NFRA MemberWestern New York Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association3-A-Day
HomeAbout WNYFRFAContactJoinFood TipsRecipesLinks

Food Safety | Food Storage | Food Preparation

Food Storage

Cick on links to learn more about the following topics:
• Product Storage Times After Purchase
Leftover Tips and Storage Times
Miscellaneous Food Storage Tips
Food Storage and Transportation for Picnics
Other Types of Safe Storage Techniques

Product Storage Times After Purchase:

The first rule of food storage in the home is to refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. The refrigerator temperature should be 40º Fahrenheit (5º Celsius), and the freezer should be 0º F (-18º C). Check both "fridge" and freezer periodically with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer. Below is a time chart to help guide you in determining the length of time to keep your products in home.

Perishable Products:
Recommended Storage Time:
1 or 2 days
Beef, Veal, Pork & Lamb
3 to 5 days
Ground Beef and Ground Poultry
1 to 2 days
Fresh Variety Meats (liver, tongue, brain, kidneys, heart, etc.)
1 to 2 days
Cured Ham (cook before eating)
5 to 7 days
Pork, Beef, or Turkey Sausage (uncooked)
1 to 2 days
3 to 5 weeks
Processed Products, Unopened Product Storage Time:
Storage Time Once Opened:
Cooked Poultry, 3 to 4 days
3 to 4 days
Cooked Sausage, 3 to 4 days
3 to 4 days
Sausage (hard, dry, shelf-stable), 6 weeks
3 weeks
Uncooked Corned Beef (in pickling pouch), 2 weeks
3 to 4 days
Bacon, 2 weeks
7 days
Hot Dogs, 2 weeks
7 days
Lunch Meats, 2 weeks (no one than 1 week after sell by date)
7 days
Fully Cooked Ham, 7 days
3 days
Canned, Refrigerated Labeled Ham, 9 months
3 to 4 days
Canned, Shelf-stable Ham, 2 years
3 to 4 days
Shelf-stable Canned Meat and Poultry, 2 to 5 years
3 to 4 days
Vacuum-Packed Dinners (Commercial Brand with USDA seal), 2 weeks
3 to 4 days

Leftover Tips and Storage Times:

One of the most common ways to experience foodborne illness is by consuming leftovers that should have been tossed. Simply assessing a product by odor and appearance, is not the most reliable and safe way to determine if it's edible. That's why we have provided a chart of products with proper storage times, and also given some other important storage tips along the way.

Recommended Leftover Storage Times

Refrigerator Freezer
Cooked Meat & Meat Casseroles 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months
Gravy Meat Broth 1 to 2 days 2 to 3 months
Fried Chicken 3 to 4 days 4 months
Cooked Poultry Casseroles 3 to 4 days 4 to 6 months
Cooked Plain Poultry Pieces 3 to 4 days 4 months
Cooked Poultry Pieces Covered with broth.gravy 1 to 2 days 6 months
Chicken Nuggets or Patties 1 to 2 days 1 to 3 months
Cooked Pizza 3 to 4 days 1 to 2 months
Cooked Stuffing 3 to 4 days 1 month

Food that has been sitting out for more than two hours, should not be consumed. Instead, immediately move your leftovers to shallow containers, allowing the product to cool quicker once inside the refrigerator. Make sure to consumer your leftovers within three to four days, on average, otherwise discard. Remember, any leftover sauces, soups, and gravies should be reheated to a rolling boil.

Miscellaneous Food Storage Tips:

Dairy Product Storage: Store dairy products like milk, cream and cottage cheese in their original containers. Always close lids tightly. Refrigerate cheese in its original wrapper. After opening cheese, store cheese in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. Store milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Avoid storage in door panels, as these may not be as cold as one might imagine, especially if refrigerator is frequently opened. Avoid exposing milk, cream and other products to bright light. Light can affect flavor. Always serve milk cold.

Food Storage and Transportation for Picnics:

Food temperatures play a crucial role in keeping food safe for picnics. Keep your cooler cold. Buy lots of ice or use frozen gel packs to keep food cold. Place perishable foods in the cooler directly from the refrigerator. Don't put everything on the counter and then start to pack. Time also plays a crucial role in keeping food safe. Pack meat and poultry while still frozen. If you only partially pack you cooler, fill the rest with more ice. Place meat, poultry and fish in separate plastic bags to keep foods from leaking onto raw, ready-to-eat foods like fruit and vegetables. If the ice starts to melt, put more into the cooler. Do not use the loose ice used to pack your cooler as ice for your drinks. If necessary, pack refreshment ice in a separate, bag that seals. Only pack what you intend to eat. Any food that has been left in the cooler after the ice has melted should be thrown away. Use a thermos to transport cold milk, juice or other liquids. A thermos will also keep hot soups and foods hot.
When in doubt, throw it out.

Other Types of Safe Storage Techniques:

• Poultry and meat heading for the refrigerator may be stored as purchased in the plastic wrap for a day or two. If only part of the meat or poultry is going to be used right away, it can be wrapped loosely for refrigerator storage. Just make sure juices can't escape to contaminate other foods.

• Wrap tightly foods destined for the freezer. Leftovers should be stored in tight containers.

• Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.

• Seafood should always be kept in the refrigerator or freezer until preparation time.

• Don't crowd the refrigerator or freezer so tightly that air can't circulate. Check the leftovers in covered dishes and storage bags daily for spoilage. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out.

• A sure sign of spoilage is the presence of mold, which can grow even under refrigeration. While not a major health threat, mold can make food unappetizing. Most moldy foods should be thrown out. But you might be able to save molding hard cheeses, salami, and firm fruits and vegetables if you cut out not only the mold but a large area around it. Cutting the larger area around the mold is important because much of the mold growth is below the surface of the food.

• Always check the labels on cans or jars to determine how the contents should be stored. Many items besides fresh meats, vegetables, and dairy products need to be kept cold. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup should go in the refrigerator after opening. If you've neglected to refrigerate items, it's usually best to throw them out.

• Some precautions will help make sure that foods that can be stored at room temperature remain safe. Potatoes and onions should not be stored under the sink because leakage from the pipes can damage the food. Potatoes don't belong in the refrigerator, either. Store them in a cool, dry place. Don't store foods near household cleaning products and chemicals.

• Check canned goods to see whether any are sticky on the outside. This may indicate a leak. Newly purchased cans that appear to be leaking should be returned to the store, which should notify the FDA.

See the Food Safety Section for further tips on Product Safety. 

Privacy Policy
All contents copyright 2008, all rights reserved.