I think we all put things into our refrigerators without really thinking it through from time to time, especially when we’re in a hurry or multitasking. I know I make a lot of assumptions about what foods will stay safe and delicious in the cold environment of my fridge, but that’s not always going to be the case!
Some things don’t belong in your fridge for longer than a few days, for reasons ranging from bacteria and mold growth to bad smells. If these 7 foods are in your fridge, you may want to evaluate whether you’re better off tossing them out.
7 Things In Your Fridge You Should Throw Away
1. Old Homemade Dressings Or Sauces
Store-bought sauces and dressings contain preservatives, but your tasty homemade versions don’t. For that reason, homemade dressings and sauces don’t really keep for more than a week or so. If you’ve got any that are older than that, it’s time to throw them out.
The next time you whip up your favorite sauce, try mixing up just enough for tonight’s dinner. If you still have leftovers, mark them with the date and use them up as soon as you can.
2. Double-Dipped Or Shared Foods
Unfortunately, germs from our noses and mouths can easily be transferred to the foods we eat. Anything in your fridge that has already come in contact with someone’s mouth should be thrown out, including that sandwich you only took a couple of bites from!
To avoid wasting food, put out small dishes for each person to use for dips, and make it a firm rule that there will be no drinking from cartons. If you like to bring home leftovers when you go out to eat, ask for a box right away and divide your meal before you start to eat. Refrigerate the leftovers as soon as you get home and eat them within a couple of days.
3. Dairy In The Door
Although some refrigerators come with a cute little egg keeper in the door, it’s not the safest place to keep your eggs or dairy products. That’s because the shelves inside the door can stay up to five degrees warmer than the rest of your fridge.
Reserve your refrigerator door shelves for condiments, soda, and other foods that contain preservatives. If you’ve been storing dairy or eggs in the door, you’ll want to at least evaluate how fresh they are, and possibly toss them out.
4. Open Containers
Having food in an uncovered container isn’t always a food safety issue, but uncovered foods can easily dry out and lose their flavor (not to mention fill your refrigerator with food odors!)
Avoiding these problems is easy—just be sure to store your food in lidded containers or cover the containers with plastic wrap before refrigerating. As for what’s currently in your fridge, anything that’s dried up or has a hard film on top should get tossed.
5. Old Cooked Meat
I love saving money and time by cooking up several pounds of ground beef or a couple of chickens at a time, but those leftovers shouldn’t be stored in your fridge for more than a few days. If you’re pre-cooking for future dinners, cool the food in your fridge before wrapping them up or sealing them in something airtight, then date them and store them in your freezer.
6. Homemade Broths Or Stocks
Sadly, your delicious homemade stock will only last about four days in the refrigerator. If you like to make big batches of broth or stock for future use, divide it up into individual portions, label and date them, then freeze. (I like using freezer pods for this—they’re great for freezing foods in useful portions!)
7. Moldy Fruit
You may be tempted to simply remove the moldy portion of an otherwise fine-looking piece of fruit, but mold doesn’t just live on the surface. According to the US Department of Agriculture, any visible mold on fruit means there are likely root threads inside that you can’t see, but can still make you sick. Yuck!
As far as firmer vegetables like carrots, cabbage, and bell peppers go, it’s probably fine to trim off an inch past any moldy spots, but all fruits and any soft vegetables with mold should be thrown away ASAP.
To avoid mold, be sure to examine your produce thoroughly at the store to avoid coming home with something that already has mold on it. Also, avoid washing fruits or vegetables until just before you are going to eat them.
Is there anything in your fridge that ought to be thrown away?