How Do You Know If It’s Still Good?

Most produce at the grocery store has traveled a long way to land in the bins. That's why they are usually sprayed with gas to enhance the color, waxed to look shiny, and treated to last awhile on store shelves. So natural isn't always completely natural. Please don't think I'm trying to deter you from the produce section.  I use a lot of these fresh ingredients. I just want you to be aware that canned and frozen are more than suitable for healthy consumption.

For the freshest fruits and vegetables ygrow your own or opt for a farmer’s market if you are lucky enough to have one nearby.  If I’m not planning to use the produce right away I usually freeze it. I like to chop and blanche the vegetables. I peel and chop fruits before freezing them except for bananas which I freeze whole in the peeling. Berries are delicate so I freeze them without rinsing.  Washington's Green Grocer is a great source of information for storing fresh I use all the time that covers, as far as I can tell, every fruit and vegetable there is.

Did you know that sometimes canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than fresh? That’s because the longer fruits and vegetables sit in the grocery store, the more nutrients they are losing. But fruits and vegetables grown for freezing or canning are usually processed by the manufacturers right after they’re picked. Therefore, they retain more nutrients. 

Pay Attention to expiration dates

Expired

Fruits and vegetables are seasonal which makes canned or frozen fruits and vegetables even more convenient since you can stock up on the ingredients you use the most especially when you catch a sale.  I use a lot of pumpkin throughout the year for meals and treats. Sadly pumpkin is a fall vegetable so it isn't readily available year round which is why I stock pile cans of pumpkin puree in the fall. The trick is understanding the expiration dates which usually aren't safety dates at all. The following excerpts from Still Tasty  explain  the guidelines to help us understand:

Use By, Best if Used By, Best By, and Best Before dates are generally found on shelf-stable products like peanut butter and honey. These dates are voluntarily provided by the manufacturer to let you know how long the product is likely to remain at its absolute best quality when unopened. After that date has passed, you may start to notice gradual changes in the product’s texture, color, or flavor but as long as you’ve been storing the item properly you can generally consume it beyond this date. Your best bet for gauging whether a product with this type of date is still of satisfactory quality is to smell and taste it first. Always discard foods that have developed an off odor, flavor or appearance. A good place to check for optimal food storage times is the Keep It or Toss It database.

Most Sell By dates are found on perishable items like meat, seafood, poultry and milk. This date is a guide for stores to know how long they can display a particular product. Some claim you can still store it at home for some time beyond that date as long as you follow safe storage procedures

Expires On dates are usually only on infant formula and some baby foods which are the only food products the federal government regulates with regard to dating. You should always use the product before this expiration date has passed.

A good tip I follow is to copy the grocery stores when storing items in your pantry or freezer by always moving the older items forward and storing the newer items behind. I'm unbelievable picky about sandwich bread so I always reach for the loaf in the back near the bottom with the farthest use by date.

Do you take advantage of canned or frozen ingredients? If so, which ones do you stockpile because you just can't live without them?