- The kitchen is often home to many forgotten foods, drinks, and miscellaneous items that you’re better off tossing for the sake of your taste buds and/or your health.
- An opened bottle of wine should be tossed after a few days, especially if it starts to develop an odd smell or brown tinge.
- If you have bottles of cooking oil that are a few months old, it is probably time to toss and replace them because they could taste a bit sour.
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Lurking inside refrigerator shelves, closed cabinets, and dark pantries is a surprising number of items that probably need to be thrown out.
Although some of these old, forgotten kitchen staples are just taking up prime real estate for fresher, more flavorful ingredients, some things that have expired or spoiled can make you feel a bit ill if you continue using them past their prime.
Here are some items in your kitchen that you probably need to toss.
Toss old spices, seasonings, and dried herbs that have lost their flavor.
- Lenore Edman/Flickr
Spices and dried herbs seemingly last forever, but their quality actually dips over time. Although these items aren’t likely to make you sick after they reach that date on the container, they can lose their potency.
Spices can lose flavor after about a year or so, but the easiest way to tell if a spice is a bit old is to smell it. If it’s not fragrant or seems to have as stale sort of smell, it’s likely not going to add much to your next dish.
In the future, you may want to mark your spices with the date that you first open them to better gauge how fresh your herbs and seasonings really are.
If you have bottles of cooking oil that have been hanging around for several months, it is probably time to toss and replace them.
- Iurii Stepanov/Shutterstock
Although using oil that’s a few months old probably won’t hurt you, it could make your food taste unpleasantly sharp or sour.
If you find that you’re never using up a bottle of oil before it’s begun to develop a sour taste, you may want to try purchasing smaller containers of it.
It might be time to toss and replace the filter in your water-purifying pitcher.
Water-purifying pitchers have made drinking cold, crisp water easier than ever – but you are only reaping the benefits of the filter if you actually change it regularly.
The time between filter changes can vary depending on your pitcher’s model and how often you drink water, so it’s a wise idea to listen to your pitcher’s blinking red light or to even keep track of when you change your filter so you know when it’s time for an old one to go.
Take a few minutes to throw out all of the questionable leftovers in the fridge.
You can often open a container and simply take a whiff to know whether or not leftovers have spoiled – but sometimes it isn’t so clear.
Ultimately, if your leftovers have changed texture, odor, or color – toss them. The Mayo Clinic warns that, in some cases, eating cooked food that is more than three or four days old could cause food poisoning.
To keep your fridge organized and leftovers fresh, make a note of when you cooked something and when you first stored it.
The sponge in your kitchen sink could be harboring harmful bacteria.
Most people know to change out the dish-washing sponge once it starts smelling or looking worse for wear. But ideally, some microbiologists recommend replacing the dish sponge once a week.
One 2017 study found that sponges play host to massive numbers of bacteria, including pathogens, which can cause diseases.
That said, certain hacks that sanitize or “extend the life of” a sponge aren’t always as effective as you may think. For example, microwaving a sponge doesn’t kill all bacteria and it can leave behind some of the most dangerous strains.
So if you are unable to regularly replace your kitchen sponge, you may want to try cleaning dishes with something else that’s easily washable and replaceable.
Flavorless, stinky beer can ruin your next party.
If you’ve got any bottled or canned beers in your fridge that have been there for months, you might want to toss them.
After a few months of beer bottled or canned, a beer’s proteins can break down and the drink can start oxidizing, which can alter its flavor and texture. The result is typically flat, flavorless beer that has a strange odor.
Keep tabs on when you are buying beers and putting them in the fridge so you’ll know if a drink is on its way to oxidation.
Old baking powder can ruin baked goods.
- Flickr/Bianca Moreas
After opening baking powder, moisture from the air can impact the quality of it. And, in time, this can lead to baked goods that just don’t rise properly or taste great.
When stored correctly, baking powder can last six months to one year – but if you’ve had a carton for longer than that, you might want to toss it.
If you’re not sure how old a container is, you can follow The Kitchn’s hot-water method for testing the effectiveness of baking powder.
You might want to toss those opened jars of pasta sauce that are in your fridge.
After making dinner, it’s common to save the remaining sauce in the jar and store it in the fridge – but unless it’s been under a week since you first opened the sauce, you might want to toss it.
After a week or so, these opened sauces can form harmful mold that you may not be able to see right away. And, when consumed, it may make you feel ill.
Next time, you may be better off moving leftover sauce to a new container and then freezing it for a later date.
Refresh the refrigerator baking soda every six months.
Keeping a box of baking soda in the fridge can help absorb stinky food odors, but the baking soda will lose its effectiveness in time.
According to Eat By Date, baking soda absorbs moisture in the fridge but will become saturated and ineffective in about six months. Throw out the baking soda in the fridge and replace it twice a year to keep odors at bay.
Opened bottles of wine can become flat and oxidized rather quickly.
- David Paul Morris/Getty Images
After opening most wines, it is important to re-cork them and put them in the fridge to slow oxidation spurred by exposure to heat, light, and oxygen.
That said, even when taking these precautions, most wines will only last a few days after opening. If the wine begins to develop a brown tinge or have a white-vinegar and bruised-apple smell, it has likely oxidized and should probably be tossed.
Next time, you might want to try freezing leftover wine in an ice-cube tray to use in a future recipe, such as a wine-based sauce.