How to Maximize the Shelf Life of Food
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On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss the safest ways to extend your food’s shelf life.
“I want to remind people that fruits and vegetables are porous, kind of like our skin. It’s important to make sure that we clean our skin the way we would clean fruits and vegetables. So yes, a little soap and water, even dish soap; you can make a big soapy bath and then throw everything in and kind of rub it down and then let it dry. That’s the key to avoid that extra potential mold or spoiling faster.” – Grace Derocha
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
- Dry storage vs. freezer storage
- The difference between vegetable and fruit drawers
- Ways to properly clean produce
- How to safely handle meats and cheeses
- Learning the shelf life of different foods
- The importance of keeping an inventory
Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 53. Coming up, we discuss ways we can properly store our food to maximize its shelf life.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is a podcast that’s dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start right now. I’m your host Chuck Gaidica and every other week we’ll sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and dive into topics covering nutrition and fitness and a whole lot more.
Chuck Gaidica: And on this episode, we’re talking about how we can properly store our food to maximize its shelf life. And we’re joined today by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Grace Derocha. She’s a certified diabetes educator, a registered dietitian, a certified health coach, and she’s also a mom. And so as we’re coming out of this hunker down thing, where we’re all worried about how much toilet paper we have and do we have enough legumes; it’s like, what more do we need to worry about Grace? This idea of storing food I think, is going to be, I wouldn’t call it a habit, but maybe a habit or something that we’re just getting used to that we’ll continue to think about as the months go by, right?
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. I think storing food properly is good information to have for the long haul and especially during this time.
Chuck Gaidica: So, we’ve seen all kinds of online articles and other things and videos about how to store food. We’ve seen people selling, have you seen this stuff; in case of the nuclear attack we can get 55 gallon drums of some kind of freeze dried, something to keep in our basement? We’re not talking about those kind of extremes, but we are talking about how to store the stuff that we have been buying and maybe because we don’t want so many trips to the grocery store, stuff that we buy in bulk, and then what do we do with it right?
Grace Derocha: Exactly. And yeah, we want to make the best use of it, enjoy it while it’s delicious and fresh and avoid wasting money or our time by having it spoil or go bad on us.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So, where do we start with this? Is there a basic rule list that we should all be following when it comes to certain things that we’re bringing home?
Grace Derocha: Yes. So, in general there are ways to store certain foods that are going to allow you to keep it fresh, keep it healthy, and also have you not waste money. So, we want to reduce the cost and the trips to the grocery store and then we want to help you in this process kind of meal plan as you go along. And honestly not overbuying and storing things properly are good for the environment and good for you.
Chuck Gaidica: So, we’re going to come into a place where we’re not over buying? Isn’t that one of the issues that we go to the store and then it’s like, hey, where’s all the bread? What happened? Why are we hoarding bread? But we should be considering stuff that we’ll keep. So for my brain, can we break this up into food storage 101; would we start where? In a pantry or cupboard? Dry storage? What should we be thinking about?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, so if we’re talking about dry storage or things that usually you think of that you would buy more regularly, when we’re talking about fruits or vegetables, so here’s a few things; garlic, onions and shallots can last up to two weeks on the counter or in a dry, you put them in a bowl, you can leave them out. If they start sprouting, you know you’re in trouble. It’s starting to grow.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, you’ll smell something too, won’t you? Eventually, yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yes. You know you’ve seen that before.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Here’s another thing though, a side tip; and I call this the freezer’s your friend. For any of these things, you can chop them up and have them ready to go and use them for cooking later if you put them in your freezer. So just something to think about if it’s starting to get to the end of its rope; if that garlic is looking a little funky or the onions are starting to, they’re questionable, so you don’t know what to do. Chop them up, chop them up all at once. So, I always say cry once with the onions and then cook many times.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, now you talked about sprouts because you can see that on a potato you can see it on an onion. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen garlic sprout, does it?
Grace Derocha: It can.
Chuck Gaidica: But if a sprout happens on an… I’ve still used an onion and I just cut that off. It wasn’t like it was moldy or soggy or there was an issue. I guess I caught it at the right time. That’s okay.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, with onions, it gets mushy and there’s situations happening on the counter that you don’t want.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, then tomatoes you talked about. I just mentioned potatoes squash, that kind of stuff. We should be storing them where?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So, those actually are supposed to sit out, keep those out of the fridge. I will say this, if you have tomatoes especially from the garden, you can definitely leave those out. But if you want your tomato to last a little longer, this isn’t the rule of thumb per se, but because of food science, the cold refrigerator will help it prolong so it doesn’t go bad faster. But rule of thumb is to keep it out on the counter.
Chuck Gaidica: To the point where you’re going to use it. In other words, don’t even refrigerate at all until maybe you cut it.
Grace Derocha: Exactly.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Bananas, citrus, melons, those are actually best left out as well. Once you do cut one of those things, then it’s important to put in the refrigerator. So, let’s say you had a big cantaloupe and you cut half of it to enjoy for breakfast, the other half then you would put into the refrigerator. Nuts and seeds, air tight containers, dry goods… So, dry goods like your pastas, your rices, those things and I think we’ll talk about some pantry staples a little bit here. Those can last for up to six months. Obviously those expiration dates are on there, so keep an eye out for those.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, you know what’s interesting, I probably went through half of my adult life until we switched to keeping butter out or even in the pantry in a small container instead of having it inside the fridge. I think families go through these things where some families keep butter refrigerated, some don’t. And I grew up in a family where we always had butter in the fridge and my wife said to me at one point, we’d been married a long time. She said, “Why are we doing this? What…” I said, “Well, that’s the way I grew up.” And you don’t really need to do you?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So yes, this is what I tell people when we’re talking about butter. If you use your butter regularly, and I’m talking about true butter not margarine, margarine would go into the refrigerator, you could keep it in your butter container, we have one on the counter, if you’re using your butter regularly. If you don’t use butter that much though, you should keep in the refrigerator. It is coming from a cow; milk, cream. So if it’s sat out for too long and it isn’t being used regularly, it should definitely be stored in the refrigerator.
Chuck Gaidica: And I do want to say this, not just because you’re my friend but because you’re a dietitian, I feel like you’re looking over my shoulder from a distance. We do have the spray stuff, like when I get corn, I’m not lathering it up with butter. I just wanted to say that for street cred while I’m on with a dietitian, just so you-
Grace Derocha: Yes, definitely some good street cred there. One thing I did want to mention about different fruits and vegetables. So there are some that give off an ethylene gas and should not be placed near each other or else they will all ripen faster. So, like for example, those onions that we were talking about earlier and bananas-
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Grace Derocha: … they should not be in the same bowl, the onions in the bowl with the little hang-up thing for the bananas, don’t put those together, because then both of those things will ripen faster. There’s a few, there’s avocados, bananas do that, so do onions. Some of the stone fruits like plums and peaches, tomatoes. So, they give off ethylene gas. So, some of those things you need to keep away from each other. A big one I always say, onions and bananas should be on opposite sides of the counter or else your bananas will brown spot real fast.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, isn’t there a trick though that if you combine something, like oftentimes we go to the store and we can’t find anything but solid green bananas right?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: But can’t you expedite that a little bit by exposing them to some of these other things too?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. If you want your bananas to ripen or your avocado to ripen, they can be friends. They can hang out and then they’ll be good to go. Another thing we can-
Chuck Gaidica: You’ve had the kids, you’ve been locked in with the kids too long. You’re explaining everything in veggie tale language to me.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Or like even, this is actually a very simple trick that people don’t know with bananas. Can you tell that I’ve made banana bread, banana pancakes, frozen some bananas for smoothies at this point? But if you put a little plastic wrap over your stem of bananas, this actually helps them not release that gas and then they could hang out with their friends but covering their heads.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, that’s interesting because every once in a while, I don’t know the source, but we will get bananas that have a little bit of that wrap. And I always thought, oh that’s just because it’s coming out of a box that had plastic and they never took it off. You’re telling me that’s purposeful?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh okay. Never knew that.
Grace Derocha: Because even bananas with bananas at the grocery store. Costco definitely has that. They have a little wrap on top of the stems because that’s where that gas kind of seeps out from. So wait, okay, I need to know this now. Do you like your banana slightly green or do you like your banana with brown spots?
Chuck Gaidica: No, I don’t like it with brown spots and I’m a big banana lover almost every day with either oatmeal or Kashi or something. But I’m right in the zone. It’s got to be just past the green and just be flavorful enough. And then, there’s that happy place that, oh my gosh, where it’s not too soft, it doesn’t have spots but it’s not green. So yeah, I’m right there.
Grace Derocha: I am more just past green is where I want to be. If there’s any brown spot, I’m done. And luckily that’s how Tom… Tom likes his a little bit sweeter with the brown spots.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. But they are good to freeze and you’re right, you can use them whether you have kids or not. They are good for, and we’ve already done it, banana muffins, I think we’ve done, you know what I mean? If you’re hunkered down, there’s only so much stuff you can do. We have done banana bread, banana muffins-
Grace Derocha: Smoothies.
Chuck Gaidica: … and Susan’s got the big baggy going in the freezer, because it seems like such a waste.
Grace Derocha: And does she peel them first?
Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yes. Good. I have seen people not peel them and then they say to me, “This frozen banana trick of yours is terrible.” And I was like, “Oh, I forgot.” They’re like, “I feel like I got frostbite because I was trying to peel it after.”
Chuck Gaidica: Oh no.
Grace Derocha: I was like, “I’m so sorry. I forgot to remind you. You have to peel it before you put in the freezer.”
Chuck Gaidica: All right. Good idea, because that is good stuff. You don’t need sometimes even more than half of a full size banana to create some wonderful goodness in the blender.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So, let’s go into the fridge now and go through a list of things to think about because I think I’m going to be shocked or maybe surprised at some of the ways you’re going to suggest we should keep things. So, what about mushrooms because I love mushrooms?
Grace Derocha: I do too. And my husband’s allergic, so-
Chuck Gaidica: Oh no.
Grace Derocha: … it makes me really sad. So mushrooms, the packaging that it comes in, you want to leave it in that packaging.
Chuck Gaidica: Even if it’s a plastic container with wrap on it? Because, some of those are in that recyclable plastic deal.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay.
Grace Derocha: So after you can recycle that. Wild mushrooms, oh I want to, oh I love Morel mushroom hunting. It’s coming into that season. But wild mushrooms you want to put in a paper bag in the crisper? So that’s kind of the key.
Chuck Gaidica: And you can keep them dry that way. And Morels, I don’t know, the season may be a little delayed because the weather stayed cool in Michigan. Usually it’s Mother’s Day-
Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (Affirmative), right around it.
Chuck Gaidica: … kind of weekend is the peak. But it’ll be interesting to see what that means. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: It’s funny, some of my friends up North, well, and your brother’s up there, they have found a couple sprouting already.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, that’s interesting. He used to get them all across his front yard. He’s up near Cadillac, and then it stopped. So I don’t know if it was an underground, they say it’s related to decomposing root systems or something, but it just stopped. When he first bought this place on five acres, he walked out one morning and the whole yard was populated with Morels. Can you imagine if you like mushrooms? That’d be, oh my God.
Grace Derocha: No, that would make me so happy.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Okay. There are separate drawers in your refrigerator for a reason. There is a fruit drawer and there’s a veggie drawer. Because the way that they’re made, fruit naturally has fructose in it, so just because of the difference in the food science of fruits versus vegetables, they belong in their separate drawers, don’t mix. This is key, and I don’t think people realize this, we’re living in a different day and age so it’s a little bit different, but usually I would tell people not to wash until they’re ready to eat. Right now, I want people to wash everything before they put it in, but just because that extra water can tend to mold and spoil things more quickly.
Chuck Gaidica: And talk about this washing because this may be another one of those habits that sticks with us as we’re moving into the summer and even beyond, when it comes to bananas, you’re bringing them home, they’ve been out exposed, right? They’re just sitting there on boxes and people are walking past them. What is the best thing that we should be doing? Is it just a little bit of soap and water that you run over your veggies and your peppers and stuff that’s just hanging out without a bag?
Grace Derocha: So you have a couple options and I want to remind people that fruits and vegetables are porous, kind of like our skin. So it’s important to make sure that we clean our skin the way we would clean fruits and vegetables. So yes, a little soap and water, even dish soap; you can make a big soapy bath and then throw everything in and kind of rub it down and then let it dry or dry it fully. That’s the key to avoid that extra potential mold or spoiling faster. Another thing that people can do is they could take rubbing alcohol, spray a paper towel and disinfect the outside of their fruits or vegetables that way too and let it air dry. So those are the two best options for fruits and vegetables right now.
Chuck Gaidica: And rubbing alcohol won’t hurt any of those fruits? Because we have a little sprayer where we’ve got the concoction of, six tablespoons of alcohol and a little dash of some kind of soap and then mostly water and we’re using that to disinfect all kinds of stuff. But I could spray that on my bananas?
Grace Derocha: Spray it on a paper towel and then wipe the banana.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Okay.
Grace Derocha: Not directly on but yeah, because that kills a lot. And you want it to be 90% or above of the Isopropyl alcohol that you’re using to mix with your stuff.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Okay, good idea. What about cheese? Come on-
Grace Derocha: Oh, I love cheese.
Chuck Gaidica: … I know that’s got its own drawer with the turkey. Don’t put that with any apples or anything. I get it.
Grace Derocha: Yes, exactly. So, the cheese and the lunch meat drawer that has its own space. You want to wrap that in a porous material; cheese paper, that’s why there’s cheese paper, because that is the best thing to kind of keep it safe, keep it breathing and allow you to store it for a good amount of time.
Chuck Gaidica: But if it came in a bag, if it’s a zip-lock bag of shredded cheddar or even slices to use with burgers or something, you’re not talking about taking it out of there. Just leave it in the bag with the paper in between each slice or whatever, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes, exactly. Yeah. I should have clarified. More like your blocks of cheese.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah. Okay.
Grace Derocha: Meat; so if you’re defrosting something or using, so we’re talking about raw meat here, you want to store that in the coldest section of your refrigerator and that is on the bottom shelf. And there’s a couple of reasons for that. One, it’s the bottom shelf because that happens to be the coldest, heat rises and usually your lights are up top. But also because if you’re putting raw meat into your refrigerator, you don’t want it to have the potential to drip down. So if you put it on top and it was defrosting or some of the juices kind of seeped out, it could then drip into your food. So for food safety reasons, bottom shelf; it’s the coldest and the safest. And what you’d want to do if you had your meat and you bought it from the store is you would want to rewrap and foil so it’s sealed. A lot of people do a bag, which is okay, you just want to make sure that bag is clean and then you want to make sure you cook or eat that within four days tops.
Chuck Gaidica: And a lot of the big box stores are, they have bags there now that roll out just like they have in the veggie and fruit section, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: So that you can grab… Let me just say this, you go to Costco, I don’t really need a whole side of pork, but that’s the way the package is. But they now have these jumbo bags. You can slide in whatever you’re buying and that way the juices at least are not dripping inside your fridge and causing a new contamination issue.
Grace Derocha: Exactly. Yeah. Same with fish; bottom drawer. So, when you’re going to use your fish, it’s important to dry it before storing it because again, those juices. Then you wrap that in wax paper. And again in a bag or some people foil it after that and then keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. And that has a little bit short of a shelf life. Usually I say up to two days before you’re going to cook that.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I don’t know what your habit is, but if we get fresh fish, it’s kind of a day of thing. And I think that was just another one of those habits we developed over time but-
Grace Derocha: Yes, smart.
Chuck Gaidica: … it seems to work right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: It just seems to be a good idea.
Grace Derocha: No one wants their whole refrigerator smelling fishy.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Okay, so let’s move up or down. I guess it depends on the kind of fridge you have to a freezer or to the side. What about meat? We’re coming home and we are buying these sides of pork and beef and whatever because we’re trying to save a few bucks. This is the time, and we’ve got kids and families and so how do you really look at this? Is it all common sense or are there some tricks?
Grace Derocha: So yeah, it is common sense. If you know you’re not going to use it from the store, put it in right away. Don’t delay. This actually happens to me sometimes. Tom would say, “Can you just make a decision on your meal plan?” Because I waver and then I’m like, “Well, let’s put it in the fridge because I might cook it.” And he’s like, “Are you going to really cook it?” This is, happens every time. And I’m like, “Yeah, I think so.” And he’s like, “No, I’m putting in the freezer.” And he’s right. He’s right every time. I wasn’t going to cook it later, I was going to… We have other things that we need to eat and cook. So meats; beef, lamb, about six months in the freezer, pork and poultry, about four months in the freezer. So dating, dating, dating, dating your stuff is so important.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Here’s the thing; it can be confusing. A lot of times on a meat package it says, use by blah-blah-blah. Well, that usually means use by, if you’re cooking it in the refrigerator to have and enjoy. If you’re putting in the freezer, it kind of changes things up a little bit. So, there’s a few different ways you can do this. Put the date that you put it in, put the date that you need to use it by either one of those or give yourself the range. I like to do the range and you can literally write on a sharpie on the label on there so you can see it.
Chuck Gaidica: And the range, you would begin at what date then?
Grace Derocha: I would begin at the day that I brought it home-
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, I got you. Okay, yeah.
Grace Derocha: … and I would give myself the four months for chicken. So, things to think about. I would say this too, in a refrigerator or freezer, if you can find a way to store things so it’s first in, first out, do you know what I mean?
Chuck Gaidica: Mm-hmm (Affirmative).
Grace Derocha: So, like when you buy something new, it doesn’t go on top of the old chicken, you put the new chicken underneath that one.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, that’s a great idea. And of course, depending on the kind of freezer you have, some of us, even for Susan and I, it’s just two of us, you’re still challenged as to how to fit in the frozen cauliflower crust pizza with the chicken bags and the… So, you are trying to be very methodical about making this puzzle work in your freezer.
Grace Derocha: Yes it is. It’s like Tetris.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. But you have to write on there because we’ve opened the freezer, I have, I’ll say, and you kind of know when the chicken has the crystal ice all over, you know you’re kind of done.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: But if you didn’t put a mark on there, honest to goodness, I don’t know if it’s a month old, five months old, two years old. I have no idea.
Grace Derocha: I know. I have the food safety king in this house, so he has like, we have these day dot stickers that he likes to use for dating things. That goes for our refrigerator too, leftovers. He loves that.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, that’s a good idea. And you said fish is up to how long we can keep that frozen?
Grace Derocha: Six months. So, that’s like the meats.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Okay. Same thing.
Grace Derocha: Bread can last three to six months in the freezer.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Baked some homemade bread, turned out okay. Pretty good. So yeah, you have that option too for your bread. And then I kind of mentioned this earlier, but stocking, I use ice cube trays and the freezer is my friend. Like I said, cry once with the onions and then save some if I know I have a lot. But usually things like that can last up to two months. I know we talked about this with Kristen before, even using your herbs or spices and freezing them with some stock or broth. And doing that can last you a little bit of time and then you’re kind of ready to cook it right away if you’re going to use that for something.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, let’s talk about spices and herbs herb, because I want to know, the day of us getting the spice rack for Christmas, I’ll bet it still happens. But there are times where I have no clue how long I’ve had rosemary and thyme. I just have no idea. So what is the typical length of time for those kinds of things?
Grace Derocha: So there’s an expiration date on your spice jar.
Chuck Gaidica: Stop it.
Grace Derocha: There is.
Chuck Gaidica: Come on.
Grace Derocha: I’m not kidding.
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve never even thought about it. I just look, I kind of smell it and go, oh, it smells okay.
Grace Derocha: So check that out. Here’s one of the things is, technically they’re dried herbs that even past the expiration date, you could probably use for a little while. But if, obviously we use the herbs and spices for flavor, you’re going to need a little bit more to get you there if it’s been sitting there for a while. It’s funny because Tom and I just cleaned up some things and we were looking at, from our wedding, we got this little spice rack thingy. And some of them are empty, we never refill them.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, right.
Grace Derocha: And others, we will have been married for 10 years soon. We’re like, ooh, this is really questionable.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, right.
Grace Derocha: And he just, he threw out the whole thing, Chuck. He was like, bye and that happened.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, got to go. So in the pantry, if we’re still looking at some other things like that, that may be on associated shelves are the same shelves as spices, oils. So depending on what you’ve got, you could have a spray can. We’ve talked about the health of using that instead of lathering up, pouring tablespoon after tablespoon. But what’s the typical shelf life for oil?
Grace Derocha: There’s also expiration dates on that, so keep an eye out. But if any of your oils, like olive oil, is looking cloudy… And where you should store that, you should store that in a dark, cool, dry place. But if it looks cloudy at all, bye-bye. When in doubt, throw it out.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And I think, the interesting thing for me, I learned this lesson the hard way. Not that they’re expensive. The boxes of broth now and we buy a lot of those around Thanksgiving and special events. I didn’t know right away, just call me a dumb guy, I didn’t know that when you turn the cap that that automatically breaks the seal. So, I turn the cap and I look and I’m thinking, uh-oh this wasn’t sealed. And I pour a little out and I think what I saw was the very little bit of fat that was floating at the top. And I thought, oh it’s got special presents in there. So now I know it’s bad. And Susan said, “Moron, come here.” That, when you turn it, it’s kind of like almond milk or anything else, it breaks the seal. I say, “Oh I had no idea.”
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. It’s funny because we have interns that come and work with us sometimes and they cook with us and they… I saw someone open one and then didn’t use all of it and then just put it back in the pantry and I was like, “Ooh!” So we had a little cooking lesson there.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, right. So your point is once you’ve opened it and you only use half the box of stuff, put it back in the fridge, right?
Grace Derocha: Put that stock or that broth back into the refrigerator.
Chuck Gaidica: Can I tell you a funny story though, and this just happened oh, it’s not even two weeks ago? So there are times where I buy almond milk in the box that has shelf life, not the stuff that you immediately have to refrigerate. Very similar process right?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: The boxes are almost identical, if not identical in size. The almond milk box I bought was blue and yellow and the broth that we have in the fridge right now that we made some homemade soup crock-pot is blue and yellow. I wake up first thing in the morning, I’m not delirious, but the back of the box is in the fridge on the shelf. I just grab it, I open it, I pour it in my coffee, I turn, I walk, I come back. I had chicken broth in my coffee. And being the cheapskate I am, I’m trying to save my cup of coffee, I thought I’ll just drink it. And I thought, no, there’s no way.
Grace Derocha: No. No.
Chuck Gaidica: No. So Susan thought there was something wrong and I should be tested, but I’m fine. It was just, they looked alike.
Grace Derocha: You needed your coffee. You were just-
Chuck Gaidica: I did. Yeah. All right, so then let’s talk about other stuff. Canned goods, obviously they have dates as well, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So I would say, there’s some really important pantry staples that you can have on hand.
Chuck Gaidica: Spam?
Grace Derocha: Well, I lived in Hawaii. So-
Chuck Gaidica: Was that big in Hawaii? What do you mean?
Grace Derocha: Spam is a thing in Hawaii and I’m Filipino so I have had spam in my day. It’s not my favorite.
Chuck Gaidica: My dad loved spam. My dad loved crispy edges, spam with eggs. He was like a spam crazy person.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, that’s a Filipino breakfast. Spam eggs and garlic rice.
Chuck Gaidica: I did not know that.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And in Hawaii too.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: So, you learn something new. But yeah, definitely having different grains, pasta, rice, quinoa, beans, legumes, whether that’d be canned or dried, nuts, seeds, nut butters, fruits and veggies, canned lean proteins. So, you can get sardines too, you can get tuna, salmon, chicken even, stocks and broths, like we talked about, oils, spices and herbs. All of those things are great things to have on hand because there are definitely ways that you can make a quick meal out of them. Oats. Oats are one of my favorite too. I tell people this, you could have your own chopped challenge by looking around and looking at what food inventory you have. And there are a few different fun apps for this. You type in the ingredients that you have and it will spit a recipe out at you.
Chuck Gaidica: Now that sounds like fun because we’ve done this where it’s kind of like a game show. You open the pantry and you say what’s left in the fridge. And typically that becomes kind of an instant pot or a crock-pot kind of a deal. Because you’ve got a bag of beans and you’ve got a can of tomato this and you’ve got a little meat left from something. So it’s what grandma used to do as well. The app will actually direct you. So, you just type in bag of black beans or something and it says, here’s the other stuff you have; do this.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So there’s a few of them that keep inventory for you too. So you could track your food inventory if you were that detailed, but if not, you can just type in a few of the ingredients that you have. And sometimes it wouldn’t use all of them but a few of those are, one is called Fridge to Table, another one is called a Yummly.
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve heard of that one. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: NoWaste and Pantry Check. Those both have a pretty nice inventory system too if you were inclined to do that. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but… And Epicurious. So, they all have these fun options where you can just go in, type it in and then get a recipe out of that. Kind of fun.
Chuck Gaidica: So, have you used some of these? Can you literally for keeping track of food, do you know? Can you just use the scanner off of your phone to scan a barcode or you literally have to find everything? Because that seems like taking inventory at Walmart or something.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. No, you can use a scanner if you’re using it on your phone as an app. I know Pantry Check I’ve used before for some inventory and then I’m bad because then I stop. But it’s pretty easy and user friendly.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, I think these are so many good ideas. A lot of this stuff we kind of think about, but I’m going to guarantee there are a lot of pantries now and a lot of freezers, don’t ask me why, but when we were going into the virus situation, we came home with two boxes of coconut shrimp. Don’t ask me, I don’t know why we thought like that’ll be a good thing to keep in case we’re hunkered down. It actually was a good thing to have while we’re hunkered down because you only need two or three, as a little appetizer with fish or something. But you’re going to have all these things, especially in a pantry and a lot of that may be canned or dry goods that you used what you thought for the chili, but yet there’s extra and now what? So, I think this is some really good advice of how we can now go through that stuff before we’re 10 years down past the wedding and we have to figure out that the beans are bad, right?
Grace Derocha: Exactly. Yeah. And I would tell people a few things to think about. Try to somewhat keep an inventory, try to do first in, first out, try to date some of the things so you know how long they’ve been in there. We’ve all been guilty of that. And then also just be smart about it. When in doubt throw something out. But you can figure out ways that you could save things.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, I am going to admit something to you because I know you won’t spank me too much to know that I also have Nutella in the pantry and it was running low and we had, our daughter from New York city was staying with us. She came in, thank God, got out and she’s doing well. But Nutella became one of those comfort foods that every once in a while somebody was having a little bite just because of the world we’re living in. So, I decided I would surprise the girls on my trip to the store and I buy one and I didn’t know Susan ordered one online. So, now we have first in, first out Nutella. I looked at the dates, honest to goodness and I, so we have more Nutella than any family should possibly consider having.
Grace Derocha: I love it. That is amazing.
Chuck Gaidica: But what a country. Yeah, if you’re going to have too much of something, I guess that’s okay, right?
Grace Derocha: You know what? I will tell you though, Chuck, I have an awesome homemade hazelnut, dark chocolate spread that you should try making. It’s so good.
Chuck Gaidica: Of course you do. So then how do you keep it? Is that still something you can keep in the pantry then?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. I tell people to keep in the refrigerator just because you made it, just throw it in a Mason jar. Usually it doesn’t last very long because if my kids see me make it they, when I roast the hazelnuts, they can smell it and then they know. They’re like, “Are you making your homemade Nutella?” And I’m like, “I am.” And then usually I find them later with a jar and a spoon, each of them.
Chuck Gaidica: All right. Well, before we wrap up then leave us with this. So you already teased me because I may do this. So, I want to get hazelnuts and then roast them. You mean literally just put them on a pan in the oven?
Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (Affirmative). It smells so fragrant and it just adds, kind of adds that depth of flavor. Dark chocolates, some cocoa powder, honey or maple syrup, all in the blender.
Chuck Gaidica: And the oil from the hazelnuts is enough that when you’re putting it in the processor, it all works out? You’re not adding anything but the dark chocolate and the hazelnuts basically?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, meltable like you warm your dark chocolate. Oh I put a little coconut oil I think in there too, just to help. But it’s so good. After you make it, you won’t want the pre-made one anymore.
Chuck Gaidica: This is a great idea. This gives… Because, what else am I going to do really? Wait till I tell everybody now. Now I have a whole new mission in life. Well, it’s good to talk to you and thanks for all these great tips about how to store food because I think we’re going to realize we have a lot more than we thought we did.
Grace Derocha: Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Grace Derocha who was with us today; registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and a health coach and also a mom of two so we know that she’s had her hands full. And then she’s got a husband, holy cow. Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Chuck Gaidica: If you like the show, you want to know more, check out, go online, ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can catch all previous episodes. You need something to listen to; you can get through mindfulness, you can get through jogging. We’ve got all kinds of great episodes that could help right now in your life. You can also leave us a review or rating on Apple Podcast or Stitcher and again, get all these episodes that you want on your smartphone or tablet. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast app.
Chuck Gaidica: I’m Chuck Gaidica, stay healthy, stay well.