Thursday, July 29, 2010

Are these leftovers still good to eat?

Jim often asks, “Are the leftovers from (whenever) still good?” My usual response is to sniff it and taste it. If I don’t see mold and it doesn’t smell funky I say it’s safe to eat – but is that the right response? If cheese looks and smells fine I don’t have a problem with it being in the fridge for a month – or longer, and even when mold does appear I cut it off before Jim sees it. I do the same thing with his bread – just pinch the mold off before making him a sandwich with the last two slices of (moldy) bread. Am I slowly killing my husband?

Is yogurt still safe after the sell by date? How long can you keep thawed ground beef?

I get asked these questions all the time and I don’t always know the answer, but I was on and they pointed me towards a terrific site that can tell you whether to keep or toss an item: Still Tasty has a database of thousands of food items that you can browse the shelf life of, and they also feature an FAQ section that I found invaluable last week when I cleaned out the pantry and fridge. I’d like to add that Still Tasty has no idea who I am, I’m sharing the link to their site simply because it’s a new discovery of mine that will really help me out and I want to share it with you also.

Our pantry BEFORE.

When I say we cleaned out the pantry and fridge, I mean that we gave the kitchen an overhaul starting with emptying the cupboards, cleaning, organizing and re-arranging. This included our completely disorganized and stuffed PANTRY and the FRIDGE that may have housed hazardous material. With Jim’s help we pulled the contents of the pantry out on the kitchen table, shelf by shelf. We checked all the dates, referenced Still Tasty, and tossed quite a few items. Some things were no brainers, like granola bars dating back to 2007.

Our (new and improved) pantry AFTER.

The result is an organized pantry that has easy to access items grouped logically on my shelves. Even better, I was able to refresh my memory on WHAT was in the pantry. Instead of buying ANOTHER can of black beans at the grocery store, I now know that we have three. It was like finding money. As we tossed items, we made a list of what needed to be replaced. I thought we had plenty of crackers, but they were actually all stale. I would recommend doing this at least twice a year.

And the answers to your burning questions:

What do you do when you find yogurt in the back of your fridge and the sell-by date was a week ago? Eat it or toss it? Still Tasty says that yogurt that has been properly stored will generally remain safe for at least 7 to 10 days after the "sell-by" date on the package. They even reference the safety specialists at Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension. Bear in mind the temperature of your refrigerator must remain at or below 40° Fahrenheit at all times. If mold appears on yogurt, or if it develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, you should always discard it immediately.

If you thawed some ground beef in the fridge today, and your dinner plans change – what do you do with the meat? Still Tasty says you’ve got some breathing room. Ground beef that’s been defrosted in the fridge can be safely kept for an additional one to two days in the refrigerator before cooking, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And since you thawed the ground beef in the fridge, you can also safely refreeze it within that same time frame, says the USDA. None of this would apply, on the other hand, if you had thawed the ground beef in the microwave or in cold water. You should immediately cook meat thawed under either of those methods, advises the USDA, since it could easily warm up to the 40°F temperature at which harmful bacteria begins to multiply rapidly.


  1. Good to know- pantry is looking good!

  2. that's hilarious about the super expired granola! I found a can of Raviolis in my pantry the other day and they had expired back in 2007 too!! Obviously we don't like the Chef...Boyardee that is! ;o) Maybe I'll get a wild hair today and do the same with my pantry!! THX for the inspiration!

  3. I love your pantry!

    I have your black bean equivalent of paprika - 5 jars.

  4. This is so helpful! Thanks for posting. You have now inspired me to do a kitchen overhaul.

  5. Hi! I love your pantry reorg! Can you tell me where you got your spice rack that's attached to your door? That would help me clear out so much space in my pantry. Thank you!

  6. Thanks for the comments! The spice rack on the inside of my pantry door is from The Container Store and I absolutely love it!


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