Sell By Dates May Get an Update

We’ve talked before about food expiration dates, sell by dates, and other dates on your products. They don’t all mean the same thing, and in some cases, don’t mean much at all. And now, at least two organizations are hoping to help clarify the confusion.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are just a few of the names in line to help reduce food waste.

The Confusion

Because of the confusion will “sell by”, “best by”, and other expiration dates, very often completely safe food gets tossed from over concerned individuals.

In some cases, food may not taste as good, because it isn’t as fresh, but over all, food just doesn’t have a magic hard line when it “expires”.

Sell By Change

The two associations which include most food manufacturers and retailers as members are looking to abolish the current labeling system, including the labels “sell by” and “expires on”.

If their plan goes forward, they are suggesting just two labels on food products. One would be the “best if used by”date, which is already a common label. And the second one would be the “use by” date for products that are more likely to spoil as they age.

In Favor

The move would definitely garner favor among environmental groups. Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have been advocating for such a change for a while. They hope label changes would lead to a reduction in food waste.

The USDA has also shown support for a more simplified labeling system, asking for companies to just use one label, the “best if used by” label.

Currently, there is no federal law requiring or regulating expiration dates on foods. Some states do have requirements for certain types of foods, like dairy or meat products.

Food safety experts however, state that stale or spoiled foods aren’t generally particularly hazardous, even if they aren’t tasty. It doesn’t take an expiration date to tell you not to drink spoiled milk!

Until Then

Until a change takes place, try to reduce waste by buying less, making sure food is stored at the proper temperatures, and checking before you automatically toss something just because of it’s date.

Source: NPR

 

A Guide to Expiration Dates

Some people toss groceries out as soon as the expiration dates pass. Other hold on to their food uncomfortably too long. But, where’s the right balance? If you are tossing you food as it hits the sell by dates, you are most likely wasting more food than needed. In most cases, the dates on your containers aren’t definite expiration dates and the exact wording can mean a variety of things.

So, just what’s the difference between sell by, best by, and use by labels? Here is what you need to keep in mind:

Various Expiration Dates

The “Best By” Date

Food is generally safe for quite some time after the date printed, but the quality and the flavor of the food may start to decline after the day.

The “Use By” Date

Safety can be a concern if you are using a product after the use by date. While not a a hard and fast date, the quality may start to decline rapidly after the use by date.

The “Sell By” Date

This is exactly what it says, this is when the retailer should stop selling the product. It is generally an indication the product is 2/3rds through its shelf life. So, there is plenty of time for you to get use out of it.

You’re most likely tossing too soon.

So, to summarize, unless the phrase “for safety” is following the dates on your product, there isn’t a rush to throw them out, especially if you have not opened the product. HOWEVER, if you have opened the product, there is more risk of contamination. Some products, such as almond and soy milks,  have a “use within” guide on them. As long as the package is unopened, the date is usually weeks in the future. But, once it’s opened, it’s better to use quickly.

Also, keep in mind the smell and taste is a good indication of whether something is spoiled, but it’s not perfect. Disease causing organisms can be growing on food and drink even if it don’t appear spoiled. So, if you’ve left something out on the counter, or your fridge is running warm, it’s better to play it safe and toss the products.

 

 

Fire Prevention in the Home

It won’t be long until we’re hanging Christmas lights and lighting our fire places. Some may have fire pits in the back yard. There is a lot more cooking and a lot more activity. Winter really is the most wonderful time of the year!

But all the activity also brings with it an additional need for fire safety and precaution in the home. Make sure you and your family take extra time this season to discuss fire prevention in your home.

Tips for Fire Safety

  • Make sure you have fire alarms on each level of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
  • During the holiday season, check all light strands for frayed or damaged wire. Do not use any appliances or hang any lights with damaged cords.
  • Test your alarms and change batteries at least twice a year. A good reminder is to switch the batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
  • Talk with your family about safety and escape plans. Teach children how to find the main exits and what to do if those exits are blocked.
  • If there is a fire, remember to get out, stay out, and never return back into a burning building.

Cooking Fire Information

  • Cooking fires are the number one cause of residential fires.
  • Never leave food unattended, especially food that is frying or boiling.
  • If you are simmering or baking food, set a timer so that you do not forget to regularly check on it.
  • Clean surfaces regularly to avoid buildup of grease.
  • Consider purchasing a kitchen friendly fire extinguisher. If there is an accident, the last thing you want to do is to panic about forgetting what is safe to put on electrical fires.
  • Check the kitchen (stove, appliances, oven) each night before bed to ensure everything is turned off or unplugged.

Tips for Children in the Home

  • Keep matches, lighters, and other flammables away from children. (Take an extra moment especially during the holiday season when fireplace matches and candles are more prevalent.)
  • Teach your children to recognize the sound of the smoke alarm and how to immediately respond.
  • Take your children to visit the fire station and to meet firefighters. In case of an emergency, you don’t want them to be scared of those trying to help.

It only takes a few moments to plan and be prepared in case of an emergency. Please take those extra few moments each day to significantly reduce the chances of residential fires.

These tips and more can be found on the Red Cross website.

 

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Why Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?

It may seem weird to be concerned about cleaning a machine designed to clean, but your dishwasher needs regular cleaning and checking just like any other appliance. The door gets covered in fingerprints and the inside accumulates food particles, soap scum, and grease. All the extra grime can cause bacterial growth inside the dish washer, leading to foul smells and less than perfect dishes. Clean you dish washer monthly for a fresh new look and optimal performance.

First, the Door

Clean the door of the dishwasher by washing down the exterior with warm soapy water. You can also use a baking soda and water mixture to add a little scrubbing power without scratching the exterior. (Avoid rough scouring pads that may scratch up the dishwasher door.)

Clean the Tub

Before you get to cleaning, it’s a good idea to take some paper towels to wipe any excess debris from the bottom of the dish washer.

After you remove any excess debris, set a cup of white vinegar in the dishwasher’s top rack. Add no other dishes to this cleaning cycle. Run a full wash, with the hottest water possible. When the wash cycle is over, take paper towels and wipe up any excess debris again.

As an easy alternative, you can put a packet of lemonade mix in the spot where the dish detergent goes. Or you can put a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dish washer tub. With either option, run a wash on the hottest cycle.

Deep Clean the Extras

Check the utensil holders and racks. Look for any debris or stuck-on food particles. If the spray arm is clogged, use a cleaning brush to remove clogs so that will spray evenly when cleaning.

Keeping your dishwasher clean will mean it will be more efficient at cleaning your dishes. And, a clean, fresh smelling dish washer will make a much better kitchen experience. Keep your dishes the best they can be and keep your dishwasher in its best condition and remember to clean your dishwasher regularly.

Kitchen Upkeep Essentials

The kitchen is the “heart of the home”. It’s where all the delicious, nourishing food is prepared with love. It’s a vision of a hot apple pie in the window sill. It’s family conversations around the dinner table. OR… it probably could be those things. Most likely, it’s the room you rush through on your way out the door in the morning, where you drop the take out dinners, and where the kids leave their backpacks when they get home each day.

We could all use a few tips to make our homes feel a little more like the first scenario while keeping up with the busy lifestyle of the second. Your kitchen CAN be the heart of the home, stay somewhat clean and organized, and be a place of fresh dinners, even with a busy lifestyle.

Kitchen Cleaning Tips

Organize the Junk Drawer- Use small containers with lids inside your “junk drawer” so that you spend less time searching for all those random things that seem to get stashed in the kitchen. Pens, rubber bands, chip clips, and batteries can all be sorted.

Store Measuring Spoons in a Jar- Instead of the spoons getting lost with all your larger utensils, put them in a jar for easy access.

Use a Magazine Holder for Cutting Boards- Stash your boards out of the way by attaching a magazine rack to the inside of your cabinets. Easy access, but out of the way!

Run the Dishwasher Every Night (and empty it every morning)- Some people want to have the dishwasher completely full before running it, but generally, that means you’re stuck the next day, missing your favorite pan, and a stack of dishes that won’t fit. If it’s over half full, save yourself the trouble, and run it.

Meal Prep and Organizing

Hang a White Board in the Kitchen- Keep notes on everything; grocery items, to-do lists, etc. Write them down so you’ll remember later. Being prepared with lists will make shopping much easier.

Have Paper Plates on Hand- We’re not advocating wastefulness here, but honestly, sometimes, it’s nice to not have to do a big clean up after dinner.

Portion Out Leftovers- Bento boxes and other portion containers, like these allow you to divide up your leftovers into easy to access portions, meaning you’re more likely to remember them the next day.

Love Your Slow Cooker- Slow cookers can be a game changer for meal preps. Throw in the ingredients in the morning and come home to a hot fresh meal. Additionally, “one pan meals” and casseroles will also save the clean up time and ensure you cover all those important food groups.

 

 

Mildew and Mold and What You Need to Know

Mold and mildew present in the home can cause a host of problems, including affecting the health of the people living in the home. Mold and mildew are fungi, and thrive in a warm, wet environment. Some molds are beneficial (yay cheese and penicillin), but others can be quite dangerous. And while we can appreciate … Read more