How to Prepare Your Kitchen Before a Vacation

It’s the ultimate irony: Getting ready to leave home for a vacation can be incredibly stressful.

Aside from packing, making preparations for your pets or mail delivery and wrapping up obligations at work, taking time to ready your kitchen before departure and sorting through foods that might go bad during your time away is an important step.

Preparation is Key

Start by asking yourself what’s been in the fridge since yesterday and what has been hiding in the back for two weeks. Evaluate your current food supply and decide what can be saved, and what needs to be thrown out before you leave.

Here are easy ways to properly prepare your kitchen before vacation:

  • Take the time to look at dates: If you’re unsure of a product’s lifespan, reference these USDA general guidelines for food safety. Throwing away food that won’t last the week might save you from foodborne illness if consumed when you return home.
  • Give it a wipe down: Take care of any spills that may be lingering in your fridge. This doesn’t preserve food freshness but can help stop the spread of bacteria. It’s also a great habit to get into, even if you’re just leaving for a weekend.
  • Toss the leftovers: Beware of that Chinese take-out from last week. Did you know rice contains spores of Bacillus cereus that can survive after being cooked and shouldn’t be left in the fridge for more than a day. Other cooked leftovers can last up to four days, but no more than that.
  • Eat em’ up: A few days prior to your vacation is the perfect time to start eating up any leftovers you’re still storing, instead of buying and making more food.
  • Freeze for freshness: If you’re not looking to bring food, find ways to repurpose those day-old dishes into homemade freezer meals. Freezing foods into prepared meals will not only preserve them, but give you a dinner to cook when you come home.
  • Pack a cooler: Traveling in a car for half a day? Make the most of food you might be leaving behind. The baby carrots you were going to pitch may be what helps you pass on gas station potato chips. Taking produce with you can help you and your family make healthy choices on the road.
  • Check the counters: Make sure any and all produce is off the counters, and thrown away. Leaving produce out on the counter can do two things: spoil in the heat, and attract pests. Clean your kitchen thoroughly before you go. Crumbs, hidden spills and open containers will bring in the bugs.
  • Opened non-perishables: Just because non-perishable foods don’t spoil in the same way that fresh food do, don’t neglect their storage. Seal open bags and boxes so they don’t get stale.
  • Last but not least, take out the trash: Now that you have properly prepped your kitchen, remove the trash from your house. There’s nothing worse than coming home to a smelly kitchen after a trip!

And, in summary from our favorite Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan dietitian, Grace Derocha, “When in doubt, throw it out!”

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Photo credit: Paul Flint

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