Club House Rules
Join the club! Shopping for groceries and other items at warehouse club stores has been a growing trend for over a decade — and most of us could use some help when it comes to navigating the do's and don'ts of buying in bulk! Before you hit the club, stock up on these helpful home food safety tips.
Safe Can Command
How often do you clean the outside of cans and bottles before opening them? Rinsing off food and beverage containers such as milk bottles, jars, canned goods — and even can openers — can help eliminate harmful bacteria, which can be ingested. Store canned or jarred goods in cool, dry settings. Also, avoid using cans and jars with dents, cracks or bulging lids, all of which can indicate a foodborne illness threat. For best results, practice the "first in, first out" rule and use the oldest products first.
Fresh produce is a popular item when shopping at warehouse club stores. While most people remember to wash ready-to-eat fruits such as apples, grapes and pears before eating them, many of us skip washing peel-and-eat fruits such as oranges, bananas and lemons. Fruit peels might carry bacteria that can spread during eating, cutting or peeling, so always be sure to rinse them first.
Clean Hand Code
For most people, no trip to the store is complete without trying one of the many food samples available. But for those who indulge in the free finger foods, hand-washing is a major concern. Because clean hands are the easiest way to prevent the spread of foodborne illness, bring along pocket-sized packets of moist towelettes or carry a bottle of hand sanitizer to wash up before you sample.
Cold Storage Standard
While terms such as sell-by, best-by and use-by can be confusing, they all relate to the product’s quality, not safety. Refrigerate perishable items as soon as you get home. When freezing foods is necessary to extend the shelf life of your perishable foods beyond the date stamp, keep your freezer set at or below 0° F. And keep in mind, quality may be affected if foods are frozen for too long.
Buying eggs in bulk can be a great value, but what should you do if you can't eat all of them before the expiration date? Believe it or not, you can freeze them! In fact, eggs will keep as long as a year in the freezer compared to just a few weeks in the fridge. The freezing process is simple: Crack eggs, beat whole eggs until just blended, pour into freezer-safe containers, seal tightly and freeze. Also be sure to label the container with the number of eggs included and the date. When you're ready for that big breakfast, just thaw overnight in the fridge, then cook to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F.
If you buy dry goods such as whole grains, nuts and beans from bulk bins, be sure to use clean containers for transportation and storage. While many stores require customers to use disposable bags they provide, some stores allow customers to bring their own contains for bulk items. Containers should be clean and dry before filling them with food. If you have larger storage containers at home, rather than adding the new food on top of existing food, remove all food from the storage container and wash and dry it thoroughly before returning food to it. Practice the "first in, first out" rule and use the oldest foods first (which might require storing your new foods in separate containers).