In just a few short weeks the summer will be over and everyone will be heading back to school. Boston is a college town with thousands of students living in apartments for the first time. I often see many students doing their first grocery shop of the year.
I would like to offer a few suggestions about grocery shopping to this very group of people. I have already talked a little bit about stocking both a spice cupboard and a food cupboard. Today let’s talk about the refrigerator!
Fridge Tip #1: Check out expiration dates
The most important thing to remember when stocking a refrigerator is to check the “sell by” dates on ALL perishable items. Surprisingly, there is no law in the US saying that items with expired “sell by” dates MUST be removed from supermarket shelves.
Granted, stores would be nuts not to be very careful to remove these items. But it is up to you to check the date.
The dating jargon can be very confusing. The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a fabulous site which answers just about any questions you might have on the subject of dating on food products .
Fridge Tip #2: Storing eggs & dairy products
The three basics in just about everyone’s refrigerator are:
Open the carton and check to make sure none of your eggs are broken. It is best to keep eggs stored in their original carton.
You get to choose between whole milk, 2%, or 1%. The numbers indicate fat content. I like whole milk for my coffee but 1% on my cereal.
Butter should be kept covered or wrapped, as it does absorb odors. For toast, I like the spreadable kind, which often comes in its own tub.
Fridge Tip #3: Storing other fridge and freezer foods
Some additional (optional) refrigerator staple foods, if you like them, are:
A beginning cook can take advantage of the availability of frozen vegetables, many of which are fantastic. Vegetables are often taken at their most ripe and flavorful and fast frozen to preserve taste and color. It is really handy to keep some of your favorites in the freezer. Just remember that frozen vegetable do not last forever. Any foods left too long in the freezer can develop “freezer burn” and become inedible.
There are quite a few frozen fruits, like peaches, mango, blueberries and strawberries, available at the grocery store. Fast-frozen fruits work really well in smoothies. Toss some frozen blueberries, and strawberries in a blender with some yogurt or milk and you’ve got yourself a great snack or breakfast!
Keep a loaf of bread/bagels/English muffins in the freezer. Be sure to use it within about 4-6 weeks. You can put a slice of frozen bread directly into the toaster. It will only take a few extra seconds to toast when it’s frozen.
Many foods from the cupboard, once opened, need to be put in the refrigerator. This applies to mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, relish, and pickles. These sorts of condiments will last several months in the refrigerator.
Fridge Tip #4: Know your cold and warm spots
The inside of your refrigerator does not have the same temperature everywhere . There is usually a separate bin for fruits and vegetables. These bins are generally not as cold as the main part of the refrigerator.
Neither is the storage space on the door. It is really convenient, though, to store things that are used often on the door.
Do remember foods in both the refrigerator and the freezer are (ultimately) perishable and need to be properly wrapped to make them last. My old friend Roger was a great cook, but his refrigerator looked like a chemistry experiment gone wrong. When storing leftovers, they should get wrapped in plastic wrap or tin foil. Most leftovers should be eaten within two to three days or tossed. No point in taking chances!
If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.