By Nina Rizzo
If your pantry is so stuffed with half-eaten cereal boxes and stale bags of pretzels that your cookies, cakes and other munchies are sitting in plain view on the counter, it’s time to declutter your kitchen.
A recent study found that women with messy kitchens mindlessly snacked on twice as much junk food as those with clean ones. Why? A cluttered, chaotic environment creates a vulnerability to make unhealthy food choices and, consequently, unwanted weight gain.
As part of your spring cleaning, dig deep into the refrigerator, freezer and pantry to make room for foods that are better off tucked away.
- Start with the refrigerator. Toss any foods with an expired use-by date, unpleasant smell, questionable appearance or visible mold. Condiments can take up a great deal of real estate in the frig so make sure they are worth saving. If the mustard from your last July Fourth barbecue is still in there, it’s probably still good. The ketchup from the same party, however, should have been tossed by Christmas. Opened jars of mayonnaise and salad dressing last up to two months, while jams and jellies can stay for up to six months. Pickles and olives have a much shorter shelf life (2 weeks), while chutney can spoil within in one or two months.
- If your carrots and celery are starting to look limp and your onions are a bit withered, make a quick vegetable soup for dinner. Many fruits in danger of getting overripe can be frozen and used in smoothies or margaritas weeks later. Most fruits and veggies will last longer if kept in the frig, but you may want to keep some apples and oranges in a bowl on the kitchen table so everyone has a healthy snack in plain sight.
- Just how long do meats and cheese stay fresh in the refrigerator? A rotisserie chicken should be picked clean in three or four days, while shredded cheddar cheese should be consumed in a month. Don’t think you can finish it by then? No worries. Cooked chicken will keep for 12 months in the freezer and the cheese will last another three or four months. Breads and cakes also will stay fresh for another three or four months in the freezer.
- Most pantry items have more staying power. Sugar never spoils, tea bags can last for up to 18 months, and most unopened bottles of spices will last up to four years. Open bags of chips, pretzels and crackers can go stale pretty quickly unless you store them in resealable bags or airtight containers.
The USDA’s FoodKeeper app will help you maximize the storage life of the foods and beverages in your kitchen by letting you know what should be safe to eat and what’s got to go. A handy printout of The Food Keeper guidelines can be found HERE.
For more helpful hints, talk to your local ShopRite dietitian!
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 3 1/2 cups beef broth
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 medium potato
- 1 cup green beans
- Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, parsley and thyme and cook until the onion is tender-crisp.
- Add the broth, carrots, potato and beans to the saucepan and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.