Almost everyone at one time or another has left something to fester in the fridge for way too long. Whether it’s a bottle of barbecue sauce from last year’s 4th of July or leftovers from last weekend’s takeout, these once tasty foods are way past their prime.
Though we all try to avoid wasting food, we also don’t want to get sick from eating something that’s gone bad or watch as rotten items spoil our fresh ingredients. If you find yourself with any of these items hiding in your fridge, you better take them straight to the dumpster.
① Expired Condiments
If you cook with a variety of sauces, you probably have a collection of condiments stashed away in your fridge. Keep an eye on the expiration dates printed on the bottles and toss anything that’s been open for over a year. And don’t forget to check those fast-food condiment packets, too—those little ketchups can pile up quickly.
② Last Week’s Leftovers
We can all agree that Chinese food often tastes better the second time around, and we love when leftovers can be transformed into another dish, but if those take-out containers have been hanging around for more than four days, it’s time to get rid of them. In order to get the most bang for your buck, be sure to store your leftovers in a tightly sealed container.
③ Two-Day-Old Raw Meat
Whether you’ve recently purchased a pound of lean ground beef or you’re safely defrosting last week’s sweet Italian sausage, it’s critical to cook meat within two days of purchase. If you’re planning to save it for later, you can either freeze the meat raw or prepare it before popping it into the freezer.
④ Rotten Produce
It’s fairly easy to see if a piece of fruit has grown mold, but it’s also easy to forget all about that bag of yellowing kale you tossed inside the crisper. Produce that requires refrigeration will likely last only a week, so use it or lose it.
⑤ Open Chicken and Beef Stock Containers
Both store-bought and homemade chicken or beef stock should be used within five to six days of opening. If you need to make your quart stretch longer than a week, freeze it. Unopened boxes of chicken stock should be consumed by the expiration dates on the containers.
⑥ Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs like basil and thyme can lose their pep for a variety of reasons. If they’ve dried out, turned slimy or gone brown, it’s time to replace them. Check out this helpful timeline from Serious Eats charting each herb’s average life span.
⑦ Hardened Citrus
Maybe you overestimated last year’s Cinco de Mayo needs, and now, months later, you’re left with a pile of dried, discolored limes hiding in the back of your fridge. Without those juicy insides, though, they’re pretty much useless, so give them the old heave-ho.