Every year the CDC estimates that 1 in every 6 Americans will get food poisoning. While majority of the nearly 48 million people who experience food poisoning get it from a restaurant about ¼ will get it from home.
Food poisoning is not just unpleasant to deal with but is expensive in terms of hospital care and some extreme cases even result in death. Thankfully you can drastically reduce your risk of acquiring food poisoning at home by learning how long certain foods can be stored. This is super important when it come to meal planning and buying healthy food in bulk when it comes to eating for weight loss.
A Word About “Use By” Dates
Since many staples of the American diet are store-bought processed foods, many people just rely on the Use By or Expiration dates on the product. It might surprise you but the Use By dates on most food does not offer inclusive accuracy into whether something is safe to eat.
Relying on your sense is the best way to tell if something is still safe to eat or drink. If you have an open container of food it is always wise to check it closely before eating even if you are “safe” in terms of the Use By date. Similarly, just because a food or drink item has reached its date doesn’t necessarily mean you should just toss it.
Remember that the Use By date is only a recommended guide as to when to consume something within its peak freshness. Perhaps the taste won’t be as amazing after this date but it eating something a few days or weeks after the suggested date isn’t a guarantee that you will get sick. It really depends on the food in question. Some things spoil much faster than others and may not make it to the Use By Date if they are compromised in shipping, the packaging process, etc.
Tossing perfectly good food just because of a date is incredibly wasteful. In a report done by Harvard they found that the in British homes, roughly 20% of wasted food was thrown away just because of the date. It would be safe to assume that US homes are guilty of this as well.
When it all comes down to it, there is really no strict regulations on these dates and they don’t accurately tell you whether a food is still ok to eat or not. Use your judgement instead by smelling and looking before trying a taste. We’ve all been eating…all of our lives. We’ve come to be able to tell when something has gone bad. Playing attention is the name of the game.
How Long You Can Store Common Foods?
Here is a quick guide for how long you can safely store some common groceries. Keep in mind that certain foods need to be stored differently than others. For example, potatoes and garlic should be kept in a dark, dry, cool place for the best longevity. Keep in mind that the guide above is based on unopened foods. Once a package has been opened the guidelines above no longer apply. For example, a can of mixed vegetables can last a few years past its expiration date but after it’s opened it needs to be eaten a few days. This list is NOT exact science…per the info stated above…so don’t think of it as the gospel truth. I’ve purchased food from the store, brought it home and found that was already bad.
- Hard-Skinned Fruits like Apples: 3 weeks
- Citrus: 3 weeks
- Berries: 1 week or less
- Melons: 2 weeks or less
- Leafy Greens: 3 to 5 days
- Fresh Herbs: 3 days to 1 week
- Onion and Garlic: 2 months or less
- Potatoes: 3 months or less
Dairy and Eggs
- Cheeses: 4 to 6 months
- Cream Cheese: 2 months or less
- Butter: 3 months or less
- Yogurt: 3 weeks or less
- Milk and Milk Alternatives: 1 to 2 weeks
- Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream: 1 month or less
- Eggs: 3 weeks to 1 month
- All Raw Meats and Fish: 2 to 3 days refrigerated, 4 to 6 months frozen
- Lunch Meat: 2 weeks
- Bacon: 2 weeks
- Hot Dogs and Sausages: 2 weeks
- Hard Cheeses: 6 months
- Other Dairy: 1 to 2 months
- Butter and Margarine: 6 months to 1 year
- Seafood: 3 to 6 months
- Fresh Fruits: 1 Year
- Citrus: 4 to 6 months
- Vegetables: 6 to 10 months
- Uncooked Whole Meat: 8 to 12 months
- Uncooked Ground Meat: 4 months or less
- Processed Meats (Sausage, Lunch Meat, Hot Dogs, Bacon, etc): 1 to 3 months
- All Canned Food: Up to 1.5 Years Past Use By Date. The long it is canned, the more the flavor may suffer.
- White Rice: 2 Years
- Brown Rice: 1 Year
- Coffee: 1 Year
- Pastas: 2 Years
- Olive Oil: 1 Year
- Vinegars and Soy Sauce: 3 Years or Less
- Bread and Baked Goods: 2 Days to 1 Week
- Boxed Foods: 6 Months to 1 Year+ Depending on Food
- Whole: 4 years or less
- Ground: 3 years of less
- Dried: 2 years or less
- Condiments: 3 months to 1 year depending on type
Relying solely on the Use By Date typically just leads to more food waste, something that can negatively impact our environment and hurt our wallets. When it comes to using foods past their Use By date, use common sense. If in doubt, throw it out. Food poisoning is a non-negotiable issue.