Sometimes home organization is swiftly re-categorized from cheerful resolution to dire emergency, such as when the toilet overflows all the way down the hall into the basket of important papers waiting to be filed, or when the rod in the closet finally crashes to the floor—on top of the wedding china that’s been waiting to be properly stored (since the wedding).
Today was just such a day.
I’d been meaning to do a New Year’s purge of the refrigerator since returning home last week. We keep the refrigerator tidy, but the holidays led to the appearance of several mystery Tupperware, and I was also certain I’d spotted some early December expiration dates on more than one carton of yogurt and mini-containers of cottage cheese.
But other demands took precedence, and I let it go. I’d been holding off on doing a big shopping, instead pushing enigmatic elements to the back of the refrigerator to make room for smaller purchases to tide us over. Something particular was getting stinky in there, but I decided to play the fool and opted for the far more satisfying tasks of playing choo-choo and peek-a-book with Nick and promptly shut the door.
It was a bad move. Nick woke up early this morning, which meant I was up early, and when I cracked the refrigerator door, I was assaulted with an all-out stench. Something had morphed during the night. Nick started crying, and I came close to tears, too, because I knew that it could only be one thing: forgotten beans.
If you’ve never forgotten beans in your own refrigerator, consider yourself blessed. A small portion of leftover refried beans, a serving of chili con carne, or a few tablespoons of black bean salsa—that’s all it takes to produce a toxic cloud of stank if left undisturbed in the nether-regions of the fridge (and this assessment comes from someone who has been up close and personal with explosive diapers for the past 18 months).
Still bleary (and pre-coffee no less) I located the culprit—a 1-cup size disposable container filled with leftover black beans (I have no recollection of the dish from which they were leftover). The container lived up to its disposable name as I chucked it and all other questionable and unaccountable bits and pieces.
From this day forth, I pledge never to “save” beans; I encourage the same for one and all.
IFurther, I've made this a cooking vacation day—Kevin’s in charge of dinner production tonight; I have to teach spinning at 5:30 anyway. Everything else today is juice, soup and yogurt (the non-expired variety). I think I need the detox as much as the refrigerator did.
Newly resolved to keep the refrigerator extra-organized, I did some research on refrigeration and freezer storage—hope it’s helpful!
How Long to Keep Food?
In the Refrigerator:
Hard cheese (e.g., Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan)—3 to 4 weeks
Cottage cheese—5 to 7 days, or package date
Cream cheese—2 weeks
Pre-grated Parmesan cheese (grated)—1 year
Milk—1 to 2 weeks, or package date
Meat & Tofu (e.g., beef, lamb, pork)
Ground meat—1 to 2 days
Roast—2 to 4 days
Steaks, chops—3 to 5 days
Stew meat—1 to 2 days
Tofu—Package date (if unopened), or 3-5 days if opened
Fruits & Veg
Berries--2 to 3 days
Green Beans--4 to 5 days
Carrots—2 to 3 weeks
Citrus—10 days to 2 weeks
Spinach and Leafy Greens—2 to 4 days
Radishes—2 to 3 weeks
Eggs, Poultry & Fish
Chicken, turkey—1 to 2 days
Egg substitute—1 month
Fish—1 to 2 days
In the Freezer
Eggs & Dairy
Egg substitute—6 months
Eggs, whites—6 months
Eggs, yolks—8 months
Fruits & Veg
Purchased frozen fruits—1 year
Purchased frozen vegetables—8 months
Beef—6 months to 1 year
Chicken, cooked—1 month
Chicken, pieces—3 months
Chicken, whole—3 to 6 months
Lamb—6 to 9 months
Pork—3 to 6 months
Veal—6 to 9 months
Ground meats—3 to 4 months
Leftover cooked meats—3 months