Spring Cleaning - Not Just for Floors and Windows

Adair P Hoover
Home & Garden Information Center

April is the perfect time for spring-cleaning and that includes your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Time to use up those frozen and home canned fruits and vegetables that were stocked last spring and summer. Implementing the following spring-cleaning suggestions will help you keep your stored foods at top-quality and give you a system to determine when it’s time to use or throw out stored foods!

  1. Take inventory of foods in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Look for any manufacturer dates that might help you determine whether stored items have exceeded their time limit for best quality or safety. An explanation of manufacturer dates can be found at HGIC 3480, Food Selection and Storage. To find recommendations on food storage times go to the Safe Handling of Foods section of the HGIC website.
  2. Make a plan to use or discard older items. This is especially important if you need to free up room for the upcoming spring, summer and fall harvests.
  3. Clean and sanitize shelves and bins. Cleaning simply means removing dirt and debris and should be followed by a sanitizing step to kill any bacteria or harmful pathogens that might be present. A simple sanitizing solution can be made by mixing one teaspoon of liquid, unscented bleach to one quart of water. Keep in mind that adding extra bleach can cause more harm than good so stick to the recommended proportions.
  4. Prepare now for food storage in the coming year. This can include purchasing appliance thermometers to monitor refrigerator and freezer temperatures. For best quality storage refrigerators should maintain a temperature of 33 °F – 41 °F and freezers are most effective at temperatures below 0 °F.  Take stock of your storage containers and inspect them for quality and function and make sure you have labeling supplies handy.
  5. After spring-cleaning, follow First In First Out (FIFO) for stored foods. One of the most dependable ways to do this is to label all stored items with the date they are stored. That way there will be no doubt about how old they are.

Spring-cleaning in the kitchen is not just about a one time cleaning but also about planning for ways to add food safety practices into daily life.

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