Spring clean your food habits

Cara Rosenbloom, RD
May 7, 2012

It’s spring cleaning time – the perfect occasion to commit to healthier eating.

As you clean out your
kitchen, not only do you want to get rid of food that’s mouldy, spoiled or expired; it’s also smart to sort through your pantry staples and weed out the less healthy fare.

Here’s a checklist to help keep your foods fresh and healthy.

In the freezer:

Empty your freezer and clean it with soapy water. Examine the products and decide what stays and what goes.

  • Stock the freezer with convenient pre-cut vegetablesand fruit – they can stay frozen for about eight months. Best buys have no added oil, butter, sugar, salt or sauce.
  • Discard any items with freezer burn.
  • Toss anything that you can’t identify or don’t remember freezing – it’s been there too long!
  • Keep a permanent marker handy to label each freezer bag with the date and contents. Use this guide to know how long to keep it:



Freezer-safe for:



Meat(steak or roast)

8-12 months

Chicken – whole

12 months

Chicken – pieces

6-9 months

Ground meat

3-4 months

Fully cooked:


Meat leftovers

2-3 months

Chicken leftovers

4-6 months

Frozen dinners

3-4 months

Here are some recipes

that freeze well – remember to label them!

In the fridge:

Your dad may look good with a beard, but your beef stir-fry does not. Use your refrigerated leftovers within three or four days; consider freezing unused portions to avoid waste.

Here are some other tips:

  • Fruits and vegetables have variable storage times, but spongy, mouldy produce is easy to spot and discard. The best way to keep your produce fresh is to eat lots of it every day! Keep sliced vegetables and fruit on hand as an easy snack to reach for.
  • Check expiry dates and toss items that are past their prime.
  • Throw out any open jars that you have not used in the past six months. The black marker comes in handy here too – when you open a jar, write the date on the lid and follow these freshness rules:


Refrigerate for up



2 months

Salad dressing or


3 months

Barbecue sauce

4 months


6 months


12 months


12 months

Before you re-stock your fridge:

  • Replace discarded sauces and dressings with lower sodium options.
  • Check Nutrition Facts panels and eliminate any processed foods that contain trans fat.

In the pantry:

Here are some guidelines for your boxed, canned and packaged foods:

  • Low-acid canned food like tuna and most vegetables will keep from two to five years, as long as the cans have been stored in a cool, dry place and are not dented, leaking, bulging, or rusty.
  • Canned tomatoes, pineapple or other high-acid foods can be stored for 12 to 18 months.
  • Canned goods have a long shelf life, but lose up to 20 percent of their nutritional value every year. Buy canned goods only as you need them and rely on fresh food more often.
  • In general, whole grains have a shorter shelf life than refined grains, but will last longer if refrigerated. Opt for brown rice and whole wheat flour, and keep them in the fridge.
  • Swap whole wheat for white pasta. The shelf-life is the same.


Store for up to:

White flour

12 months

Whole wheat flour

1 month (8 months if


Dry pasta or rice

2 years

Brown rice

6-12 months (longer

if refrigerated)

Cereal and crackers

6-12 months


2-4 months

Dried herbs

1-3 years

Dried spices

2-4 years

© – Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2012

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