"Good Morning America" food editor Sara Moulton has the lowdown on how to store your groceries to give them the longest life -- and how to know when that shelf life expires.
Know the real expiration date of your groceries.
You may think that cold cuts and bacon keep forever in the fridge and freezer because of all those additives and salt, but in fact they don't.
According to the Food and Drug Administration:
Bacon lasts seven days in the fridge and one month in freezer.
Cold cuts: An opened package lasts three to five days in fridge and one to two months in freezer.
An Unopened package lasts two weeks in fridge and one to two months in freezer.
Hard-boiled eggs (a great source of cheap protein) will last for seven days in the shell.
Click here for more on food safety and storage from the FDA.
Wrap your cheeses properly.
Cheese should be wrapped in wax paper and then wrapped in foil or put in a plastic bag, with the air taken out. Do not use plastic of any kind directly on the cheese because that produces moisture.
It is OK to put cheese on the refrigerator door, as cheese does not like to be really cold.
What happens if you get green or blue spots on the cheese? Should you throw it out?
For most cheeses, you can cut off the mold and still use it.
Store your lettuce and leafy greens so they stay dry.
We got a great response from our last segment on keeping foods fresh and the one topic we got the most e-mails about was keeping lettuce from getting slimy.
Here is what you do: Do not wash the greens before you put them in the fridge. Wrap them in paper towels and place them in a plastic bag.
Extend the shelf life of your herbs.
Put leafy herbs such as basil, parsley, dill and cilantro in a glass measuring cup with water in the bottom (like cut flowers), put a plastic bag loosely over the top and store in the fridge. They will keep for a week.
Woody herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, should be wrapped in paper towel and then in a plastic bag and kept in the crisper.
Your Freezer, Your Friend
Your freezer is your best friend and if you keep it packed, it stays colder.
Freeze meat that you are not going to use within a day or two.
According to the FDA: If freezing meat and poultry in its original package longer than two months, overwrap these packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper or place the package inside a plastic bag.
Blanch and freeze vegetables. You can also freeze all kinds of fruit.
How full should my freezer be kept?
Freezers should be kept as full as possible at all times with frozen items, which is the opposite of refrigerators, which should not be too crowded, as this will affect the air circulation inside.
A big empty freezer is not very energy efficient at all and can be quite costly, as large freezers with only a few products inside require more electricity to keep them cold. For this reason, try to keep your freezer packed with items or as full as possible.