How important is it to understand the food shelf life for many of our fresh foods? Very. Obviously the information regarding expiration dates is most important for health and safety first and foremost. In addition, it is also important on the quest of thriftiness as many foods are still edible after those inked on dates – if there is no need to throw the food away, there is no need to throw your money away.
If you recall, in our last article we wrote on the subject of expiration dates, we discussed how to decode what those words mean that are inked next to a date. In this article we want to explore just how long your common fresh food items will be safe to consume.
We use a great site called StillTasty.com to help use determine if/when we should throw something out or how long we can keep something. It is a very helpful website to bookmark as it will help you save money, be healthier, and be aware of more food safety precautions!
They have a very comprehensive database of food items. You just simply type in some key words in their search box and a list of applicable food items will appear. Click on the option that best fits your food and it will show you the approximate refrigeration time and freezer time.
Here is a quick breakdown and guide on how long foods may be good for in your refrigerator after the date you purchase them. If you’re not planning to use the item by this date, make sure to put it in your freezer at least a couple of days prior to that listed below to account for defrost and usage later.
- Poultry: 1-2 days after purchase date
- Fish: 1-2 days after purchase date
- Beef: 2-3 days after purchase date
- Ground Beef: 2 days after purchase date
- Pork: 2-5 days after purchase date
- Hot Dogs: 1 week after sell-by date
- Lunch Meat: 1 week after sell-by date
- Whipping creams, creams, half and half: 3-4 days from sell-by date
- Milk: up to 1 week after sell-by date
- Butter: 1 month after sell-by date
- Yogurt: up to 1 week after sell-by date
- Soft Cheeses: (like cream cheese) 1-2 weeks
- Cottage Cheese: up to 2 weeks maximum after carton date
- Mayonnaise: up to 30 dates after carton date
- Eggs: 3-5 weeks from carton date
- Hard Cheese: 3 – 6 months (according to Thrifty Cas, you can cut the mold away and the rest still be good :))
My personal opinion (although I can’t find the facts to back it up) is that all bets are off after you open a liquid dairy product. We have had milk that claimed to expire a week out still taste sour after it had been open for just a few days. The food shelf life on that milk was definitely expired in my humble opinion.
This one is a bit trickier just because the range is so broad – you will want to check the StillTasty site for reference on the exact fruit or vegetable you are wondering about.
- Fruits can vary anywhere from 2 days after purchase (e.g., raspberries) to 1 month after purchase (e.g., apples) and everywhere in between for the rest.
- Vegetables can vary anywhere from 2 days (e.g., asparagus and mushrooms) to a month for the root vegetables.
Hopefully these fresh food tips will help you save a bit of money or keep you from getting really sick.
I do want to mention, that my favorite test, the sniff test, is still a pretty reliable one. If you have a question about your food shelf life or food safety even within these date; pull-out the nose and get a sniff. But a word of caution to the men……if your wife is like mine and take complete and utter offense to a nose working overtime in the kitchen – then do it in secret when she’s not around – unless it is followed up quickly with a nice compliment. 🙂
Please remember as we said before this article is is not intended to trump any advice that you have received from a professional in this area. When it comes to the issue of fresh foods, especially meats and dairy, there are many precautions that need to take place. Please consult official websites such as FoodSafety.gov and The U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a final word on all food shelf life and all health and safety information. This is merely just a guide from research that we have conducted.