The Thanksgiving holiday marks the start of the busy holiday season—chock full of social obligations, last-minute work projects, shopping, visiting friends and loved ones, and cooking those big holiday meals with leftovers that seem to last for weeks.
But along with all that merriment comes the possibility of food poisoning, houses that are perfect targets for burglars, and car trips gone awry. Here are some timely tips that will have you smiling and stress-free, whether you’re carving that Christmas ham or toasting champagne on New Year’s Eve.
Holiday food safety
This is the time of year everyone starts thinking about holiday food. The packed refrigerator is as much a holiday tradition as expanding waistlines and holiday excess. After all, the 22-pound turkey, the rich 20-pound ham, vat of stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes and delicious apple pie all have to go somewhere.
But how do you store to take advantage of holiday leftover madness and reduce your chances for an unpleasant bout of food poisoning? Think it won’t happen to you? It might not. But consider that each year up to seven million Americans suffer from the effects of food-borne illness. Of those cases, 50 percent to 80 percent of food-borne illnesses happen in our own homes.
The good news is that learning how to handle and store food can prevent a lot of problems. Tack this list to your fridge so you’ll be well prepared for all those leftovers:
• Oxygen is a major cause of food spoilage and vitamin loss. Keeping oxygen out will help preserve the nutrient value of your food and help ensure freshness.
• When using plastic wrap, bags or containers to store perishables, make sure to squeeze the air out and seal lids tight.
• Store food in small, shallow (less than two inches deep) containers with lids; these containers allow food to cool more rapidly.
• Single-serve plastic containers allow for food to be stored as individual servings instead of in large quantities. They also cut down on food waste and are great for serving quick meals in between trips to the mall.
• If you reheat your holiday fare and don’t eat it all, throw the rest away. Avoid reheating the same portion of food again.
• Perishable foods won’t stay fresh very long, so put them in plastic bags to store them easily.
Securing your home
Thanksgiving marks the start of one of the busiest travel seasons, making for a lot of empty houses over the holidays – an optimal time for thieves to strike. Take these steps to ensure your home and hearth remains just as you left them when you get back:
• Don’t publicize vacations ahead of time. For extended trips out of town, you’re better off stopping deliveries of newspapers and mail. Get an Authorization to Hold Mail card from your mail delivery person or pick it up at the nearest post office. Better yet, ask a friend or neighbor to pick up mail while you’re gone.
• Leave information where you can be contacted in an emergency with a trusted neighbor, and ask them to keep an eye on your house.
• Give your house a lived-in appearance. Park a car out front and set outside lights on a timer.
• Have a neighbor occasionally use your garbage can. If your trash picks up once a week, ask that trusted neighbor to roll your trashcan out there, too – even if it’s empty.
• Put automatic timers on several lights and a radio inside the house. Set them so they will turn on and off at random times in different rooms, especially the bathroom. Don’t leave lights on 24 hours a day.
• Leave drapes in a normal position to maintain a lived-in appearance.
Hitting the road safely
If you’ve decided to hit the road while on your holiday, it’s wise to take the following safety precautions:
• Carry traveler’s checks instead of large amounts of cash.
• Always carry wallets, purses and bags securely. Do not leave purses on chairs, under tables, or forget them on restroom hooks.
• Keep your cash, jewelry and valuables (such as passports, cameras and airline tickets) locked in your hotel safety deposit box or safe.
• Keep track of your keys. You may even consider returning your hotel room key to the front desk while away from your room.
• Do not leave room keys lying around the swimming pool.
• This should go without saying, but never pick up hitchhikers.
• Never leave your keys in an unattended car, even while running a quick errand or filling up with gas.
• While driving, travel on main roads and use maps.
• Lock any packages, cameras, clothing or other valuables in the trunk when you leave your car. This especially applies to those days you’re at the mall with family, loaded down with packages.
• At night, park your car in a well-lit area.
• Remember to lock doors and roll up windows.
• Be wary of solicitors.
• Travel in pairs or groups if possible.
• Pay attention to your surroundings. If you see anything suspicious, call 911.
• If you do become the victim of a crime, report it immediately. Do not wait until you return home. Crimes must be reported in the jurisdiction where they occur.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be enjoying a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!
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