Many of us do some spring cleaning in our homes, but we focus on dusting hard-to-reach spots, wiping windows and clearing eavestroughs. But the jars, cans and other items in our fridge and pantry should be attended to as well.
We’re good about editing out unworn items from our closets and at dusting those hard-to-reach places, but we often let jars of condiments languish in the fridge, unidentifiable foods linger in the freezer and cans collect dust in our pantries. Why risk eating something that may have gone bad? If you’re not sure when certain foods expire and should be tossed, check out our primer on how to spring clean your fridge, pantry and kitchen.
Many of us hold on to condiments for years, but they do eventually go bad. Keep this in mind when buying them in the grocery store. You may be better off buying a smaller jar if you don’t use the product often so you won’t have to throw out unfinished portions regularly. Ketchup and mustard are good for about six to 12 months. Mayonnaise, however, expires sooner, so aim for about two months with this condiment. (And of course, always close the lid tightly before storing it in the fridge.)
You don’t have to worry about stocking up on large quantities of canned goods at Costco, because they never expire, right? Wrong! Canned goods do indeed expire, even though many of us think of them as non-perishable. Most canned goods remain good for up to five years. If the contents is acidic, however, such as tomatoes, for example, you should use them up faster (in about two years).
Freezing food is a great way to preserve it (just be sure you’ve protected it well against freezer burn), but you can’t keep frozen foods indefinitely. Most meats can be stored frozen for a year, but throw out ground meat after three months.
During your spring cleaning, give all your knives a sharpening if this is not something you do regularly. Have a look at your pots and pans too — do any of them have chips in their coating? If so, it’s time to ditch them, as you could be eating residue in your food if you continue to cook with them. Also, your cutting boards can harbour bacteria, especially if they have deep cuts in them. Examine them and replace if any grooves or cracks seem suspect.