I know I’m guilty of it, and I’m guessing you are, too.
I go to the fridge looking for something for lunch, pull out a container and realize the leftover chili has been in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
While it was stored properly for a short time, it’s not going to be safe to eat after two weeks.
There are right – and wrong – ways to store your food.
A store-bought loaf of bread, for example, is perfectly fine stored in your dry pantry for a week, but a loaf of freshly baked bread might not make it longer than a day or two.
I could have stored that chili in the freezer for two weeks, but I wouldn’t risk eating it out of the refrigerator from that same time period.
On the Counter
You can safely store some foods out on your kitchen counter. These include garlic, onions, shallots, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, citrus and melons. Make sure they aren’t in direct sunlight or exposed to moisture. You can also keep cakes and pies out for up to a week, wrapped tightly with aluminum foil or sealed in a food storage container or zipper-lock bag. Move fruit pies to the refrigerator after two days.
In the Pantry
Most unopened dry goods can be stored in your pantry for up to six months. After a package is opened, seal it in a food-safe container. Brookshire’s offers lots of options for long-term food storage. Your pantry is the best place for all of your spices, as it is probably dark and should be dry. Spices can last up to a year. After that, they start to lose their potency and flavor.
In the Refrigerator
Dairy must be kept refrigerated. Use the upper shelves, where temperatures stay more constant. This includes eggs, even though many manufacturers create an egg shelf on the door. The refrigerator door is the warmest place in the appliance, so save it for things like condiments and preserved foods.
Keep fruits and veggies that aren’t able to sit out on your counter in the crisper drawer, where it should be the least humid.
Cheeses should be stored wrapped in wax paper or something else porous.
Meats are best stored in the bottom of the refrigerator where it is the coldest. Remove retail packaging and rewrap the meat in foil to extend its shelf life. However, you should try to use it within four days of purchase or put it in the freezer. Fish will keep for two days wrapped in waxed paper, also on the bottom shelf, but give it the sniff test first. If it smells excessively fishy, err on the side of caution.
In the Freezer
When you do want to store things like meat for a long time, the freezer is the best option. For the freezer, leave it in its original packaging and try to remember to use it within six months.
Any time you use the freezer, make sure foods are cooled to room temperature (or put them in the fridge first), and then seal them in a way that eliminates any extra air. Some foods, like cheeses and fruits or vegetables, will change texture after being frozen, so experiment with the best ways to store these foods long-term.