People are going to be having a lot of food these holidays, perhaps stocking up on it almost the way squirrels and bears do when it comes to the winter months. But what happens when you’ve had your leftover turkey pieces from Thanksgiving still sitting in the fridge for a week? Two weeks? There are several different ways to decipher when you should toss the leftovers, as well as normal foods based on their dates.
Two Family Rules of Thumb
Have you ever gone to one of those ridiculously easy Food Handler’s Card classes? Well, even if you haven’t you probably already know about expiration dates. Just as they say in class, the food is only good by that date. However, I myself was always told by my family that all foods (even drinks like milk) are good for up to seven days after the expiration date. That being said, I have never gotten food poisoning from drinking week old milk or eating five day old deli meat (although I do admit, sometimes it creeps me out). Today, the family rule has “evolved” to not seven days past the expiration date, but rather, if the food merely smells or looks OK to eat. That’s an easy rule to follow, and it seems to be working for us.
Many people use that same rule of thumb, while others will in fact, go by the expiration date. So for those of you who do look at the date, when exactly do you go about tossing your food out? What if it’s just one day overdue? Or, what if you only see a “sell by date” on it? Would you go by that? Sometimes it can be really confusing if you play by what the bottle, or the jar, or the container says. Even at the Tufts University in Massachusetts, one professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Jeanne Goldberg, asks, “Is a food fresh until February 1 st , 2008, if that’s the date stamped on it, and then do you throw it out on February 2 nd ? It’s a very inexact science since those dates include a wide margin of safety.”
According to Bloomberg Business Week, the “sell by date” is a rule more for the store to know when it’s time for them to throw out their stock, while the “use by” and “best before” dates are both implied to help the customer understand when it’s time to get rid of something. They are targeted to guide the customer in not using the product after that recommended date. There is a difference, though; while “best before” leans toward the taste and quality, the “use by” stands as an actual expiration date.
Making Food Last Longer
There are a few great things that you can do to make your food last longer. One is freezing. You can freeze anything from vegetables, to meats, even cheeses. Keeping certain foods in the refrigerator that you would normally have sitting out on the counter is another good idea, like bread. And remember to keep the temperatures for the refrigerator at the right degrees: the fridge should always stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit; the freezer should linger at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. ~~~
Bloomberg Business Week (www.businessweek.com)
Cooking Index (www.cookingindex.com)