I have a lot of cutting boards. That seems counter intuitive for a professional organizer to have a lot of anything but I don’t tend to mess about with food. You need to keep your family healthy and one way of doing that is keeping some foods away from other foods. It’s important to follow a few simple rules to keep your family healthy and I think that keeping different cutting boards for different food items is key. Here are a few tips to help keep your family healthy in the kitchen:
- Wash your hands. As soon as you come home go directly to the bathroom or kitchen sink and wash your hands. The amount of surfaces that you have touched throughout the day in a public place is immeasurable (well, I’m sure that someone has measured it but I’m not going to. I just know it is a lot). Getting into this habit and teaching your children this habit will help you stay healthy when cold and flu season are rampant.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set at 4 °C (40 °F) or lower and your freezer at -18 °C (0 °F) or lower. This will keep your food out of the temperature danger zone between 4 °C (40 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) where bacteria can grow quickly. When cooking follow common sense rules: keep meat, poultry refrigerated until you are going to use it. Letting it sit on a counter for a few minutes before you cook (as you prep your meal) is fine, leaving meat thawing overnight in the sink or on the counter for longer than 30 minutes is not good.
- Check for expiration dates on all your food. Most meat has a ‘best before’ date but that is often a limit. When you get meat or chicken home, be sure and use it within 3 days. Any time longer could make it unsafe to consume. Place raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood in sealed containers or plastic bags (I do both) on the bottom shelf of your fridge so raw juices won’t drip onto other food (see how to organize my fridge post here). Below is a guideline of how long you should keep food in your fridge and freezer.
- Keep and use different cutting boards for meat/poultry/fish and other food items. I have one for meat, one for fruits and vegetables, one for onions and garlic (only), one for bread. I also have a special cutting board with a groove so that when you are cutting a roast all the juices do not spill onto the counter. I have taken a sharpie pen and written on each of the boards so family members remember to use the right ones. If they happen to use the fruit and vegetable board for meat, I make sure to sanitize it with hot soupy water before I use it again.
- Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 ml household bleach to 750 ml of water), and rinse with water.
Food safety is all about taking precautions and knowing the rules of handling food correctly. Make sure to teach your family the rules of good hygiene. Keep the list of how long you are to keep food in the fridge and freezers close at hand. It is worth it to get different cutting boards for different food items.