Faced with shut down restaurants and the new term “social distancing,” many people are having to exercise their home-cooking muscles and break out little-used pots and pans. If you don’t spend much time in the kitchen or your days are filled to the brim, you’ll love these simple, easy-to-understand recipes that use many ingredients you likely already have on hand.
The news is rife with food poisoning horror stories of unsuspecting restaurant-goers targeted by angry bacteria. While that is scary enough, it is even more terrifying to realize that the same viruses and pathogens may be hiding in your very home. Yes, your refrigerator could be host to a number of nasty substances that threaten your health. Here are just a few things to watch out for and ways to keep your food safe.
Spoilage bacteria is what you’re probably most accustoms to finding on those three-week-old leftovers shoved in the back of the fridge. It has probably grown a fuzzy layer of mold and changed color to become something unrecognizable. Fortunately, this is the easiest bacteria to spot and the easiest to prevent.
Cold tolerant bacteria
It is easy to think that the cold temperatures and “sterile” environment of the fridge would kill any lingering bacteria. But in reality, a dirty fridge with outdated, contaminated food is a breeding ground for disease. The fridge doesn’t actually kill most food-borne bacteria. It merely increases the shelf life of certain perishable goods and could potentially slow bacterial growth. This same bacteria, however, will continue growing as soon as the food is heated up or left at room temperature.
Pathogenic bacteria are some of the most alarming since they leave no helpful indication of their presence. They don’t usually alter the taste, look, or even smell of contaminated foods. Listeria is a particularly nasty pathogenic bacteria and can be found in the fridge on items such as soft cheese, seafood, vegetables, and deli meats. A person infected with listeriosis could experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches. Pregnant women are at particular risk as this infection could cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and other pregnancy complications. Other individuals with weakened immune systems should be alert as well. The best way to avoid eating foods contaminated with listeria and other pathogenic is to practice appropriate food safety and pay attention to how you are handling your groceries.
Best fridge practices
Keep items covered
Anything you put into the fridge should be in an airtight container, Ziploc bag, or have a foil or film covering it. This can help prevent cross-contamination and keeps food fresh. It is also important to use all foods by the sell-by date and avoid eating anything that smells or look “off”.
Do not leave leftovers in the fridge for more than four days. Take a detailed look through your refrigerator every week and reheat any leftovers or simply toss them in the trash if they have been in the fridge for too long.
Though some bacteria can survive the low temperatures of the fridge, most contaminants are curtailed with appropriate refrigeration. Keep a close eye on the thermometer in your fridge to make sure the cooling system is functioning properly and avoid stuffing food too close together. This lack of airflow could prevent the cold air from reaching all your food and put it at risk for bacterial growth.
Keep your fridge clean
Though this should be obvious, keeping your fridge clean is one of the best ways to prevent bacteria. Wipe it down every week with hot, soapy water or vinegar and water before you get groceries and completely empty it out once a month for a more detailed scrubbing.
Place raw meat on the bottom
Raw meat is one of the most dangerous things in your refrigerator so it is important to keep it isolated from your other food. Especially any food that you eat raw. Place raw meat in a bag or bowl and store it on the bottom shelf as it defrosts. This will keep it from dripping any contaminated liquid onto the rest of the food.
Make sure doors seal properly
The easiest way to ensure food safety and confirm that your fridge is cold enough to prevent most bacteria is to regularly check the seals and replace them if needed. An improperly sealed fridge can create a hospitable environment for bacteria. Not to mention, it’ll raise your energy bill through the roof.
What other food safety tips do you have for keeping your fridge clean and bacteria free? Let us know in the comments below!
Any gardener worth their salt won’t balk at the thought of using poop in the garden. In fact, composted manure can be an excellent choice for any gardener looking to use natural fertilizer while saving money and finding a use for excess poop.
Why choose poop
Animal manure works wonders for soil control and forms an excellent environment for better fruit, vegetable, and flower growth. Rather than spending money on expensive fertilizers, take advantage of your natural resources and add a little poop to your garden.
- Reduces erosion
- Encourages beneficial insects
- Improves drainage
- Increases water retention
- Releases nitrogen
- Improves soil structure
The best kind of manure to use in the garden
Though it is an excellent option for fertilizer, using manure in the garden isn’t as simple as just grabbing any poop and spreading it thick. It is essential to know what kind of poop to use and how best to compost it to feed your plants effectively.
Generally, gardeners find the most success when using chicken, cow, turkey, sheep, rabbit or horse poop as fertilizer. These types of manure are readily accessible, and if you happen not to have a backyard farm, it is easy to find farmers happy to give away their excess compost.
Cow manure: Cow poop is an excellent “all-purpose” manure. It is the least nitrogen-rich out of all the types of manure, so it works well for vegetable, fruit and garden beds.
Horse manure: Horse waste works well for soil that needs a nitrogen boost, such as lawns, and non-flowering vegetables.
Poultry: Manure from poultry is even more full of nitrogen than horse poop. So remember, a little goes a long way. Mix this sparingly into your compost to avoid overwhelming your plants with nitrogen.
Sheep manure: Sheep poop is a great balanced option with equal levels of nitrogen and potassium. This rich manure works wonders for any garden, but it is generally harder to find, so take it when you can!
Stay away from any types of poop such as dog, cat or other animals that do not eat a plant-based diet. These waste products do not make appropriate fertilizers and can cause damage to your plants and your health if used on vegetables or fruits.
How to use manure
When using manure in your garden, it is vital that you don’t go straight from pen to plant. You should let manure sit for at least 15 days to allow it to cure and keep it from burning your vegetation when mixed into your garden. Also, fresh manure has a high nitrogen content which can kill delicate plants.
Sometimes, to fully compost manure, you may have to wait longer before spreading it on your plants. The best gauge to see if it is ready to be used as fertilizer is to check the texture and smell. Composted manure should merely look and smell like fresh, thick dirt. It will usually smell like soil and have a dark brown color and crumbly texture.
When composting manure, it is essential to have a healthy mixture of straw, bedding, hay, or old newspaper. Layer this filler in your compost bin with the manure to ensure a good carbon to nitrogen balance.
You can also choose to mix fresh manure into the garden in the early spring or fall before the prime planting season when the soil will have time to sit and absorb nutrients without burning plants.
Whether you choose to use fresh or composted manure, you should always make sure to mix the compost 6-9 inches into the soil with a shovel or spade. Generally, you will want to use 40lbs. Of manure per 100 square feet of garden.
For potted plants or raised vegetable beds try making a manure tea. Simply tie a knot in pantyhose and fill it with about 2 cups of manure. Let it sit in a full watering can for about five minutes or until the water turns a murky brown. Be sure to water the base of the plants rather than the leaves to avoid burning them.
The benefits of using manure compost in your garden are immense. Take some time to visit neighbors with large animals or farms in your area and offer to scoop out pens and muck stalls to collect poop for your garden. Most animals owners will be happy to oblige!