Are you storing your food safely or Properly Store Food in the fridge?
Every year, we throw away almost 40% of our food which equates to more than $160 billion worth of food waste annually—and that’s just in the US alone. Tossing what was previously good produce, dairy, or meat due to improper storage is not only a waste of money but energy and resources as well.
Organizing your food inside the fridge offers a wealth of benefits from keeping all your ingredients and leftovers fresh to preventing foodborne illnesses that could put your family at risk. Continue reading for a complete guide on how to properly store every type of food in your fridge.
The Importance of Storing Your Food Properly
We answer questions like ‘how long does raw chicken last in the fridge?’ to ‘how to organize your freezer contents?’, and everything in between.
Although it may seem like a trivial part of food preparation, refrigeration is essential in keeping your food safe. The temperature of the fridge, the order of the food on the shelves, and the amount of time they stay inside all play a part in the growth of bacteria, more specifically the prevention of it. Why should you store your food properly in the fridge? Let us count the reasons.
- It makes your food last longer.
- It keeps the food’s nutrition intact; and
- It keeps your food safe from bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms.
Food safety is a top priority in food preparation. Whether you’re putting food in the freezer, fridge, or cupboard, you have several opportunities to keep your family from being sickened by harmful microorganisms like E. coli, Salmonella, and C. botulinum. But what goes where?
Proper Order of Food Storage
Understanding where in the fridge to store your food is necessary to make sure that it remains safe for consumption and prevent harmful bacteria from spreading from raw to cooked and ready-to-eat foods. The instruction that follows is based on a domestic fridge where the bottom shelf is a vegetable drawer.
Top and Middle Shelf: Store ready-to-eat foods here, including dairy products, ready meals, leftovers, cooked meats, and prepared salads. Keep them in sealed containers to prevent contamination. The key here is to keep these items away from raw foods to prevent contamination.
Bottom Shelf: When you’re thawing frozen, raw meat, poultry, or fish in the fridge prior to cooking, keep them at the bottom of your fridge. Store them in airtight containers to keep them from coming into contact with other foods.
Vegetable Drawer: Wash your fruits and vegetables prior to storage. Then, wrap them in paper or plastic with air holes to prevent cross-contamination. For salad vegetables and herbs, you can try to keep them fresh for longer by wrapping them in a damp paper towel before storage.
Besides preventing cross-contamination, another reason to ensure proper order of food storage is that refrigerators have different compartments. Each serves different purposes and has different temperature levels.
How Long Can You Store Food For?
You can store and freeze virtually all kinds of food, as long as you do it properly. These include all types of meat, whether raw or cooked. But, for cooked food, make sure to leave it to cool at room temperature before freezing.
- Non-perishable food – Foods like canned goods, beans, and sugar generally don’t spoil, thus can be stored in the pantry.
- Semi-perishable food – Dry goods such as flour are considered semi-perishable. These items can stay in good quality for six months to a year provided that they are stored away from direct sunlight.
- Perishable food – This includes fruits and vegetables as well as meat, poultry, fish, milk, and eggs. If you wish to keep these food items fresh for a longer timeframe, it’s better to freeze them (except for eggs).
Fruits can be frozen for up to 8 months or longer if they have been left unopened. But, their shelf life can also depend on how they were prepared, how they are being stored, and their best by date at the time of freezing as well. For proper storage, keep them at a constant temperature and avoid refreezing them multiple times. This could affect their taste and texture.
Vegetables can last anywhere from 8 to 12 months when frozen. But, much like fruits, their shelf life also depends on how they are prepared and stored. While they can last for long in the freezer, they may still reach a point where they’re no longer as appetizing or nutritious when consumed fresh. You can tell your vegetables have gone bad if they have lost their color or have already shriveled.
For your leftover cooked meat and meat dishes, it’s recommended that you keep them for no longer than four days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer. Meanwhile, for cooked poultry like chicken, you can save it for later, specifically 3-4 days in the fridge and up to 4 months in the freezer.
Raw meat can have different shelf life depending on the cut. For example, steaks can last up to 5 days in the fridge and a year in the freezer. Chops have a shelf life of 3-5 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer. Meanwhile, the variety of meats like tongue, liver, and heart can be stored for 1-2 days in the fridge and 3-4 months in the freezer.
On the other hand, raw poultry like whole chickens or turkey can last 1-2 days in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer. But, when cut-up, their shelf life is reduced to 9 months in the freezer. If you’re fond of giblets, keep in mind that they have quite a short lifespan, lasting just up to 4 months in the freezer.
Refrigerating your food will not prevent them from spoiling. But, it will slow down the growth of bacteria, thus keeping your supplies fresh for longer.
Buying food is often expensive, so when you stock up on groceries, you don’t want any to go to waste. The best you can do is to store them safely in the fridge before you cook it. This way, you can keep your kitchen well-stocked for a few days, even for months.
Do you have any other tips to add to this article? Let us know by leaving a comment.