Now, I previously thought that most of these things were common knowledge, but apparently, I was wrong. I’ve encountered several otherwise intelligent and competent adults who were unaware of all of these tips. So, if this post is obvious to you, that’s great, and feel free to skip it. But for everyone else, take a look and make sure you know how to navigate your kitchen like an adult.
How to store food in the fridge
In college, I had to explain to a suite-mate why I was throwing away the open jar of mayonnaise he had left in the cabinet for over a month (because at that point, it could have killed him, or at least made him very sick). Most food containers will give you instructions on how to store them after they’ve been opened–things like “refrigerate after opening.” Some things don’t need to be kept cold until after they’ve been opened, so just because you bought it off the shelf doesn’t mean it never needs the fridge.
My SO’s roommate refuses to throw away partially full containers of food before they mold, no matter how long they’ve been in the fridge. Just like the way packages will give you storage instructions, they’ll also usually include phrases like “eat within seven days of opening.” This is because while sometimes the “look and sniff” strategy is an okay was to determine freshness, there are certain things (like tomato sauce), that spoil well before you can see or smell anything wrong with them. If you’re not sure if something is still good, you can check the internet, but honestly, I tend to follow the “when in doubt, throw it out” policy.
I’ve met several people who did not realize that packages of food needed to be sealed or covered after they’ve been opened. The same suite-mate who owned the mayo once opened a package of hot-dogs, ate one, and then tossed the rest of the open pack back into the fridge. This is especially important with raw meats. You don’t ever want the juices from the defrosting hamburger meat or chicken dripping into the vegetable bin, so store meats well wrapped or on a plate.
The importance of airtight seals
Have you ever opened a bag of rice, flour, sugar, etc., only to find it crawling with bugs? Well, I have. And let me tell you, it only takes one time before you take every step possible to ensure that it never happens again. Things like flour are particularly vulnerable to bugs because they’re the kind of things that people tend to buy in bulk and then are only used sparsely. When it comes to dried goods, the only way to keep them bug-proof is to make sure you are storing them in something airtight. This includes zip-able bags and seal-able containers. This does not include the paper bags the flour and sugar came in, or the plastic baggie the rice came in that you had to tear a hole in. No, not even if you roll down the edge and use a bag clip. Invest in some gallon-sized Ziploc bags or some extra large Tupperware, or large Mason glass jars, and just place the whole thing of flour, bag and all, inside it.
On a slightly less icky note, airtight seals are also important just in terms of freshness. My SO and his roommate were adult enough to know that food in the fridge should be covered, but they didn’t actually realize that part of “covering” food was creating an airtight seal. Whenever they wanted to store leftovers, they would just cover them in a paper towel. So, go ahead and toss some cling wrap in your cart next time you’re at the store.
How to load a dishwasher
Many people aren’t lucky enough to have an apartment with a dishwasher, so if you are one of the fortunate few, make sure you’re getting the most out of your dishwasher by loading it properly. While every dishwasher is a little different, most function similarly. See those spinning arm-like things (probably at the floor of the inside of the dishwasher)? That’s where the water that sprays your dishes clean comes from. In order for the water to clean all the dishes in the machine, you can’t have a bunch of things blocking the water from reaching those dishes. All the things on the bottom rack of your dishwasher should not be placed entirely face-down–otherwise, the spray will hit them and stop, never reaching the top rack of dishes. Instead, keep all these things on their sides–that is, as vertical as possible. Bowls and cups should go on the top rack if you have room up there. If they’re on the top rack they can (and should) go upside-down so that water can get to all the parts of the inside and doesn’t pool in the dishes. Forks, knives and spoons should be mixed, so they do not “nest.” There are plenty of websites that will explain how to load a dishwasher most efficiently. If you’re still not sure how to best load your specific machine, check the instruction manual if you have it, or get advice from another adult.