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A Guide for Determining How Long Different Foods Can be Safely Stored in the Fridge or Freezer

Food safety has become much less of an issue now that we have the benefit of advanced technology that provides us with the ideal temperatures and the best environments for extending the storage life of practically everything we eat. Why, just the introduction of home refrigeration and freezing technology has enabled us to be able to enjoy many foods that were previously beyond our scope, as many of them were so delicate that they wouldn’t hold up to the impossible to control elements of home storage. And to this, add the unabashedly huge proliferation of all kinds of chemicals that our beloved USDA has benevolently allowed to be added to all the foods we eat during processing. So we now can leave most foods out for three and four times longer than any previous times…those times when preservatives and mysterious additives were not yet even discovered.

Many Reasons Why Having a Good Food Storage Method is Important

Frozen foods like vegetables and casseroles are superior in their ability to retain nutrients and vitamins, as unlike their canned counterparts, they are not typically cooked as much during the process of preparing them for storage. It’s true that the majority of the lost nutrients in the canning process occur to the water soluble vitamins, but the water soluble vitamins are frequently the ones we find being added back into foods because they are lost in the processing. And so, even though the majority of folks tend to think about avoiding spoilage, preserving the integrity and nutrient value of food is just as important, if we are truly eating in order to live well.

Freezer Storage

freezer

Freezing foods is a surefire way to retain all the value they have, however there are a number of foods that are just not “freezable,” in their natural, unprepared state. Raw foods that have a relatively high moisture content like melons, celery, onions, cucumbers, lettuces, apples and oranges will never again be what they were prior to freezing, once you pack them into your freezer. With some, you may be able to salvage for inclusion in a fully cooked casserole or stir fry. The very moisture content of these types of foods serves to keep them crisp will become mostly frozen ice in the freezer and never be revivable. And creamy based foods like custards, hunks of cheese and yogurt are all dairy products that morph in the freezer and you do not want to eat them as a result. Everything will separate and instead of being creamy, they will become a conglomeration of separated sections of the unknown–great if you are doing a science experiment, but for ingestion–forget it. There are numerous other no-nos, when it comes to freezing, so before you freeze it, Google it.

Refrigeration

When it comes to all of the miraculous possibilities that modern refrigeration methods have enabled, the list is infinite. And while there are many items that food purists argue against being refrigerated, the decision as to whether or not to refrigerate depends on where you live and the environmental considerations. Certain locales with excessive humidity and high temps all but force you to toss practically everything in the fridge. And if your house is overrun with bugs and/or rodents, the fridge is the best place to store all foods that are in packages which can be opened in any manner or form by gnawing teeth, and leaving a resultant mess and undesirable product. So if your bread becomes mouldy after a day or two of being stored in an unrefrigerated place in your kitchen, by all means, once you come home from the grocery store, toss that loaf into the fridge, for safekeeping.

Use By and Sell By Dates

Now, when it comes these dates, they are mandated by the USDA., and tend to be a little restrictive, however anyone who wants to be surely sure to be surely safe should just comply with these dates and consequently toss anything out after it has reached that little date stamped or imprinted on the container. The more adventurous among us are often willing to press the issue a bit and typically suffer no ill results. This is not to say that you absolutely will not get sick if you go ahead and eat past date foods. But again, the abundance of preservatives have generously extended the life spans of most foods, that were associated with sell by dates which were set before the influx of so many preservatives.

Use Your Eyes, First

In terms of refrigeration, most of the foods that you typically store in the freezer will begin to show signs of being inedible, which will alleviate you from having to guess or read dates and guess. The sad truth is that often you must first rely upon your eyes to determine whether any refrigerated food is still viable, as a number of different elements can increase or shorten the lifespan of any food. Look at it first, and then check for other signs of deterioration before you choose to eat it.

Frozen Choices

A good rule of thumb is that if it’s been in your freezer for anywhere from 6 months and on up, you need to think about exactly how long its been frozen, and toss out anything that either looks “iffy” or shows a date that is beyond around eight months prior. And foods that are not stored in your freezer in the original container in which they came from the grocery store will generally not keep as long as the ones in their original containers and packaging. The degree to which spoilers like moisture and air have been able to reach these foods stored in the freezer will have the most influence on the ability of them to retain their edible or usable state.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

Obviously, there are several foods that will be useable longer when you plan to cook them on high heat. The heat will destroy any potentially harmful bacteria, however you will need to research the actual temperatures that will be necessary to kill the different forms of bacteria before you rely on this method.