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Fresh Food Storage Guidelines

Ensure the tastiest, healthiest food possible with this food storage guide. The shelf life of popular meat, fresh produce, bread and dairy foods are all detailed, along with tips for prolonging freshness.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Dairy

Eggs
Time: Raw in shell, 3-5 weeks; hard-cooked, 1 week
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Keep fresh eggs in the original carton; throw away any cracked or leaking eggs.

Milk
Time: 7 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Always buy milk and dairy products at the end of your shopping trip to keep them cold and fresh.

Butter
Time: 1-3 months
Temperature: Refrigerator
Packaging and Tips: Butter is very susceptible to picking up flavors from other foods. Store in original carton or covered container to prevent flavor loss.

Yogurt
Time: 7-14 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Store yogurt in the original container.

Sour cream
Time: 7-21 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Once opened, use sour cream within 7-10 days.

Cheese
Time: Hard (cheddar, Swiss), 6 months unopened; soft (brie), 3-4 weeks opened; shredded cheese, 1 week; cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, 7–14 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Wrap cheese tightly in original wrapping or plastic food-storage wrap to protect against mold, flavor loss. Keep cottage or ricotta cheese tightly covered in the original container. Store the container upside-down to seal out air and preserve freshness.

Meat, Poultry and Fish

Beef
Time: Ground, 1-2 days; roast, 3-5 days; steaks, 3-5 days; cooked beef (leftovers), 3-4 days; gravy and meat broth, 1-2 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Store meats in coldest part of the refrigerator. Store raw meat in original airtight packaging or plastic food-storage bags.

Poultry
Time: Whole chicken or turkey, 1-2 days; chicken parts, 1-2 days; Giblets, 1-2 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Juices can contaminate other foods. Store chicken and turkey in sealed packaging in lowest part of refrigerator.

Fish
Time: Lean fish (cod, sole), 1-2 days; fatty fish (salmon, halibut), 1-2 days; cooked fish, 3-4 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: To prevent odor, store fresh fish in sealed packaging away from other foods.

Shellfish
Time: Shrimp, scallops, shucked clams or mussels, 1-2 days; live clams or lobsters, 2-3 days; cooked shellfish, 3-4 days
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw shellfish.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits (cold storage)
Time: Apples, 1-3 weeks; berries and cherries, 1-2 days; citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, limes, etc.), 3 weeks; grapes, 5 days; fruit juices,6 days; melons (cantaloupe), 1 week
Temperature: Refrigerator (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Keep fruit juices tightly covered. Wrap melons and cantaloupes to prevent flavor transfer to other foods.

Fruits (room temperature)
Time: Avocados, 3-5 days; bananas, 3-5 days; peaches, pears and apricots, 3-5 days
Temperature: Room temperature
Packaging and Tips: Ripen apricots, peaches and pears at room temperature; store in refrigerator when ripe.

Vegetables (cold storage)
Time: Asparagus, 1-2 days; beans (green or wax), 1-2 days; carrots and beets, 1-2 weeks; celery, 1-2 weeks; corn (in husk), 1-2 days; lettuce (head), 3-5 days; lettuce (leaf or shredded), 1-2 days; mushrooms, 1-2 days; spinach, 5-7 days
Temperature: (38 degrees F/4 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Store asparagus upright in plastic container containing 1-2 in. (2.5-5 cm) water. Rinse leaf or shredded lettuce with water and store in sealed plastic storage containers. Add a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and promote crisping.

Vegetables (cool storage)
Time: Onions, up to 4 weeks; potatoes, 2-3 months; sweet potatoes or yams, 2-3 weeks
Temperature: Cool storage (45-50 degrees F/7-10 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Onions need a dry storage space, so don’t store them with potatoes, which release moisture. Don’t store potatoes or onions in plastic bags. Better air circulation promotes a longer shelf life.

Vegetables (room temperature)
Time: Tomatoes, 1-3 days
Temperature: Cool storage (45-50 degrees F/7-10 degrees C)
Packaging and Tips: Ripen tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight.

Breads and Cereals

Breads
Time: French bread or baguettes, 1 day ; sliced sandwich bread, 5–7 days; rye or artisan breads, 2–3 days
Temperature: Room temperature
Packaging and Tips: Store sliced breads in original packaging or plastic food storage bag. Bread may be stored in the refrigerator for longer shelf life, but will become stale and dry more quickly.

Cereals
Time: cold cereal (opened), up to 2 months; cold cereal (unopened), up to 18 months; oatmeal (rolled oats), up to 3 months
Temperature: Room temperature
Packaging and Tips: “Decant” opened boxes of cereal from original packaging into airtight storage containers for longest shelf life. Keep rolled oats in an airtight container to guard against moisture and insects.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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