Knowing how long your food lasts is one of the best and easiest ways to ensure that you don’t get sick from things that have gone bad. If you’re someone who simply gives things a sniff, you could be putting yourself at risk. Sometimes bacteria grows on food without altering its smell, appearance or taste. You won’t know until you’re already sick. Use these handy tips for making sure your food is always safe to eat.
1. Milk Foods
In general, milk products will give off a really bad odor when they have gone bad. However, bacteria can still grow if they sit out for too long. Your best bet when it comes to dairy items is to go by the “best by” date. Beyond that and you risk getting sick by eating cheese, yogurt or milk. However, you can shave mold off hard cheeses and still eat the rest. In general, dairy foods spoil much faster once they’re opened so keep that in mind too.
2. Meat Items
Meat is something that doesn’t last as long as some other foods. Processed meats, such as bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs keep for several weeks if they aren’t opened. Once you tear into the package, you only have about one week to finish the food before it’s bad and should be thrown away. Fresh meats only last for two or three days in the fridge before they need to be cooked.
There is a huge variation in how long veggies will last before you eat them. They’ll keep much longer in the fridge than on the counter though. Cruciferous veggies, like cauliflower and broccoli, will stay safe to eat for about a week. Leafy greens and herbs should be eaten within three to five days. Potatoes, onions and squash will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Like vegetables, fruits have a varying life span. The ones you toss into your fruit bowl will go bad more quickly than those in the fridge, so once the fruit is ripe, stick it in the fridge for safe keeping. Apples and oranges will stay safe for several weeks, but things like berries and melons should be eaten within three to five days to prevent the risk of illness.
5. Breads and Grains
You can usually eat breads and grains all the way up and a few days beyond the expiration date. Most people are able to eat these items before there is any risk of them going bad. If you notice mold or a funny smell on your bread products, it’s best to just toss them and get something fresh.
6. In the Freezer
By placing foods in your freezer, you can dramatically prolong their shelf life. Meats, cheese, milk, fruits, veggies and bread can all be placed in the freezer to keep them from going bad. Most of these foods will last an additional few months as long as they stay frozen. Thaw the foods safely by transferring them to the fridge a day or two before you are ready to eat them.
7. In the Pantry
Non-perishables, such as rice, peanut butter, granola bars, raw pasta and much more can safely be kept in your pantry. Unopened condiments stay safe for several years in the pantry, though once opened, they should be transferred to the refrigerator to keep them safe. Grains, rice and pasta are safe to eat for a year or two. Stick with expiration dates on chips, raisins, instant oats, cereal and other packaged foods.
Have you ever had food poisoning? Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!