Shelf Life of Food

Expiration Date
Expiration Date

Foods are meant to be eaten, whether by you and me or by the various bacteria that cover all surfaces.

So, all food has a maximum amount of time it can be stored before it is considered “bad.”

Luckily, humans have developed an ability to smell whether or not most foods are “bad.” Always use your best judgement, as individual pieces of food can spoil faster or slower than it’s neighbours on the shelf.

Below is a guideline for various types of food, and how long they can be stored in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. These are general case guidelines, and they don’t consider other factors like humidity, quality of food, or how long the food was in transport.

Spoilage is caused by non-food bacteria and molds eating your food and growing inside and on its surface. So, anything that stops things from growing, like cold temperatures, will help prolong your food’s shelf life.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • Softer foods are usually quick to spoil.
  • Nuts and dried fruits will spoil slower than fruits and veggies. This is actually because it is harder for the bacteria to physically enter the food.
  • Eggs and milk are among the quickest to spoil.

Freezing

Ice Crystals, Patricia Lake (5767831425).jpg
By Antony Stanley from Gloucester, UK – Ice Crystals #3, Patricia Lake, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Be careful about freezing food. While it is true that no bacteria can grow below 0’C, if the food went into the freezer contaminated, the same harmful bacteria will be there once it is thawed. Freezing simply makes the bacteria inactive.  Cooking it to the recommended temperature helps to ensure that your food is safe.

Aside from bacteria, freezing can still destroy your food if not protected. When water freezes, it forms ice crystals, and this can shred your food from the inside out. Celery and other herbs are notable for this, thanks to their high water content.

Interesting Fact: honey is virtually indestructible. It has a shelf life of forever, whether on the counter, fridge or freezer. The only reason the graphic says “not recommended” for refrigerating honey is that it can cause it to crystallize sooner.

Crystallization is actually not bad, it is a simple and reversible process that occurs naturally in all honeys. As long as you keep it out of sunlight, in an airtight container, your honey is fine for years.

Another fantastic resource is Still Tastey. This site has comprehensive information about how long you can keep thousands of foods and beverages. Put this link in your Bookmarks so that you can quickly search for any ingredient.

From Visually.

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