Thursday, May 22, 2008

How to store food? Harder than it looks.

According to a new poll featured in the July 2008 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, American women spend about $100 per year on disposable food storage and wrapping items, have an average of 22 plastic containers for food storage and use them to refrigerate nearly four leftover meals per week.

The poll also found that three quarters of women (73 percent) actually use all or most of their refrigerated leftovers, most (84 percent) do so within two days, well before the recommended maximum four days.

Conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, the food storage poll is part of ShopSmart's feature on food storage tricks to slash grocery bills and also includes the “11 Worst Food Storage Mistakes.”

“We’ve come up with food storage tricks that will keep everything in your fridge and pantry tasting great – and save you money at the supermarket,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “In addition to saving money, proper food storage can be a health issue, so it’s important to know how to properly wrap items.”

Food Storage Items
· Four out of the six top food storage items that women use regularly are plastic; the two most popular are bags that seal (88 percent) and containers specifically for food storage (87 percent).
· 71 percent of women who regularly use plastic containers voiced some frustration. The leading complaints were container lids/tops get lost (22 percent) and that they stain easily (16 percent).
· When tossed, plastic food containers have about a 50/50 chance of landing in the recycle bin. Half (51 percent) of women who regularly use plastic containers for food storage know which of their plastic containers are recyclable.
· In the microwave, more women use glass or ceramic containers (77 percent) than plastic containers purchased specifically for food storage (58 percent).
· Disposable water bottles are widely used among women (80 percent). The majority (54 percent) of women who use water bottles refill them at least one time and 31 percent refill them 3 or more times.

In the home
· Nearly all women (91 percent) use the age or expiration date to determine if a food is still good to eat. Women also engage their senses for this task with (86 percent) using odor/smell to make the determination.

ShopSmart’s warns that even food that doesn't smell can still get someone sick. But only 6 percent of women report a household member actually falling ill from spoiled food at home.
· 23 percentof household members always or often disagree on whether a food is good to eat.
· Women have multiple food storage challenges to deal with at home, including food packages not being carefully resealed (37 percent) and food not being put back in the refrigerator after use (30 percent).
· Who is to blame for these food storage challenges? Among married women, it’s the spouse (58 percent) and among those with children, it’s the kids (69 percent).

The 11 Worst Food Storage Mistakes

· SLOPPY WRAPPING allows air and moisture to seep in. Easy Fix? Make sure lids are on tight.
· NOT REMOVING STORE WRAP can expose the contents to air through tiny holes or a loose flap and can expose the contents to chemicals from the store wrap. Easy Fix? Rewrap meat, poultry, and cold cuts that come in flimsy wrapping.
· OVERSIZE CONTAINERS leave too much “headroom”—air between the food and lid—spreading spoilage and freezer burn. Easy Fix? Match the size of the container to the contents.
· REUSING FOOD CONTAINERS that are meant for one-time use, like cottage cheese cartons or deli containers, may not hold up to wear and tear or be safe to re-heat leftovers. Easy Fix? While not good for cooking, freebie containers can be used for dry pantry foods.
· INCORRECT FRIDGE TEMPS even just a few degrees too warm can spoil food faster. Easy Fix? Keep the fridge at 37°F and the freezer at 0° F.
· FRIDGE-DOOR STORAGE can leave food 3 to 5 degrees warmer that the shelves inside. Easy Fix? Keep eggs, milk and fresh deli condiments in the back of the fridge, vinegar based items like mustard, relish and ketchup can stay on the door.
· REFRIGERATING RED-HOT LEFTOVERS will warm the food around it, increasing the rate of bacterial growth. Easy Fix? Cool food before refrigerating by transferring large items into smaller containers.
· THE SNIFF TEST is unreliable because food that doesn’t smell can still make you sick. Easy Fix? Pay attention to use-by dates and when in doubt, throw it out.
· UNDERWRAPPING SMELLY STUFF will allow their strong odors to spread to other foods. Easy Fix? Use tight containers and if you can smell it, wrap it until you can’t.
· LOSING TRACK OF LEFTOVERS could leave you eating spoiled foods. Easy Fix? Label and date containers, which should be in the fridge no more than three to four days.
· WAREHOUSE OVERLOAD is only good if you can eat what you bought before it goes bad, otherwise it’s just a waste of money. Easy Fix? Repackage food into meal-size packages to avoid waste and freeze what you cannot use immediately.