Increasing your food’s shelf life is a great way to cut down on shopping and cleaning hassles, and it can help you keep your budget tight and lean. If you often find yourself throwing away spoiled food, it can prove to be well worth your time to turn your attention to learning a bit about the shelf life of refrigerated and non-refrigerated items. Becoming familiar with some basic facts about how and why food spoils, and at what rate, you can plan more efficient shopping trips and undertake more beneficial food storage methods. Often, all that it takes is a few minutes of planning to save yourself a lot of trouble, and a fair amount of money as well. In addition, reducing the amount of spoiled food you throw away reduces household waste, which is great for the environment.
The only food that won’t ever spoil is honey. This means that everything from canned goods to flour to fresh produce has a limited shelf life. Animal products, like meat and cheese, have the shortest shelf life and often quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria. As a basic rule of thumb to avoid spoilage, refrigerate all animal products as soon as you get them home from the supermarket. The primary exceptions to this rule are unopened canned seafood, which has a pantry life of up to five years, and unopened mayonnaise, which can keep at room temperature for two to three months.
What Else Shouldn’t I Refrigerate?
On a chemical level, all food benefits from refrigeration because cold slows the development of bacteria, which is the cause of spoilage. However, in terms of quality, refrigeration isn’t always the best choice to keep a foodstuff appealing and appetizing for the greatest period. For example, commercially baked bread will remain bacteria free the longest in the fridge, but it will go stale more quickly because of the moisture changes that refrigeration brings. So, although refrigeration will technically extend the safe shelf life of almost all foods, with baked goods it will render them substantially less appetizing. To keep your baked goods fresh, invest in a metal bread box, and place it in the coolest, dryest area of your home. This will help you minimize the bread’s exposure to the circulating air and moisture that can shorten its shelf life.
What Should I Refrigerate?
Because meats and dairy products are the most susceptible foods to bacteria in or out of the refrigerator, to protect your health it is smart to buy them as close to the date when they will be consumed as possible. Although it may seem like a hassle to buy a steak the same day that you cook it, the health risks of leaving raw meat in your fridge for more than a few days are substantial. To keep your animal products healthy and delicious for the longest possible time, always store them in an airtight container inside the fridge. Cold cuts can be safely refrigerated in Ziploc bag or Tupperware for up to ten days, but left exposed in an open bag they will only last for three or four days at the absolute most. To store cheese, wrap it in plastic cling wrap as tightly as possible. The less oxygen it is exposed to in the fridge, the longer your cheese will stay fresh.