When you get home from the grocery store, refrigerate or freeze perishable foods quickly to preserve freshness and prevent spoilage and waste. Refrigerate ripe fruit and fresh cut produce. It is safe to freeze meat and poultry in its supermarket wrapping. However, according to the US Department of Agriculture Food and Safety Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) this type wrapping allows air to reach the surface of food and may result in freezer burn, or dry, leathery spots on the surface. It is still safe to eat, but you may need to cut away the affected areas for better quality.
For optimum quality, overwrap packages of frozen meat and poultry that won’t be used within a month or two. Suitable materials include airtight heavy-duty aluminum foil, paper and plastic wrap that are recommended for freezer use. Another option is to put the supermarket package inside a freezer plastic bag. Repackage family packs into smaller amounts using one of the suitable materials or airtight freezer containers. It is not necessary to rinse meats before freezing. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is.
Take produce out of plastic bags from the produce aisle, because the bags may speed the decay of food. You may be able to extend the freshness of produce by: storing it in reusable “green bags,” putting a digital counter on storage containers to keep track of refrigerator time, or using a device to vacuum-seal leftovers. Examine bags of potatoes, onions, and fruits. Throw out bad items. Keep potatoes and onions in a cool, dry place, and refrigerate fruits and vegetables. Store all other foods correctly so they don’t dry out, become stale or molded.
You can unpack cans and packaged foods from grocery bags; write the date on each item. Check expiration dates, because sale items are sometimes reduced right before their expiration date. Put newly purchased canned foods behind older ones in your pantry. Older items, and the ones with the earliest dates, should be out front and used first.
After you put your groceries away, sit down and compare your register receipt with your food budget goal. Did you meet your goal? Look at all your purchases, and ask yourself these questions:
Were my purchases economical when compared to other items I might have chosen?
Did I stick to my shopping list, unless I found foods that were on sale or cheaper substitutes for other items on my list?
If I brought any extras, were they important for meeting my food needs? Were they a real bargain? If not, were they healthy treats that were worth the money I spent on them.
During challenging economic times, Americans try to stretch their dollars. Food is a flexible budget expense that can be reduced when money is tight. You can serve satisfying meals within your food budget if you:
Have some knowledge of nutrition.
Carefully plan meals.
Handle, store and prepare foods properly.
This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by Janis G. Hunter, HGIC Nutrition Specialist, and Katherine L Carson, Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Clemson University. (New 05/09.)
For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.