Does opening your fridge inflict terror and guilt? While you should try to avoid food waste as much as possible, sometimes things are just past the point of no return.
You can feel okay about getting rid of these 10 things in your fridge without a second thought. You’ll be doing yourself and your fridge a favor by making room for things you can actually consume. A clean fridge packed with delicious ingredients is something you can look forward to seeing.
Here’s what you should toss.
1. Expired Bottles of Condiments
Let’s start with the obvious, all the condiment bottles that are just loitering around. I think we’re all guilty of keeping unnecessary condiment bottles in the fridge. You never know when you’re gonna need to use that bottle of jalapeno ranch from last summer’s barbecue, right?
Make it a routine to check the expiration dates to see how much longer your condiments have left. Don’t make it a hassle, just conduct a quick examination of your fridge every once in a while to see if any of these need to be tossed. After all, how many bottles of ketchup does one home need?
2. Cans That Are Open
You may need to refrigerate something when you only used half the can. You should make sure you cover it up with plastic wrap or transfer the contents into another container before storing it. Open cans cause the contents to dry out. This means the flavor will deteriorate.
Additionally, the food inside can become contaminated by the aromas and dripping of other items. Cover everything up before putting it inside the fridge, or only buy items that come in resealable bags.
3. Food With Mold
This should really be a no-brainer. If you see anything with mold, get it out of your fridge and throw it away immediately. Yes, we’re talking about those fuzzy berries tucked away in the back of the fridge.
The cold temperature merely delays the growth of mold, but will not prevent it entirely. Some foods will fare better than others, but they all go bad at some point. When you can physically see mold growing on your food, then it’s too late. The mold is already rooted in that item, and it needs to be removed from the fridge before it spreads to other items. The longer these items stay in your fridge, the more you risk cross-contamination.
4. Produce That Has Become Slimy & Shriveled
Anyone that buys leafy greens in a bag knows that they don’t stay fresh for very long. Despite your best efforts to extend their shelf-life and keep them crisp, they always wilt sooner than you want. A telltale sign that your leafy veggies have gone bad is that they appear slimy. There is nothing you can do to reverse this. Just toss the bag when you see it.
Additionally, you should keep an eye on lemons and ginger in your fridge that appear shriveled up. It is not worth it to keep food at this point because it is not going to add anything to a dish.
5. Baking Soda
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to leave an open box of baking soda inside your fridge. While it does help absorb all the unpleasant odors lingering, the big mistake that most of us make is leaving it in there for too long.
If you’re using baking soda to deodorize and freshen up your fridge, you should change it out at least once a month.
6. Leftovers & Take-Out Cartons
We all have some form of leftovers sitting around. For the most part, these leftovers after dinner and save them for lunch the next day. However, these all need to be consumed within a few days. After that, they need to go.
The same can be said for any food you ordered-to-go or took home from a restaurant. After a day or two, it’s gonna go bad. That leftover rice from your Chinese takeout is already stale. The bun from your burger is rock hard. It’s not going to taste very good, and it may just make you sick.
7. Mystery Meat
Have you ever had food in your fridge for so long you forgot what it was? It is never safe to eat something that has been in there for that long, so you are better off tossing it. You could try smelling it to see if it is still fresh, but it is safer to simply get more food than risk eating something contaminated.
8. Soft Cheeses
Soft cheese here refers to things like goat cheese and ricotta. Most of the time, these will only last for about a week or so. Fortunately, there are plenty of dishes ricotta works great in, such as sandwiches, dips and pasta sauces. Only buy it when you need it and are prepare to use it in a recipe.
9. Ground Beef & Raw Poultry
The USDA recommends that you store all raw meat at or below 40°F, and consume it within two days of purchasing it.
After this time, you run the risk of bacterial growth in the meat. Consuming it after this point could get you sick. If you don’t plan on cooking it within this time, put it in the freezer and then thaw it out the day you plan on cooking. If you freeze it correctly, ground beef can last up to four months.
10. Chicken & Veggie Broth
You should refrigerate any leftover chicken broth after making yourself some soup. You should be able to use a full carton if you plan on making soup for several people. However, if you just need a little broth to make a cream sauce, then you may have a lot of leftovers. This needs to be consumed within four days of opening or else it is going to go bad.
If you enjoy making homemade ranch dressing, then chances are you buy buttermilk with some frequency. The problem is that buttermilk often comes in such large containers, and more often than not, you only need a little bit to perfect your recipe. Generally, a carton of buttermilk will only last for about two weeks in a fridge. After that, don’t risk it, just throw it away.
12. Random Odds & Ends
Have you ever looked inside your fridge and cannot remember how you came across a certain item? Perhaps it was a gift from a friend you never got around to eating. Maybe you have food in your fridge that is better-suited as an ingredient, but you do not need it for that purpose that often.
For example, if you typically do not eat fish, then there would be no reason to keep a lot of tartar sauce in your refrigerator. Do some spring cleaning once in a while, and pay attention to what you can do without.
It is worth it to clean out your fridge once in a while. You should even temporarily remove everything so that you can adequately wipe down all the shelves. This will keep your fridge running efficiently, and you know everything inside is safe for consumption. It is also nice to avoid being greeted by a petulant smell every time you open the door.