Due to the worldwide lockdown for Coronavirus pandemic, people are stockpiling food items. It is important to store food items with longer shelf lives as they can be consumed at any time during the lockdown.
The food items we purchase from the market or the fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard of our houses all have a shelf life. It is very important to know the shelf life of the food items because they cannot be kept beyond a certain period of time.
It is the length of time during which the food items will remain fresh and are safe to eat. The shelf life of foods starts from the time the food is manufactured.
Food items get spoiled due to moisture, domestic storage, chemical change, food-packaging interaction, and extreme temperature, thus food tends to change in texture, colour and flavour after their shelf life is over.
Oily and fatty food items have longer shelf lives and are stored at room temperature. They stay longer as they do not contain moisture. As we know the presence of moisture in the food items leads to the growth of microorganisms and tends to spoil the food.
Poultry products do not stay for a longer time and are recommended to consume on the same day. Raw meat contains more moisture and is prone to microbial attack. Shelf life of poultry products in the fridge is for 2 to 5 days.
Grain products such as rice and corn can be stored for a longer time, whereas wheat products like bread do not stay long as they do not contain preservatives.
Dairy products like milk, paneer, cheese, and tofu should be stored in the refrigerator as they have very short shelf lives. It is always recommended to consume milk within 1 day.
When perishable foods are purchased from the market, they should be stored in a freezer. The temperature of the freezer should be 0°F. Freezing temperature is important to keep foods stay fresh for a longer time.
Shelf Life of Common Foods:
- Potatoes: Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place. The shelf life of the potato is 2 to 4 weeks.
- Capsicum: The shelf life of Capsicum is 1 to 2 weeks and it should be stored in a refrigerator.
- Onions: Onions should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place. The shelf life of onions is 1 to 2 months.
- Cauliflower: The shelf life of Cauliflower is 1 to 2 weeks and it should be stored in a refrigerator.
- Eggplants: Eggplants remain fresh in a refrigerator and the shelf life is 10 to 12 days.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes take 2 to 5 weeks to ripe. After ripening it should be wrapped in paper and stored in a refrigerator which remains fresh for 5 to 7 days.
- Apples: Apples when kept at a temperature of 30º to 40º F, remain fresh and juicy and the shelf life is up to 5 months. If the apples are kept in the fridge, it should be wrapped in a plastic cover as gas from the apples turns other items in the fridge brown.
- Bananas: Bananas remain fresh for 2 to 3 days until they ripen.
- Avocadoes: Avocados have a shorter shelf life. They remain fresh and the shelf life is for 3 days after they ripen.
- Pineapple: The whole pineapple remains fresh and the shelf life is for 2 days and if cut into pieces, it can be refrigerated for 1 week.
- Watermelon: Watermelon can be refrigerated and remain fresh for 1 week.
Grapes: Grapes remain fresh in pantry for 2 to 4 days, but if kept in a refrigerator it should be stored in a covered bowl which retains its moisture and remains fresh for 7 to 10 days.
III. Poultry products:
- Tofu and meat: Tofu and meat contain moisture in them and it tends to deteriorate if kept without refrigeration for a few hours. In a fridge, it stays fresh for 4 to 5 days and in a freezer for 6 to 8 weeks.
- Raw turkey, chicken, duck, and goose: In a fridge, these meat items stay fresh and the shelf life is for 1 to 2 days and in a freezer is for 3 to 5 months.
- Chicken nuggets: Chicken nuggets must be wrapped in a plastic cover and should be stored in a fridge to remain fresh. The shelf life of chicken nuggets in the fridge is 1 to 2 days and in a freezer is for 1 to 3 months.
- Cooked poultry: Cooked poultry stays fresh for 3 to 4 days when kept in the fridge
IV. Dairy products:
- Milk: Shelf life of milk is 1 day and if the milk is kept in the refrigerator it stays for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Butter: Shelf life of butter is 1 to 2 months if stored in the fridge.
- Paneer: Paneer should be consumed on the same day after it is prepared. The shelf life of paneer is 3 to 5 days if stored in a refrigerator.
- Cream cheese: Shelf life of cream cheese is 1 to 2 weeks when kept in the fridge.
- Curd: Fresh curd to be consumed on the same day. The shelf life of curd is 2 to 4 days if stored in a refrigerator.
- Margarine: The shelf life of margarine is about 1 month if stored in a refrigerator.
V. Other food items:
- Eggs: Hard-cooked eggs are to be consumed within a week. Eggs remain fresh and the shelf life is about 4 weeks when kept in the refrigerator.
- Bread: Bread stays fresh for about 2 to 3 days when kept at room temperature. If it is kept in a refrigerator it stays for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Raw white rice: White rice can be stored for about 1 year in a cool and dry place.
- Dry beans: Beans can be stored for a longer time if they are kept dry. The shelf life of dry beans is 6 months. Aged beans take longer soaking or cooking times to become soft. Cooked beans can be stored in a refrigerator for 2 to 4 days.
- Pulses: Pulses can be stored for a longer time if they are kept dry. Cooked pulses can be stored in a refrigerator for 2 to 4 days.
Shelf Life of Canned Foods:
Food items and drinks are supplied in a sealed can and these canned foods stay for a longer period of time (usually 1 to 4 years) than the common foods. This long shelf life is possible only because preservatives are added on the canned foods.
Canned foods are safe to eat as per USDA and usually, they don’t breed micro-organism. However, after their expiration date, the canned food loses freshness, taste, colour and flavour.
Canned food items are washed, cleaned, filled into metal tins or cans along with salted water or fruit juice (canning fluid). Then the metal tins or cans are heated. This heat treatment kills the microorganisms that may spoil the food items. The contents remain sterile and then it is sealed air-tight (vacuum).
- Canned Ham: Canned Ham stays fresh for 2 to 4 years.
- Canned Juices: Vinegar is added to juices such as apples, plums, cherries, oranges, and peaches. These juices have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months when sealed. But after opening it will last for 4 to 7 days in the fridge.
- Honey: Honey is an exceptional food that stays fresh for more than 2000 years. This is because it has a low water content and high acidity level, thus preventing the growth of microorganisms in it.
- Canned Fish: Canned Fish has a shelf life of 3 years. After opening the can, fish can be consumed or kept in a fridge for 2 to 3 days.
- Canned Fruits: Fruits are a rich source of vitamins. Canned fruits can remain fresh for up to 2 years.
- Canned cheese: Canned cheese can last up to 5 years. After the can is opened the cheese has to be kept in a freezer.
- Canned Carrots: Dried canned carrots can last up to 25 years.
- Canned meat: Canned meat (beef, duck, turkey, chicken, pork and mutton) stays fresh for 2 to 5 years.
- Beans: Canned beans can be consumed directly from the can without cooking as they are pre-cooked. Canned beans remain fresh for 2 to 5 years.
- Canned mushrooms: Canned mushrooms stay at best quality for about 3 to 5 years.
Do NOT eat it!!!!….. Signs of Canned Foods gone bad:
- In very rare cases, the can becomes corroded
- When bad odour comes from canned foods
- When the canned liquid becomes cloudy.
- The canned food explodes out when the can is opened
- When some bubbles form in the canned liquid
- When the can leaks. It is a rare case
- When the can is dented
- When the colour of the canned foods changes to – brown, grey, or greyish black
- When the canned food tastes bitter or sour.
It is always advisable to check the manufacturing date and expiry date of packaged food at the time of purchase. To obtain the maximum benefits from the nutritious food, it is always advisable to consume the food at the right time when they are fresh.