Toss It or Keep It?

Jessica Small, Better Living for Texans Agent

Many of us love saving money and do our best to stretch our dollars. Typically, the goal is to get as much out of your purchases as possible. However, when it comes to food the old saying “all things must come to an end” holds truth.

It’s a common practice of many to store certain foods in the refrigerator to extend the quality of the foods. However, the question of how long we can keep foods refrigerated is often a mystery. Research shows that the length of time you can store foods in the refrigerator depends on whether or not the food is fresh, unpackaged food, or packaged. It is also important to note whether the package has been opened or whether the food was previously cooked.

Generally speaking, fresh foods, opened foods, and cooked foods should not be kept refrigerated longer than four to seven days. If you want to keep the food longer, it is best to freeze the food and use it later. Doing so will significantly reduce the risk of contracting a food-borne illness. It is also important to keep in mind that even frozen foods do not last forever. A general rule to follow is that fresh meats should be stored frozen for no longer than three to four months. A great way to keep track is to label food items with an expiration date to help identify when it is time to discard them.

Refrigerating/freezing is a great way to save! Here are a few additional tips: Research indicates that most of the products claiming to extend the life of vegetables, cheeses, and greens in the refrigerator do not actually stop the decay caused by the natural release of gasses from the food items. It’s better to store leftovers in the original packaging and tape the bag shut to ensure freshness. The shelving on the door of your refrigerator is the warmest part of the refrigerator. The back of your refrigerator is the coldest part. Store foods in the refrigerator accordingly.

If things get too overwhelming or hard to keep up with your food items just remember, “when in doubt, throw it out.”

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides equal opportunities in its programs and employment to all persons, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.