Food Storage and Safety at Home
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When it comes to keeping your family happy and healthy that doesn’t just include preparing meals at home. There are some safety rules that need to be observed as you cook as well as when you store your foods. Here are some tips on food storage and safety when cooking at home.
Keeping Foods Safe during Prep
The first line of defense against spreading germs is hand washing. No matter what you are working with, always clean your hands between different food types as well as when they are visibly soiled.
Washing your food will also help prevent the spread of germs. Wash fruits, vegetables and meats before preparing them. This removes any dirt and other substances that may have collected on your food between harvesting and shipping to the grocery store. If you are using canned ingredients, always wash the top of the can off under running water before opening it.
When dealing with raw meat, keep juices contained on a cutting board or in the sink. Don’t use any other food in that prep area until it is thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water. Observe a separation of raw meats and fresh foods in your refrigerator and shopping cart as well. This can help avoid contamination of any kind, especially of foods that don’t need to be cooked.
When cooking your foods, make sure that they stay hot for the required amount of time. For instance, chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before it is considered cooked all the way through. For that reason, preheating your oven is recommended for even cooking. A food thermometer is a good investment to ensure all food is cooked safely.
Storing Food Safely at Home
Do your best to observe the 2-hour rule. Place food in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking it. The longer food sits out, the greater the chance of bacterial growth and spoilage.
When storing your food, use appropriate sized containers. While leaving a space for air, too much space encourages condensation to collect and a layer of water to form on top of your food. That won’t look very appetizing.
When food has sufficiently cooled, move it to the freezer if you want to keep it longer. Label the container with freezing date as well as the name of the item. Use only approved freezer containers to avoid cracking, leaks and freezer burn on your food. Most foods are okay for about three months in a sealed container.
Thaw foods by putting them in the refrigerator. It is not a good idea to simply sit them on the counter. For thawing meats, put them in cold water or use the defrost setting on the microwave if you need them sooner. Remember to clean up any liquid before using your microwave again.
Observing food safety and storage at home can save you money and keep your family healthy.
Tips for Storing Meal Leftovers
When you are working with a budget, saving on food costs is paramount. One way to lower the cost of your grocery bill is to utilize leftovers from your meals. Keep reading to find some useful tips for storing leftovers properly.
The Joy of What’s Left
Have you ever heard someone remark that a meal, such as spaghetti, tastes even better the next day? Leftovers are one way to save on the rising cost of feeding your family. Cooking a favorite meal? You can use the leftovers for lunch the next day at work or at school.
The joy comes in being able to enjoy this food. That won’t be likely to happen if it is not stored properly after the initial meal. Proper storage of meal leftovers prevents food borne illnesses from spoilage.
6 Tips for Storing Leftovers
- Divide and conquer – If your meal had several components resist the urge to throw them all together into one container. Package them separately in the appropriate containers.
- Remove stuffing – When storing food that has a filling, remove the filling first before refrigeration or freezing. Package them separately for storage.
- Leave room for air – When storing your leftovers resist the urge to fill the container to the brim. Inhibiting bacterial growth depends on air being able to circulate around your food to cool it off and keep it at a low temperature. Leave at least a small space at the top of each container or bag for this.
- Don’t wait too long – Leave leftovers sitting for no more than a couple of hours before placing them in the refrigerator or freezer. Also, when using leftovers from the refrigerator, three or four days are often the limit of their safety for further human consumption.
- Make sure lids are secure – Always use containers that have sealable lids. It is best not to use the pans or dishes that you cooked with because they may allow air and condensation to stay with your food. Have you ever opened a pot and found a layer of water on top of your leftovers? Choose containers and appropriate lids to keep your meals as good as the day they were made.
- Use serving size portions – If you are freezing a large amount of one thing (say, a leftover casserole), use several storage containers. This allows you to only heat up what you will use without the need to continually reheat excess amounts only to refrigerate it again.
Leftovers can help you to avoid waste in your home and save on your grocery bill. Besides, many foods taste even better the second time around. Many leftover items can be used to create new dishes for lunch and/or dinner.
Tips for Freezing Food Properly
Freezing foods allows you to enjoy them again at a later time. An important step is ensuring that the food will be able to be eaten when it is thawed. Here are some tips for properly freezing foods.
One of the greatest miracles is refrigeration. No longer did people have to only fix what they could eat right away. Salting and sugar curing did help protect meats but still foods went bad quickly. Many more people probably died from food poisoning than we know about from the days before refrigeration was utilized.
At even colder temperatures, food can be frozen. In this state it is kept for much longer. You can prepare something today and then eat it again in two months without any problem. Refrigeration allows foods to be kept at a temperature that would kill bacteria and also prevent them from growing and spoiling food.
Even in the age of refrigeration, many people don’t know how to freeze foods properly. How many times have you taken out a plastic bag and couldn’t see the food inside because of the thick layer of ice? This is one of the drawbacks of freezing for a long time but you can hopefully avoid that with the tips mentioned here.
Related reads: Freezer Cooking just might change your life….
How to Freeze your Foods Properly
- Keep your freezer temperature consistent. Look at the thermometer. The temperature needs to stay well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve a good quality freeze.
- If you are only storing foods for a month or two, it is okay to do so in the original store packaging. This tip mostly applies to meats purchased from the grocery. Instead of repackaging them, store as is. The exception would be if you have bought in bulk and want to break the pack of meat up into a certain number of portions.
- Label everything that you place in the freezer. This includes bags and containers.
- Use freezer approved food containers. Only use freezer bags, plastic containers and glass containers that say they are safe for the freezer. Store food in appropriately sized containers as well.
Leave space between items in the freezer. This allows air to circulate all around the food and freeze it more effectively. You can stack items but always leave space somewhere.
Do not freeze hot foods. Wait no longer than about half an hour before freezing room temperature foods. Always squeeze the air out of plastic backs for easier storage and less condensation.
Vacuum seal your freezer-bound foods. Use a FoodSaver to store foods in the freezer without air and moisture in them.
Avoid using aluminum foil for certain foods. Acidic items like tomatoes or tomato-based sauces may react with aluminum foil or foil containers in the refrigerator. This can alter the taste of the food or make it unsafe.
Learning how to freeze foods can save you time and money.
I hope these food storage and safety tips have helped in your homestead kitchen, please make sure to pin this image so you don’t forget these important tips!
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