How Long can I Store Food?

When you're dealing with food storage safety, the adage "When in doubt throw it out," should always be the first thing on your mind. But before you get to that point, take some time to learn the basics about food storage safety. First, look for expiration dates. This is very important if you're trying to avoid getting sick. It's also important to note you should be looking at expirations dates when you purchase your food. While most stores do a good job of tossing out the bad stuff before you get it up to the counter, they do occasionally miss an item or two.


Milk and dairy products should be thrown out by their expiration dates as a hard and fast rule of food storage safety. The softer the cheese the shorter the shelf life will be, even in the fridge. Store cheese, sour cream, butter, milk, or other dairy products in an air tight container or a zip lock bag to prevent refrigerator smells from leaching into your dairy and altering their taste. If your mother used to hassle you about drinking directly from the milk container, she had good reason. First, the bacteria in your mouth find milk to be a great breeding ground, especially if the fridge is not kept cold enough or the milk is often in and out of the refrigerator. So while drinking out of the milk container can cause the milk to spoil faster, it's also unsanitary. Keep the fridge set at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees C) and milk should be good for 5-7 days after opening.

When dealing with cooked meat remember that after 2 hours, at room temperature, cooked meat must be thrown out. You can store cooked meat for 3-5 days in refrigerator. This is true of beef, poultry, and pork. Processed meats, like lunch meat, have a very low tolerance for warmer temperatures. It will only be good for about 2-3 days in the fridge and should be thrown out a week after opening.

Raw meat can be especially dangerous as bacteria continue to grow even in the refrigerator, be very careful to note expiration dates. Meat and food storage safety is especially important when dealing with raw meat. First, when it comes to beef, color alone is not the indicator that you're looking for, it's smell. Slime, stickiness, and odor are more important indicators, in any meat, that you're dealing with bad meat. In air tight vacuum bags you can store meat up to six months in the freezer and up to 2-3 days in refrigerator.

Depending on the fruit and vegetable storage times can vary. Apples are the overall exception and will last up to a month in the fridge. Guavas and papayas will only last about a day or two. Most other fruits will last between 3-5 days. In general most vegetables should last 3-5 days and some will last as long as a week.

Food storage safety should be at the top of your mind when putting foods away. Keep meats on the bottom of the fridge, just in case of leakage. Keep fruits and vegetables in the drawers, this is to prevent excessive moisture and prolong their shelf life. Foods that can tolerate warmer temperatures, like ketchup are good on the door or at the front of the refrigerator. Foods that need the cold should be in the back, including eggs. Keeping foods in their proper chill zone will help to keep you healthy and is a major contributor to food storage safety.


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Post 3

@ Babalaas- Wow! That's crazy, I guess I know what I will be stockpiling if all the crazies are right about the end of the world in 2012.

Post 2

@ ValleyFiah- The USDA food storage safety guidelines actually state that preserved foods are edible for much longer than 3-6 months if stored in a cool, dry, and clean place. Acidic foods and most preserved fruit do not keep as long as canned meats and vegetables, keeping only about 18 months. Canned fruits may be edible longer in emergency situations, but their nutritional value, taste, and consistency will have deteriorated greatly beyond the 18 month threshold.

Canned meats, beans, and vegetables have a shelf life of 2-5 years under proper storage, but can be eaten for at least 15 to 20 years if conditions are ideal. In fact, a 118-year-old can of potted meat, left over from one of Sir William Perry's voyages through the Northwest Passage, was opened by an English museum and deemed edible. The potted meat was fed to a cat, which suffered no ill effects.

Post 1

Smoked foods have a shelf life of about two to four weeks depending on how long they have been smoked. Smoked foods do not need to be refrigerated, but it does not hurt to refrigerate them anyway. This is especially true for smoked foods that are naturally fatty or oily. They should be stored in a cool dry place, or refrigerated for optimal freshness.

Pickled foods should be stored the same way as smoked foods, but they have a much longer shelf life. Pickled and canned foods preserved at home will store well for at least 3-6 months; maybe longer depending on the type of food. If you follow safe food storage guidelines, you will likely be able to keep preserved foods even longer.

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