough clean-out. Lurking deep inside could be crusty “growths” or masses of unidentifiable “pets” awaiting eviction! Cleaning out your fridge is more than just about keeping it neat – food that’s improperly stored or kept too long can become contaminated with bacteria, causing you or your family to become sick.
We are what we eat after all, and a fridge declutter sets the pace for a healthy new start to the year. Here’re some quick pointers to get you started:
Learn from the professionals
Keep food safety in mind and store foods according to their cooking temperature. Since each shelf of food is cooked to a progressively higher temperature, any cross contamination through dripping from above is taken care of during cooking. Leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yoghurt, cheese and deli meats) can be stored on the upper shelves of the fridge, with raw ingredients slated for cooked dishes below. Condiments go into the door shelves.
Organise your fridge so that the healthiest foods are appealing and within reach. Place less healthy choices towards the back – this will help prevent you from conveniently snacking on those treats while you search for dinner ingredients.
“Best before”, “Use by”, “Sell by” and “Expires by”
Confused about the dates on food labels? The truth is, they have more to do with food quality than with food safety. Understanding what these terms actually mean, will help to avoid food wastage.
Best before: If a food has been properly stored and handled, it should remain safe and wholesome even after this date as it refers to quality (not safety), and is not an index of spoilage.
Use By: This date is usually found on perishable foods such as dairy and meat. It’s still okay to consume the product for a short period after the date, but don’t wait too long.
Sell by: This date refers to the last day a grocery store or supermarket can have a product on the shelves for sale. If stored properly, most foods remain safe for consumption up to several days (or even months) after.
Expires by: Expiry dates are usually found on baby formulas and eggs. However, eggs are generally fine for consumption up to five weeks after purchase, even if that’s a couple of weeks past the date on the carton. There’s a simple test you can do for eggs: put an egg in the water and if it floats, that’s an indication that the bacteria count is too high and the egg has gone bad (bacteria produces gases in high numbers, causing the eggs to float).
If a food item looks or smells strange, don’t even risk tasting it – mould that you can see on the surface is just the tip of the iceberg, there could be toxins under the surface of the food that aren’t immediately visible to the naked eye so toss it already!
“A good rule of thumb to follow is to use your senses – if something smells, feels, tastes, or looks bad, it probably is,” says author of The Diet Detox, Brooke Alpert, RD, who’s a dietician. “If you’re not sure, always err on the side of caution to avoid food-borne illness.”