Money, Health, and Other Things

Educational Blog in the Area of Family and Consumer Sciences for the Middle Peninsula


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Five Tips for Food Storage and Food Safety during Hurricane Season

With hurricane season officially started, here are five tips for food safety and food storage during hurricane season!

  1. If it’s looking like a particularly bad hurricane is coming through, freeze refrigerated items you don’t need immediately, and be sure to group food close together in the freezer, that way it will stay cold longer in case you lose power. A full freezer should be able to keep food cold for roughly 48 hours.

 

  1. Keep a three-day supply of non-perishable food that requires no refrigeration in case you have an extended period of time without electricity.

 

  1. Considering storing your non-perishable foods on higher shelves, keeping it out of the way of potential flood water.

 

  1. Purchase commercial water bottles or use food grade water containers or clean plastic soda bottles to keep at least a two to three-day supply of drinking water, which equates to 1 gallon per person, per day. If you are preparing your own containers of water, add two drops of unscented, regular concentration bleach per quart to treat the water for storage.

 

  1. If there’s a chance your well system has been contaminated following a hurricane or flooding, consider shock chlorinating your well. For more information on shock chlorination, please contact your local Extension office, and check out this link!

 

 


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FAT-TOM

Two weeks ago, we discussed food safety tips when barbecuing. This week we’ll dive a little deeper into the topic of food safety and discuss “FAT-TOM”, and how remembering that can help reduce the chance of food poisoning!

The F stands for food – bacteria require nutrients to grow. Foods high in protein and carbohydrates, such as animal proteins and dairy foods, may be at a particularly high risk of bacterial growth.

A is for acidity – bacteria generally require a pH of 4.6 or higher to grow. Low-acid foods, such as meats, need to be properly cooked and processed since they can often be breeding grounds for bacteria. This is also the reason low-acid foods, like many vegetables, need to be pressure canned and not water bathe canned; without pressure canning, the low-acid environment makes the canned food susceptible to clostridium botulinum, the bacteria responsible for botulism.

T is for temperature – most bacteria grow in the “Temperature Danger Zone” between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and particularly well between 85- and 120-degrees. Through refrigeration and hot-holding, keep foods out of the Temperature Danger Zone as much as possible.

The other T is for time – certain bacterial cells responsible for food poisoning can double approximately every 20 minutes in the Temperature Danger Zone. That would mean, in 12 hours, 1 bacterium would become 68 billion bacteria! The “Cooking for Crowds” curriculum suggest leaving food that requires hot holding or refrigeration in the Temperature Danger Zone for no longer than 2 hours before consuming, and only one hours if it’s between 85 and 120 degrees.

O is for oxygen – while most bacteria require oxygen to grow, there are some bacteria that actually grow better in the absence of oxygen, such as the previously mentioned clostridium botulinum.

Lastly, M is for moisture – bacteria need water to grow. This is why dehydrating food can often lengthen how long food will be safe to eat. It’s also why salt and sugar, which binds with water molecules and make them unavailable for bacterial growth, are often used as food preservatives.

 


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Six Questions Regarding the Economic Impact Payment Debit Cards

You may have heard about the possibility of receiving your Economic Impact Payment, or stimulus check, through a prepaid debit card. We’ll answer six common questions regarding these cards.

  1. Is it a scam? No, the government is in fact sending prepaid debits cards to those who qualified for the stimulus payment, namely households where the IRS wasn’t able to provide a direct deposit payment. The card will come in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services”, including the card and instructions for activation, along with a description of what fees may apply. With that said, scams have been prevalent throughout this pandemic, so if you receive mail claiming to be a stimulus payment that doesn’t fit this description, be wary of whether or not it’s a scam.
  2. Where will my Economic Impact Payment Card be sent? Your card will be mailed to the most recent mailing address on file with the IRS. This will generally be the address on your 2019 tax return, if filed, otherwise it will likely be from your 2018 tax return. If the address on your most recent tax return is incorrect, here’s a link below regarding changing your address on file with the IRS.
  3. Where can I use my card? The Economic Impact Payment Cards are VISA prepaid debit cards, so they can be used with vendors that accepts VISA debit cards, whether in-person or online.
  4. What if I have bills that I can’t pay with a debit card? You have the option to request a Money Network Check by contacting customer service at 1-800-240-8100. Money Network will then send a check to fill out. Once filled out, you can call customer service again to active the check, and they will deduct that amount from your card balance. For more information on this, check out Money Network’s FAQ site, and be sure to read the instructions in your packet.
  5. Are there fees? Potentially. While there are no fees to activate the card, use the card with a vendor that accepts VISA debit cards, access customer service, or request a Money Network Check, you may encounter fees elsewhere. If you use your card to withdraw funds from an out-of-network ATM more than once, you will pay a $2.00 fee. Keep in mind, “out-of-network” is in reference to the card’s network, not the network of your own financial institution. To find an in-network ATM, you can use the locater on the Money Network Mobile App or visit com. Additionally, fees may apply when withdrawing cash over-the-counter with your bank teller more than once, fees for using the card outside of the U.S., and fees for reissuing lost or stolen cards, with the fee waived for the first reissuance. For more information on the potential fees, please check out the fee schedule for the card.
  6. Where can I get information? Money Network and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau both have great FAQs. If you need more information on the stimulus payments, check out our post on the topic from a few weeks ago!


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Six Food Safety Tips for Barbecuing

Getting ready to do some barbecuing with the nice weather? Here are six food safety tips to keep everyone healthy and happy!

  1. One of the often-overlooked sources of food poisoning is using a pair of tongs for placing raw meat on the grill and using the same tongs later for the cooked meat. Assuming it’s not feasible to continually rewash your tongs, consider using multiple pairs of tongs, one for the raw meat and one for taking the cooked meat off the grill.
  2. Be sure to safely thaw your food. Thaw in the refrigerator or submerge in cool or cold running potable (safe to drink) water. If you need your food thawed more quickly, thaw in the microwave using the defrost setting, or thaw your food as part of the cooking process. The biggest thing to avoid is thawing on the counter at room temperature; the food will thaw unevenly which can result in the inner portions of the food still being frozen while the outer portions have had hours of time above 40 degrees, allowing for exponential bacterial growth.
  3. To reduce the chances of cross contamination, have one person focus on just the task of preparing the meat, using a knife and cutting board that will only be used for that raw meat. That person should avoid helping with other food tasks, answering phones, taking out the trash, etc. until they are completely done with preparing the meat and have adequately washed their hands. If you’re the only person preparing the food, try and prepare the meat, from start to finish, without doing any other tasks in between.
  4. Try not to rely on just cooking times and the appearance of the meat to determine if it’s been adequately cooked. Instead, use a food-grade thermometer to ensure the food has reached the proper internal temperature, testing at the thickest, most internal portion of the meat.
  5. When marinating, marinate meat, poultry, and seafood in the fridge instead of leaving it out on the counter. Also, be sure not to use the leftover marinade you used for the raw meat as a serving sauce on the cooked meat.
  6. Keep your hot food hot, at least 140 degrees, and your cold food cold, below 40 degrees, for as long as you can, and don’t leave food in the Temperature Danger Zone, between 40-140 degrees, for too long! The “Cooking for Crowds” curriculum suggest leaving food in the Temperature Danger Zone for no longer than 2 hours before consuming, and on those hot summer days where it’s 85 degrees or warmer, pathogens can grow even more rapidly, so food should be in the Temperature Danger Zone for no longer than 1 hour before consuming.