You open up your refrigerator to grab a snack. You then begin to wonder… How old is that cheese? When did I buy that juice? When are those leftovers from? Are they still fresh? Food safety concern is popular for many families. Basic Rules to Follow when Shopping for the Freshest, Long-Lasting and Safest Foods Groceries When you go to the supermarket to do your big shopping, pick out your groceries first. While it might be hard to avoid the perimeter with all those great fresh foods, try to stock your cart first with paper goods, boxes, bottles, jars and cans. Make sure to always check for expiration dates and never buy a dented can or a leaky jar. Fruits and Vegetables The next stop should be the fruits and vegetables. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, try to determine when you will use them during the week. Make sure to buy with ripeness in mind. Some fruits and vegetables continue to ripen, while others do not. If you want something to continue to ripen at home, put it in a paper bag outside of the refrigerator for 1-4 days. Make sure to wash the fruits and vegetables just before you are about to eat them. Otherwise, the additional moisture may increase the rate of spoilage. Frozen Foods The next section should be the frozen food area. Again, be sure to check the expiration date on these products. Also inspect the package carefully to make sure there are no leaks and that the package is fully frozen. Sometimes packages may be thawed and frozen due to improper freezer temperatures. When this happens, there is usually crystallization on both the inside and outside of the package. You should never purchase this items. Chilled Foods The last items to shop for are the chilled products. These include meat, dairy, and seafood. These foods are the most susceptible to temperature change. Try to get these items back to their proper temperature as soon as possible. During the summer months, it might be a good idea to leave a cooler filled with ice packs in your car. Since the trunk temperature of a car can exceed to 120 degrees, food should never be placed inside the trunk. Keeping Foods Fresh in the Refrigerator Use a Thermometer There is good reason that refrigerators are built and designed the way they are. Since many of us fail to read the manual when we purchase a refrigerator, we do not know everything it is equipped with. The most important “accessory” is a thermometer for the refrigerator . For a few dollars, a refrigerator thermometer can be the best investment you make. The thermometer should be placed it in the middle of there refrigerator, not on the door or in the back. The temperature needs to be around 38 degrees and never over 40 degrees and should be checked weekly. Don’t Block Air Vents Proper air circulation is critical. Check where the air vents are in your refrigerator and make sure not to block them when stocking it with food. Don’t Overpack the Shelves Don’t pack your refrigerator as you do your kitchen cabinets. There needs to be spaces between the items on the shelves. By doing so, this helps to make the compressor work better. Mark Expiration Dates Mark the expiration dates on all food in the refrigerator. You should label each item with a marker so the dates stand out. This helps to make you are aware of the dates on all food items in the refrigerator. Keep Foods on Designated Shelves You should use the shelves in the refrigerator for items that are more sensitive to temperature changes. Make sure to place a clean paper towel in all of the drawers. This will not only absorb the extra moisture, but it will also keep produce fresh longer. The paper towel should be changed once a week. The drawers that are specifically designed for meats and cheeses have a perfect temperature setting for these products so make sure to place the correct items in these drawers. No Perishable Foods on Door Shelves The door shelves are the most convenient, but also the area that is the warmest. You should never place highly perishable foods on the doors. Instead, use this location for salad dressings and other condiments that do not spoil easily. Every time the door is opened, the temperatures change once the kitchen air hits them. These products should be checked regularly since they have a tendency to spoil at a faster rate. Keep Refrigerator Clean This does not mean you should clean it once a year. Your refrigerator should have a thorough cleaning at least once a season. Even though the refrigerator is below 40 degrees, bacteria can still survive and create a food safety issue. You will need to take the shelves out and clean both sides with hot, soapy water. Many refrigerators come with spill-proof shelves. This is a perfect place for bacteria to grow. Make sure to clean it immediately after every spill. A cool, clean refrigerator will help you get the best value and nutrition out of all your foods.