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Getting the Most out of Your Food

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108homespunweb.jpgBy Marshall Loeb, MarketWatch

RISMEDIA, Oct. 8, 2007-(MarketWatch)-No, it’s not your imagination. Eating well really is getting more expensive. Consider: a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs can easily run you more than $7 in New York City. A McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, by contrast, will cost you in the neighborhood of $2 — and save you the trouble of cooking and cleaning.

If you’re on a strict budget, but determined to maintain a healthy diet, don’t throw away any food before its time. Consumer Reports’ Shop Smart magazine offers a brief primer on food safety and shelf life for those who want to get the most out of their food:

Staples

Milk and butter. If stored properly, in a colder section of your fridge, milk will keep up to a week after the “sell-by” date. As soon as you detect it turning sour, it’s time to toss.

Meat. Roasts, steaks and deli meats are safe to eat three to five days after you purchase them. But poultry and ground meat offer less wiggle room. They should be thrown away within one or two days.

Fish. Seafood is among the more unforgiving foods. It should be used within one or two days or you risk getting sick.

Cheese. If you wrap it in wax paper and a layer of plastic wrap, cheese is safe to eat until you see mold develop. Once mold appears, cut off about an inch of the surrounding area with a clean knife and rewrap.

Eggs. If you keep them in the back of your refrigerator, eggs will last up to five weeks.

Frozen foods

Meat. When uncooked, ground meat should be used three to four months from the day it was frozen, while steaks and roasts can last as long as a year. A frozen chicken can also keep for about a year. Chops should be tossed after four to six months.

Fish. More delicate fishes, such as sole, will stay tasty for about six months in the freezer, but sturdier fishes, like salmon, should be eaten within two to three months.

Veggies. Frozen vegetables can be eaten eight to 12 months after being frozen.

Leftovers. Most frozen leftovers will keep for two to three months, according to Consumer Reports — just make sure to label them properly, so you don’t lose track.

Marshall Loeb, former editor of Fortune, Money, and the Columbia Journalism Review, writes for MarketWatch.

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