Store your food properly before it spoils

A mouldy piece of bread, rotten tofu and sour milk. These are common examples of food that have gone bad.

What then, causes food to spoil?

According to news website Al Arabiya, food spoils because it contains tiny micro-organisms, and as food is kept beyond its shelf life, these micro-organisms proliferate and cause food to go bad. Sometimes when food spoils, it can be harmful and lead to food poisoning if consumed.

Food safety levels are difficult to tell. Food that is not safe for consumption is sometimes not distinguishable merely by their appearance, pungent smell or loss of colour.

In order to avoid eating unsafe food, it is best to have a good knowledge of proper storage and duration to keep food in its best condition.

How long to keep your food for before getting rid of them

Pantry storage

Dry foods, such as those in cans, can be kept in the pantry. It is, however, important to make sure that moisture does not accumulate in the food. To do this, simply store the food in the coolest area of your kitchen cabinets.

Keeping food in the pantry is a good way to ensure that the shelf life is prolonged. However, according to Al Arabiya, the longer the storage, the more the flavors and nutrients will gradually be lost. Tip: Use the oldest items you have bought first.

Sometimes, you might decide to transfer food from one container to another. When doing this, it is ideal to keep them in glass or food grade containers. For canned foods, they must be disposed if they have any dented edges. Also, they must be kept in their original containers and should not be transferred.

The list below shows the shelf lives of nine common foods in a pantry, according to Al Arabiya:

1. Nuts - 9 months

2. Sugar - 2 years

3. Rice - 2 years

4. Beans - not defined

5. Cans - check expiry dates

6. Dried fruits - 6 months

7. Spices - 6 months, replace if aroma fades

8. Flour - 1 year

9. Tea (instant) - 2 years

Refrigerator storage

According to news website Al Arabiya, in order to slow down bacterial growth, the temperature of the refrigerator should be between 1 to 4 degree Celsius. If there is no built-in thermometer in your fridge, you can monitor the temperature by putting the thermometer in the warmest regions of the refrigerator.

Food stored in the fridge should be covered in plastic wraps. This is to prevent the food from drying out and odours from spreading between food items. Also, meat that is raw should be stored in the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.

According to Al Arabiya, below are the shelf lives of common foods stored in the refrigerator. Included in the list are also some pieces of advice:

1. Beef, lamb, veal (raw) - 3 to 5 days

2. Ground meat (raw) - 1 to 2 days

3. Stew meat (raw) - 1 to 2 days

4. Turkey and other cold cuts - 5 days

5. Fish fillet - 1 day

6. Eggs - 1 month

7. Cheese, labneh, yoghurt - check expiry dates

8. Apples - 1 month, do not wash before storing as moisture causes spoilage

9. Citrus fruit - 2 weeks

10. Apricots, avocados, bananas, grapes, plums, melons, peaches, pears - 5 days

11. Berries, cherries - 3 days

12. Beets, carrots, radishes - 2 weeks, remove leafy tops before refrigerating

13. Cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, peppers, tomatoes - 1 week

14. Lettuce, spinach, and all leafy greens - 5 days, rinse, drain then refrigerate

10 foods you shouldn't keep in the fridge

  • They'll lose their flavour and firm texture in the fridge. The Huffington Post reported that the cold temperature damages the membranes inside the fruit walls, turning the tomatoes mealy, and obstructs the ripening process, which is when the tomatoes gain more flavour.
  • They'll also lose their flavour because their starch will be turned into sugar more quickly in the cold temperature.
  • They'll turn soft and mouldy. Store them in a cool, dry area where there's air circulation - but not together with your potatoes or they'll both rot more quickly, according to The Huffington Post.
  • Only refrigerate them if they're ripe - after which they can last up to about a week. For best results, store the whole fruit instead of one that's been cut open, to prevent it from turning brown.
  • They will start to sprout and may even turn mouldy or rubbery or both.
  • You might think it'll stay fresh for longer in the fridge, but it actually dries out more quickly. If it's sandwich bread, you can still freeze it while wrapped and retain the moisture. Let it thaw slowly and fully before consuming.
  • Honey never expires, so there's no need to keep it in the fridge, which will instead cause it to crystallise and harden.
  • Cooking oils such as olive oil and corn oil can easily thicken and resemble butter within a few minutes of being kept in the fridge, according to health site Healthy Diet Base.
  • They'll absorb and take on the odour in the fridge, which means they'll lose their aromatic flavour.
  • It'll wilt more quickly in the fridge, The Huffington Post reported, adding that the herb will also absorb the surrounding smells.

Freezer storage

The temperature in freezers should fall in the range of -15 and -18 degree Celsius. Defrosting your freezers occasionally is crucial to regulate air flow.

The list below shows some commonly stored food items in the freezer, according to Al Arabiya:

1. Bread - 3 months

2. Ice-cream - 1 month

3. Cooked dishes - 3 months

4. Fatty Fish such as salmon (raw) - 3 months

5. Lean fish such as cod (raw) - 6 months

6. Cooked meat - 3 months

7. Ground or stew meat (raw) - 3 months

8. Beef, roasts, steaks, whole beef cuts (raw) - 1 year

9. Cooked chicken - 1 month

10. Chicken: whole chicken (raw) - 1 year

11. Chicken: chicken parts (raw) - 6 months

stephluo@sph.com.sg

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