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Eight Tips to Extend the Life of Your Food

  • By some estimates, Americans toss almost 40 percent of their grocery budgets in the trash1
  • Keep holiday party leftovers fresher longer by storing them in the best possible way
  • GE’s refrigeration team offers technology and tips to keep food fresher longer

LOUISVILLE, Ky., — December 20, 2012 — (NYSE: GE) —While estimates vary, it’s clear Americans have a problem with food waste. A recent study by the National Resources Defense Council found the average American wastes roughly 20 pounds of food each month2, and at least one other study found that Americans toss out as much as 40 percent of their grocery budgets.

Statistics like these will make throwing away unused and spoiled food left over from this season’s parties and gatherings hard to swallow, especially considering the average family of four spends between $546 and $1,240 each month on food eaten at home.3 Curbing some of that waste starts with properly storing food.

“The way consumers store their food impacts its shelf life, especially when it comes to fresh food,” says Stephanos Kyriacou, a team leader on the GE refrigeration team. “At GE, we are designing refrigerators that push the limits of keeping food fresh. Our new French door refrigerators offer features like temperature-controlled drawers and dual evaporators. The freezer stays dry to prevent freezer burn, and the fresh food area stays humid to help meat, produce and dairy retain moisture.”

GE's French door refrigerators offer features like temperature-controlled drawers and dual evaporators to store food at their optimal storage temperature.

No matter what type of refrigerator consumers use, there are some easy adjustments that can extend the life of their food.

In the refrigerator fresh food section:

  • Store foods at their optimal storage temperature. Citrus thrives at higher temperatures, where meat and fish store best at about 32 degrees. Ideally, keep different types of food in separate, temperature-controlled bins.
  • Consider the temperature of the room. Most refrigeration systems are designed to work in rooms where the temperature stays between 60 and 110 degrees. Your kitchen is likely within this range. If the refrigerator is in a garage or basement, extreme cold can cause the unit to lose efficiency, and items in the freezer may become soft. Keep this in mind when storing food in these areas.
  • Cover and seal. In top-freezer refrigerators, the freezer and fresh food areas share the same sealed system. It is important to always cover and seal items stored in both the freezer and fresh food compartments to prevent excess moisture collection in the freezer. Some refrigerators, such as the GE French door bottom-freezer refrigerators, offer a TwinChill™ dual evaporator system, meaning two separate systems operate the freezer and the fresh food compartment to keep the freezer dry and the fresh food area humid.
  • Don’t throw away food too soon. Do you know the difference between “use-by” and “sell-by”? “Use-by” means the meat has reached its limit for best quality and freshness by the date stamped on the package. According to the USDA, “sell-by” means you have additional time to cook or freeze the food past the printed date.4

In the freezer:

  • Keep your freezer at least half full. The freezer operates most effectively when it is at least 1/3 to 1/2 full versus almost empty.  If there aren’t enough items to meet this level, simply fill some containers about 75 percent of the way with water. 
  • Don’t push items all the way to the back, the sides or the front. To allow air to circulate in the freezer, maintain about 3/8” clearance around the sides, top, back and vent areas.  
  • Ensure a good door seal to prevent frost issues. Watch for items that may be overhanging the door bins or items pulled too far forward on shelves.
  • Store food in air-tight containers or good freezer bags. To help prevent freezer burn, GE recommends using air-tight containers or a high-quality freezer bag and carefully squeezing out excess air.  

About GE Appliances
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit www.ge.com/appliances.

1.Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC (2009) The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. PLoS ONE 4(11):e7940.
2. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodAug2012.pdf Saving Leftovers Saves Money and Resources. Natural Resources Defense Council. Smarter Living: Eating Well.  www.nrdc.org. Accessed on Oct. 4, 2012. http://www.nrdc.org/living/eatingwell/saving-leftovers-saves-money-resources.asp
3. Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2012. USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. www.usda.gov. Accessed on Oct. 4, 2012.
4.Food Product Labeling. Food Labeling Fact Sheets.www.USDA.gov. Accessed on Sept. 27, 2012. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Food_Product_Dating/

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