Friday, April 10, 2009

More Urban Jungle Survival Tips

All right so it's grocery shopping time, and I am always on the lookout for bargains. My eyes are automatically drawn to the yellow or bright red shopper's club card deals. Sure some of them are great, but not everyone can afford those pricey deals. However, there are other options.
Number one is the closeout item. That is a product that the store is no longer going to sell, or is changing the packaging, or any number of reasons. Some of them are really useful, and then there's some that well, just flat out useless. Most grocery stores have a corner or area where these items are gathered. Other places will specify them with a different colored shelf tag to draw attention to it.
Items that are marked down are also kept in some of these closeout areas as well. The one proviso here is that some items in markdown areas are either close dated or damaged, so be careful.
Canned goods that are dented, packages that are torn or crushed are good examples of these. Most times if the top of the can is not pushed out, then the product is still good. Just remember that the clock is ticking on those items once damage occurs. It may not stay fresh as long, so the quicker they're used, the better.
A lot of grocery stores have areas where marked down meats are kept as well. Most of the time these products are a day or two out of date. In the case of processed meats such as ham and turkey, they should be anywhere from seven to ten days from their expiration date. Products day of or older should not be in either of these areas. and if they are, they should be brought to the attention of store management.
Things to look for when choosing marked down meat are color, smell, and packaging. If the product is still red, most of the blood is still in the meat. Anything brown usually means that most of the blood has soaked into the pad underneath or leaked out. When looking at the packaging, it should be rightly wrapped and stuck to the bottom of the tray. If it is not, it can be re-wrapped, but remember to move it to another package at home.
If the product has turned green or gray, move on to something fresher. Also when choosing fresh meat, if the packaging smells, the product may not. However a lot of the time odor has to do with case sanitation and whether or not the package was wrapped tightly. Choosing processed meats is a different game altogether.
Processed meats should look slightly pink or white depending on what it is. If the product has turned beige, green, or gray, don't take it home. Chances are that air has been introduced into that product, thus initiating the decomposing process. If the product has a stomach or has puffed up, then definitely don't take it home.
That means that dangerous bacterias like listeria may be lurking in that package. For the most part listeria is harmless, but it's best not to take any chances. For instance bacon should be bright red or pink and white. If it is brown and the edges look feathered or frayed, chances are it is not safe to eat. At home if the processed meat has a slimy coating, contact the manufacturer directly and discard the product because they will more than likely send a coupon for a free replacement.
Seafood is usually marked down, but it's best to pass it up and get something fresher. But if it's too hard to pass up, there are some things to remember. Fresh whole fish should smell like fresh water, and the eyes should not be clouded over. Shrimp should be stuck to its shell and slightly firm. If the shell has separated, or it's a bit soft to the touch, it's probably best to get something fresher.
Dairy and produce also usually have markdown items as well. Again take the same precautions. Typically milk will last one to five days after the expiration date, but the best way to tell is the smell test. When it no longer beings to smell fresh, pour it down the drain or use it for baking. Most dairy or produce products should be marked down within five days of their expiration date to ensure maximum usage.
Bread or bakery items are usually marked down a day in advance of their expiration date. Most of the time the best thing to do here is take the product home and store it in sandwich bags in the freezer until ready for use.
Fish and seafood can be frozen for up to three to four weeks. Breads no more than two weeks because they will dry out. In some cases that can be a good thing because that can be used as bread crumbs or bread pudding. Fresh meat can survive up to six weeks in the freezer, and processed meats up to three months.
Hopefully these tips can save money and hopefully time in the grocery store. My rule is always if it's green or gray, throw it away.

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