Can You Still Eat That Moldy Cheese?
We've all been guilty of it: ignoring the expiration date and taking the "best before" label as mere suggestion. As long as it still looks pretty good, the smell's reasonably decent, and the mold hasn't gotten to it first (but if and only if we can no longer scrape it off), it's good to go.
If you haven't had food poisoning from your daredevil habits, then good for you, but in case you're trying to be a little more cautious, here are a few suggestions on how long you should keep food in the ref—and still be able to eat it:
SOME MAJOR TIPS
1| If it's barely recognizable, throw it out.
When you have to ask if it's meat loaf or a mocha cake, then it's best to just nix it. It could be the previous tenant's science experiment for all you know.
2| Check the consistency.
Unless you freeze it, consistency should generally stay the same. If your milk comes out like jelly, that doesn't mean it magically transformed to yogurt. If cottage cheese somehow ended up in your yogurt tub, then that's probably neither of those two. If your lettuce disintegrates when you touch it, then it's not a good sign.
3| Smell, smell, smell!
If it smells rancid, then don't risk it. Sometimes other things in the refrigerator can affect the fragrance of the a dish, but if it doesn't smell...positive, then you probably can't eat that anymore.
FRIDGE AND PANTRY STAPLES THAT DON'T LAST
Every bachelor probably has a carton of milk in his freezer, mainly because cereal is one of the easiest meals to prepare. It's easy to tell if milk has gone bad from its smell and texture. Yogurt, which naturally has a tangy flavor and creamier consistency, is harder to assess, but you should be good if there's nothing furry or discolored in there. Frozen yogurt lasts longer (even months), but not after you thaw it.
Pro tip: Milk stores in the fridge in the supermarket tend to spoil faster than milk stored in regular shelves. Also, don't buy it by bulk. Calculate how much you consume in a week and purchase just that amount.
Another tip: Hard cheeses tend to last longer than soft cheeses.
Eggs fall into the group whose "best by" date should always be taken seriously. They cause major food poisoning. Fortunately, it's easy to tell if they're bad. One popular way is the float test. A fresh (uncooked) egg floats in water while a bad one sinks to the bottom. Eggs that are discolored when cracked are also tell-tale signs.
Busy bachelors probably don't have shellfish lying around the house unless they just watched a Gordon Ramsay cooking show and suddenly developed chef aspirations. Still, shellfish (from clams to oysters to shrimp) develop bacteria over time and eating them past their prime can be deadly. So if you purchased some oysters on a Masterchef-induced whim, you better eat those right away.
4| Leafy greens
It's not just a matter of wilting. Most of us store vegetables in the package we got them from the supermarket. They're usually wrapped in plastic, which doesnt' allow air to circulate. The result? Gunky gulay. And no, you can't eat those.
5| Cereals, rice, and flour
Cereals, raw rice, and flour usually keep pretty well, but it all depends on how you store them. They can attract little bugs called weevils that increase rapidly and spread to other things in your pantry. Make sure you store your grains in a clean, airtight container (if a container used to store weevil-infested food, wash it thoroughly. Some eggs may have been left in). If something in your pantry's been contaminated, make sure to isolate it from other food items.
Weevils are technically harmless. Some studies even suggest that you can eat them, if you're not too particular about what you're eating. They can, however, trigger dust allergies, so it's still better to be safe.
We all know stale bread is safe to eat. Just watch for white hairy things growing on the surface. Those aren't good. Breads flourished with toppings like cheese or stuffed with deli meats might also require a different level of observation.
RULES ABOUT LEFTOVERS
Your sweet mother has been worried sick about all the canned food you've been eating so she sends over a care package and a meal plan that'll last for the next few months. Know which ones to eat first and save later.
1| Eat the creamy dishes first. Because we already know that dairy isn't a friend that stands by you through time.
2| Soups and stews can last for about two to three days. If you freeze them, they might even last longer. This, unfortunately, changes the quality of the dish. Anything with beef tends to harden into tallow, which makes it totally unappealing.
3| Fried food tends to last longer. You might be on this health kick, but if you're depending on someone else to supply you with food, fried food is a safe bet.
4| Use your manners. Even if you're living alone, you shouldn't be gross. Don't use a licked spoon for your sinigang, then slide it back in the fridge. Don't put unwanted bacteria in there.