During a long, cold winter, cleanliness around the house can get a bit neglected. Luckily, as it warms up, your energy returns and the Spring Cleaning itch is triggered.
Aside from the standard dusting and scrubbing, here are some additional spring cleaning ideas for the most active room in your house—the kitchen.
Get A Fresh Start
Tossing outdated, moldy food is a given, but you might want a quick refresher on how long produce lasts.
- If uncut, whole fruits and vegetables can remain at room temperature for several days.
- Chopped fruits and veggies need to be refrigerated within two hours of cutting.
- Cooked vegetables last only three to four days in the fridge.
Registered Dietitian Tip: Keep apples separate from other produce, whether in the crisper or on the counter. They release small amounts of ethylene gas, which can damage fragile produce like lettuce and bananas.
Check Those Expiration Dates
Canned goods can retain their nutrients for months or even years if they’re stored in a cool, dry place. Minerals and some vitamins will remain for as long as the food still tastes okay. To predict the shelf life of your can, consider the acidity level of its contents. The chemicals in high-acid foods react with the metal container, and over time this may change the flavor and texture as well as reduce nutritional value.
Fruit, juice, tomatoes, pickled vegetables, and vinegar-based dressings should be consumed within 12 to 18 months after purchase. Canned foods with low acidity, like corn and beans, are safe to eat for two to five years. Of course, get rid of cans that are bulging, leaking, rusting, or spurt liquid when opened (regardless of purchase date), as they may have been contaminated.
Wiping out the refrigerator is likely low on your priority list, but drips and spills in the fridge & cabinets create a home for illness-causing bacteria. I suggest finding a cleaning product that’s safe and doesn’t contain chemicals linked to serious health problems. The Environmental Working Group tested 94 kitchen cleaners and gave 62 of them a grade D or F due to factors including their potential to exacerbate asthma, respiratory problems, or allergies (see the full list at ewg.org).
Here are a few ideas for “clean” cleaning:
1} Wipe down food storage areas with a food-based solution: mix a half cup of vinegar and a quarter cup of baking soda in a half gallon of hot water.
2} Try a food grade hydrogen peroxide cleaner. It will disinfect and brighten all countertops and surfaces. It will also reduce germs on handles, cutting boards, and the sink, especially if the sink was used to wash animal protein. This spray will also get the smell out of trash cans. It's an environmentally clean way to clean everything.
3} I also love the cleaning cloths that only require water—no cleaner necessary! These microfiber cloths work so well and leave absolutely zero streaks.
Food Must Stay Cold
If you want to keep the bacteria out, your refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees or below, and your freezer should be 0 degrees or below. If your refrigerator and freezer don’t have a built-in thermostat, consider an inexpensive freestanding appliance thermometer. Place one in the fridge and one in the freezer.
1} Food items stored in the refrigerator door are exposed to gusts of warm air, so tuck meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs in the back.
2} Avoid overcrowding—air needs to circulate around items to keep them cold.
Treat Your Meat Well
Always store packages of raw meat and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, so if their juices drop they won’t contaminate other food. Same goes if you’re defrosting meat or seafood on a plate—keep it on the bottom shelf.
Fresh meat will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and, depending on the cut, up to a year in the freezer; just in time for next year’s big cleanout.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods