Food safety also extends to how and where you store your foods. Get a food thermometer to make sure foods are stored at 40 degrees or below. More perishable foods should be kept in the “meat drawer,” which is usually the coldest section. It’s OK to store condiments in the refrigerator door, but keep eggs, milk and yogurt in the main compartment for optimal freshness.
Here are a few guidelines:
- In the door: This is the least cold part of the fridge and is best for condiments, pickles, salad dressings and other foods with a high acid (think vinegar) content to resist bacterial growth.
- The coldest shelf: The middle of the fridge, sometimes also containing a separate meat drawer, is best for highly perishable foods like fish, deli meats, eggs or dairy.
- The middle/lower shelves: These are a great place for leftovers.
- Bottom drawers: The fruit and vegetable crispers maintain higher humidity, helping to preserve thin-skinned veggies like peppers, broccoli and leafy greens.
Following Ayurvedic tradition, it is not recommended eating anything older then 24 hours. According to Ayurveda, leftovers are difficult to convert into Ojas, the vital nectar of life.
If that seems too soon for you, then follow The Mayo Clinic recommendations of not eating anything older than 3 or 4 days, after which food poisoning becomes more likely.
Below are USDA recommendations for food storage:
In the fridge:
- fresh meats: 1-2 days
- lunch meats: 3-5 days
- hot dogs: 1 week opened
- salads: 3-5 days
- chicken, fish: 1-2 days
- hard cheese: 3-4 weeks
- milk: 5 days
- yogurt/sour cream: 7-10 days
- leftovers: 3-4 days
In the freezer:
- beef: 3-4 months
- soups/stews: 2-3 months
- chicken: 9-12 months
- cheese: 6-9 months
Sometimes food labels can be throw you for a loop. Here are some popular labels for fresh (refrigerated) items that are the most confusing:
Pack date simply means when the food was packaged and DOES NOT indicate freshness or shelf-life.
Sell-by date is the last day a grocery store, or any retailer, can have the food on shelves for sale. Most foods, if stored properly, are safe to eat for up to several days or several months after this date, depending on the food.
Use-by or best if used by date means a food is safe to eat, with optimal taste, flavor, and freshness until this date when properly stored. It refers only to quality, not safety, and is not an index of spoilage.
Guaranteed fresh by date usually refers to baked goods, and indicates optimal freshness. The products are still safe and edible beyond the date.
However, these dates don’t apply after you’ve opened the package. While hot dogs may have a “use by” date of three months ahead, once you’ve opened the package, you only have about a week to eat the rest..