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Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.
Where’s the Beef? Get yours
“Where’s the beef,” the cranky senior
citizen would whine in the decades old Wendy’s ad.
It’s sure hoped that the answer to
that question, now a popular pop culture catch phrase, doesn’t lie
anywhere near your fresh produce. The beef, and your other meats,
have their very own organizing issues.
Since organizing has to do
with how and where we store things, then organizing meat is indeed a
great kitchen topic. Saving money in the kitchen is important in
nearly every household and meat is near the top of cost at the
store. Buying and handling meat on sale and making good use of it is
more important than ever.
Organizing Meat in the Refrigerator
It is really important to avoid
cross-contamination of bacteria in your refrigerator. A wet
package of chicken may quickly drip into a bowl of salad or onto
Take the time to always store meat
in the lowest level of your refrigerator.
Don’t place the package, which may
have bacteria on the wrappings, directly on the shelf. Place
your meat package on a rimmed baking sheet, a plate or in a
plastic container. This will keep your shelves clean and contain
any dripping juices so that they don’t run into other foods in
Most raw meat can be kept in the
refrigerator for one to two days but if you are not going to
cook it in that time period, you should move it to the freezer.
If you are a busy cook, you might
find dinner preparation easier if you take a bit of time with
the meat before freezing. Pounding chicken breasts, trimming
fat, cutting cubes for stew or even browning batches of ground
beef can make dinner a snap on hectic nights.
Meat in the Freezer
Both cooked and raw meat can be
Make sure that the meat is well
marked with a name and a date.
Should you find you have thawed
too much meat for a given meal, do not place it back in the
freezer. Go ahead and cook the meat, then freeze the extra
cooked meat to be used in a casserole or other dish on another
For best results in freezing meat,
you will need to add additional wrappings to your store-bought
meat. The store plastic wrap is not thick enough to protect the
meat quality for a long period. You can drop your meat into
freezer zippered plastic bags, wrap them in freezer paper or
Wrapping chicken breasts, steaks
or chops individually will allow you to remove only the number
you need for a given dinner. If you do choose to freeze the
whole package, plan on using the whole package as they will have
stuck together upon freezing.
Avoid cross contamination of meat
in your freezer as well. Organize your freezer into areas. Store
the meat in one area so that if there are any bacteria on the
outside of a package, you won’t get it in every area of the
freezer. Wiping packages off with soapy water before storing in
the freezer doesn’t hurt either.
Create an inventory list for your
freezer on a wipe-off board. This will help you know what is at
hand without digging through packages. It will also help
eliminate waste because you’ll use meat before it gets
Make it a habit to add new
purchases to the back of the shelf, pulling older meat packages
forward so you can use them first.
Add wire baskets or plastic
baskets to your chest or upright freezer. You can use these to
sort your meat from other packages. You can also sort chicken,
beef and pork into baskets, making it easier to find.
Because freezer shelves are almost
always wire grids, you can add labels by tying them to the racks
or to the baskets. Plastic luggage tags can be wiped off and are
good for this purpose.
When you have thawed meat for
cooking, it should not feel slimy nor should it have an
offensive odor. If it does, discard it.
Things to Know
Cross contamination can occur
after cooking. Make sure to throw away the meat wrapper and
clean countertops with soapy water or disinfectant before
setting dishes or other foods on the counter. Always grab a
clean plate or dish for the cooked meat.
Use two cutting boards,
designating one for meat and the other for produce.
While you’re stocking up on
organizing products for this project, toss a
refrigerator/freezer thermometer in your cart. Freezers should
be at 0 degrees F or below and fridges at 34-40 degrees F,
according to Clemson Extension Service.
Save money on meat by buying
family-size packages or meat on sale and dividing them into
smaller portions. You can take a sharp knife or kitchen sheers
and cut through the large Styrofoam tray, meat and plastic, thus
dividing the large package into sections. Drop each in a freezer
bag. Label and freeze.