Best Ways to Keep Food Fresh and Safe to Eat
Your meal delivery kit just arrived on your doorstep! But you know you won’t be using it today, maybe not even tomorrow. Then you finally get around to making those mouth-watering sweet potato and black bean tacos from Hello Fresh, but you realize the avocado and sweet potatoes gone bad. So know you just have the ingredients for black bean tacos. Boring!
If your food isn’t stored properly, it may reduce the quality of the ingredients over time. Furthermore, foods may go bad, or, even worse, foods that seem to be okay could make you ill.
Unfortunately, properly storing food isn’t as easy as sticking it in the fridge for a few days (or weeks!). If you do that, most foods will not wait up for you. So, how can you properly store foods to keep them fresh and safe to eat?
When you store food properly, you can both extend the shelf life of your foods and prevent foodborne illness.
This article will provide you with general tips for storing your food properly. It will also provide you with some things to keep in mind to ensure the ideal freshness and safety of your meal delivery kits.
The Importance of Food Safety
According to the latest statistics, 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year, and some people could even suffer from long-term consequences.
Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated or expired foods or drinks that contain bacteria, mold, chemicals, or other substances that make you ill.
All of the food you have in your kitchen, including food that comes in your meal delivery boxes, is vulnerable to going bad. While you can be sure that the top meal delivery services take food safety very seriously through proper preparation and shipping practices, what happens after the food arrives at your home could be a completely different story.
Different foods have very different ideal storage techniques (which we will discuss below), but there are key actions you can take to prevent food poisoning in your home. FoodSafety.gov promotes 4 steps to food safety that we recommend you put into practice for all of the foods you will prepare.
4 Steps to Food Safety
- Clean: Wash your hands often and during key times when germs are likely to spread, wash utensils and surfaces, and wash and disinfect fruits and vegetables.
- Separate: Use different cutting boards and plates for handling different categories of foods, namely produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Additionally, in your shopping cart and refrigerator, separate eggs and different types of meats and from all other foods.
- Cook: Your foods need to be cooked at the right temperature to ensure that any germs have been killed. Follow the cooking instructions provided in the recipe. Keep warm food out of the “danger zone” temperature of 40-140F.
- Chill: Refrigerating and freezing food properly will help keep foods safe and free of bacteria. Perishable foods should not be out of refrigeration temperature for more than 2 hours.
Did you know that different foods have different shelf lives depending on the way they are being stored? We will provide you with a quick reference guide for food storage in the next section.
Best Ways to Keep Ingredients Fresh
The shelf-life of foods depends on the temperature at which they are stored. Some perishable foods can be stored in the pantry for a short time, and others need to be placed in cool temperatures immediately.
First, let’s make the distinction between perishable, semi-perishable, and non-perishable foods.
Perishable foods are foods that have a short shelf life. It includes met, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, eggs, and many raw fruits and vegetables.
Semi-perishable foods are those that can be stored in the pantry (under proper conditions) for 6 months to about a year. These include flour, grain products, dried fruits, and dry mixes.
Non-perishable foods are those that do not spoil unless they aren’t handled properly. They will lose quality, however, when stored over long periods of time. They include sugar, dried beans, spices, and canned goods.
Below is a table with some examples of storage times for different foods. You can refer to a complete list on the US Government’s FoodSafety.gov website.
Storage Periods for Retaining food Quality and Safety
|Food||Room Temperature Cupboard or Pantry (50-70F)||Refrigerator (34-40F)||Freezer at 0 F|
|Milk||1 week||1 month|
|Butter||2 weeks||12 months|
|Ice Cream||2-3 weeks|
|Cheese||1 month||4-6 months|
|Meat, Poultry, and Eggs|
|Fresh roasts, steaks, and chops||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Fresh ground meat or stew meat||1-2 days||3-4 months|
|Cured meats or lunch meat||1 week||Not recommended|
|Hot Dogs||2 weeks (unopened) 1 week (opened)||1-2 months|
|Bacon||7 days||1 month|
|Fresh poultry||2 days||6-8 months|
|Cooked poultry||2-3 days||6 months|
|Eggs||2-4 weeks||1 year|
|Hard-boiled eggs||1 week||Not recommended|
|Products containing eggs||1-2 days||Not recommended|
|Egg substitutes or liquid eggs|
|Fish and Seafood|
|Fresh Fish||1-2 days||3-6 months|
|Clams or oysters||7-9 days|
|Shrimp||3-5 days||6-12 months|
|Lobster||3-7 days||6-12 months|
|Canned fish||1 year||Not recommended|
|Apples||Until ripe||1 month|
|Citrus fruits||2-6 weeks|
|Other fresh fruit||Until ripe||3-5 days|
|Canned fruit||1 year||2-4 days (after opening)|
|Dried fruit||6 months||2-4 days (cooked)|
|Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, green onions, mushrooms, greens||3-5 days|
|Cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes||1 week|
|Carrots, beets, radishes||2 weeks|
|Potatoes and squash||1 week (up to several months at lower temperatures)|
|Flour, white||1 year|
|Flour, wheat||6-8 months||1 year|
|Rice, white||2 years|
|Rice, brown||6 months|
How to Store Leftover Food
In general, you should always store leftovers in the fridge if they will not be eaten within two hours of cooking. Anything that is perishable and left at room temperature is at risk of contamination.
Below is a quick reference table for how long you can store leftovers from your home-cooked meals based on the meat base of the leftover food.
|Food||Refrigerator (34-40F)||Freezer at 0 F|
|Cooked meat, gravies made with meat stock||2-3 days||2-3 months|
|Meat pies, stews casseroles, and meat salads||2-3 days||3 months|
|Cooked poultry||2-3 days||6 months|
|Poultry pies, stew, creamed dishes, gravies||1 day||6 months|
|Cooked fish||3-4 days||1 month|
|Cooked eggs||1 week||Not recommended|
|Egg-containing products||1-2 days||Not recommended|
How Meal Delivery Kits Keep Food Safe to Eat
People often wonder about the safety and freshness of ingredients delivered via meal subscription boxes. You should rest assured that meal delivery kits always aim to keep food safe during the processing and delivery process. All of the meal delivery services listed on Top 5 Meal Delivery are delivered in insulated, temperature-controlled boxes to make sure that they arrive at your door safely. HelloFresh notes that they even alter their packaging based on the season to ensure freshness and safety.
Typically, you’ll be able to choose both a date and time window for delivery. It’s best to pick a time when you’ll be home, but it’s not completely necessary. Because of the nature of the packaging, the majority of meal delivery kits say that their ingredients will remain fresh until the end of the delivery day, even if you aren’t home to bring it inside to the refrigerator right away. If that’s not enough to make you feel better, you should know that meal delivery kits allow you a choice of where you want the box dropped off, so you can choose to have them delivered to your office. This is a great choice if you have space in your office refrigerator.
Meal subscription boxes also include instructions and recommendations for the storage of ingredients after your meal kit delivery. For example, GreenChef specifies that seafood meals should be eaten within 3 days of delivery.
Like restaurants, meal delivery services have to pass inspection and obtain the correct hygiene and sanitation licenses. All these measures help to make sure you have safe and fresh food. Once it arrives at your doorstep, it is your responsibility to keep food that way.
Even before you think about enjoying the taste of your dinner made from your meal subscription box, you should be worried about the safety of your meals. Where do ingredients come from? Were they under the ideal conditions from business to door? Once you got your meal delivery kit, did you clean and store ingredients them correctly? Do you know how to store leftovers?
The tips in this article should help you make the best decisions regarding ingredient storage and saving leftovers. Now you can truly enjoy your meal kits knowing that ingredients are enjoyed fresh.
*The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice. You are advised to consult your physician, nutrition or other qualified health provider before consuming any meal or beginning any dietary program.. The information is not intended to be relied upon for medical treatment, recommended diet or diagnosis. Reliance upon any opinion or advice provided is at your own risk