Food & Nutrition

11 Things in Your Refrigerator You Should Toss Out

Confused Man Looking At Food In Refrigerator

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No more guessing

Ever feel like you’re playing a game of Russian roulette when scanning your fridge and trying to determine what’s OK to eat and what’s past its prime? You’re not alone. Apart from doing the old sniff test, spotting mold, and checking expiration dates, assessing what to toss in your kitchen can be a great, big mystery. “Most people are totally confused when they look in their refrigerator and try to decide whether to use the opened Caesar salad dressing or throw it out and [when generally] deciding what’s safe and what isn’t,” says B. Susie Craig, professor of Food Safety and Health at Washington State University Extension in Seattle. “Sometimes it’s confusing to me, and I’m a professional.” Add in the “Does this even need refrigeration in the first place?” conundrum, and the plot thickens.

There’s good reason for the confusion, says Don Schaffner, PhD, professor of Food Microbiology at Rutgers University, who explains that there’s a big difference between spoilage organisms (which are in many foods and will eventually cause them to look, smell, or taste bad) and pathogens (which you may not be able to see but can make you sick). “Expiration dates are not an exact science,” he says. “Food companies use a value that they think will ensure happy customers, but it’s not like the food ‘magically’ turns bad at midnight on the date in question.”

Using the USDA’s handy FoodKeeper App helps with the guessing game. You should also toss these 11 culprits in your fridge to get a jump on food safety, as well as throw out these things in your freezer.

Foods without a lid with inset of tupperwareGetty Images,

Foods without a lid

Will you get sick if you use the uncovered can of tomato paste you opened days ago when making your pasta bolognese? Or could you be harming Fido if you neglect to put a lid on his half-empty can of dog food? Probably not…but don’t expect those products to have the same punch when you pull them out again for Dinner 2.0 (yours or your pup’s). Think of your fridge as a giant food dehydrator—anything directly exposed to air will quickly dry out and probably take all the flavor with it.

According to the USDA, products will retain better flavor if transferred to a glass or plastic storage container that can be properly sealed. This 20-piece set from Amazon is BPA-free, has more than 10,000 five-star reviews, and is fully see-through, so you can avoid excessive lid-popping that exposes food to even more air and spoilage. By the way, here’s exactly how to stock your fridge if you want your food to last.

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