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10 Common Food Storage Mistakes You May Be Making

10 Common Food Storage Mistakes You May Be Making

Millions of pounds of food go to waste every year, and in an era of produce shortages and rising food costs, this is something we should all strive to avoid as much as possible. In addition to not buying more food than you’re certain to use within a week, you can try to store certain items for later use, either by freezing them or packaging them safely. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes when it comes to food storage, and those errors can lead to some rather nasty health issues, in addition to wasted groceries. Here are a few of the more common mistakes that people make when it comes to putting food away:

Storing Onions with Potatoes

Some people may think that the taboo about storing onions with potatoes is an old wives’ tale, but it has actually been proven that keeping these two veggies in close proximity will result in a whole lot of mankiness. Store your potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place, and keep your onions far away, also in a cool, dry place, but one that gets plenty of air circulation. I always refrigerate mine, but that’s your call.

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Keeping Leafy Greens in Plastic Bags

If you’ve ever bought lettuce and left it in its plastic bag, you’ve probably noticed that it got all wet and slimy. This is because plastic doesn’t allow air to circulate around the leaves, which accelerates the growth of mold and bacteria, so it rots more quickly. Either store your lettuce in perforated plastic bags, or wash it, dry it out as much as possible in a salad spinner, then layer it with sheets of paper towel and keep it in a large bowl in the fridge.

Refrigerating Berries Without Rinsing in Vinegar First

As scrumptious as they are, berries tend to be little cesspits of bacteria and mold, and it’s not uncommon for a package of raspberries or blueberries to get fuzzy and gross overnight. When you buy a box of berries, rinse them thoroughly in a 3:1 water:vinegar solution, dry them off well, and then refrigerate them in a perforated container.

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Not Labeling Frozen Foods

Have you ever tried to analyze some random frozen food item in an attempt to sort out what the hell it is? This is what happens when you don’t label things before you freeze them: you will not remember what they are a few months down the road, and you’ll play a risky guessing game in an attempt to sort them out. Whenever you freeze something, label it with the contents and the date that you froze it. As you add more items to the freezer, pull older items forward so you’ll use them up first.

Not Labeling Home-Canned Items

The rules for frozen foods also apply to home-canned goods: label everything with the contents and the date canned. Sure, most canned goods remain in edible condition for quite a while, but it really is best to use them within a year.

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Not Rotating Canned Goods

You may have heard canned goods referred to as “non-perishable food items“, but that just means that they won’t rot without refrigeration. They won’t remain fresh and edible forever. If the canned goods you’ve bought don’t have expiration dates that are easily visible, grab a Sharpie marker and write the date of purchase on the can’s lid. As you purchase more canned goods, pull the older ones forward so they’ll be eaten first.

Keeping Dry Goods in Original Packaging

Mice, meal worms, and mustiness: these three Ms are the main causes of in-edibility when it comes to dry goods, and all can be avoided by repackaging those foods in airtight glass containers. Skip the Rubbermaid containers, because mice can chew right through them. Your best bet is to store dry cereals, grains, pasta, and flours in glass Mason jars, or any other glass jar that you’ve cleaned thoroughly after using the contents. Pasta sauce and pickle jars are ideal, though jam jars are also great for smaller quantities.

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Storing Dry Goods in Damp Spaces

You can add mold as a fourth M to the list above if you plan to store dry goods in spaces that are exposed to a fair bit of moisture. Never keep dry pasta or cereal in the cupboards above (or near) the stove, as any moisture that evaporates from kettles or pots will be absorbed into the food.

Keeping Dented Cans

When a can is dented, there’s a greater chance that tiny cracks have formed along the dent, which can lead to spoilage (mmm botulism!) inside it. It’s better to ditch them than risk hospitalization.

Leaving Hot Food on Counters Before Refrigerating It

If you’ve ever been told that you should allow food to cool down before refrigerating it, you probably received that advice from someone who grew up with an icebox, or an early model of fridge. Modern refrigerators are more than capable of cooling warm food quickly; it’s what they’re for.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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