8 Refrigerator Items You Probably Need to Toss

If it’s been awhile since you’ve done a deep dive, there are a few items that likely need to go.

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Time to Clean Out

Certain foods can survive a long stay in your kitchen — but others just can't, not even in the fridge’s chill. Free up some shelf space by ditching these staples with expiration dates that might surprise you.

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That Box of Baking Soda

In an effort to quell smells, you stashed a new box in the fridge when you moved in, but that was how long ago? You can cook with baking soda that's up to 3 years old, but if you want it to keep that pungent stuffed cabbage odor from infiltrating your cheesecake, you should replace the box every month or so.

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Open Cans and Tins

Exposed to air, a half-used can of tomato paste will dry out, take on the flavors of other foods in the fridge or, worse, get contaminated by drips from leaking packages (think chicken or beef). If your pasta puttanesca calls for only four anchovies, transfer the leftovers to an airtight, resealable container before refrigerating.

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Bags of Prewashed Greens

Some produce will last for weeks — but, sadly, not packaged lettuces and spinach. Even if the leaves aren’t wilted, heed the expiration date on the bag to avoid exposing yourself to bacterial growth.

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Until buttermilk is sold in half-pint containers (someone, please!), chances are you'll have leftovers hanging around long after you master your first homemade ranch dressing. If buttermilk is more than two weeks old, toss it. And next time, freeze leftovers in ice cube trays or small containers.

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Soft Cheeses

Ricotta, goat cheese and other soft varieties will last for just one week, so use 'em soon — in pasta sauces, soups, dips and sandwiches — or out they go.

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Ground Beef and Poultry

Two days. That's how long the Department of Agriculture says raw hamburger, ground turkey and ground chicken is safe before you run the risk of E. coli contamination. Why so short? Ground meat is handled more during processing, and in the case of beef, it may include meat from more than one animal or slaughterhouse. If you're a once-a-week shopper, toss that package in the freezer when you get home and thaw it a day before serving.

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If you made the effort to tote that leftover eggplant Parmesan home from dinner out, make sure you eat it within four days. Otherwise, stow it in the freezer for a night when you're too tired to cook.

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Chicken Broth

Once you pop the top on a carton of chicken broth, it's good for just four days. That's not a problem if you're making soup, but it's a potential waste if you're using just a glug for a stir-fry or cream sauce. Use it up in risottos, mashed potatoes, glazed vegetables or pilafs — or freeze it for later.

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