When you don’t store perishable foods correctly, they become unsafe to consume. Knowing the correct method for preserving food, regardless of the circumstances (like a power outage), will aid in reducing food waste and ensure you’re consuming food fit for eating.
What is perishable food?
Perishable food is any food items that are not shelf stable. Any foods you purchase at the grocery store found in the fridge, freezer, or produce cooler area are perishable items. There are additional perishable items that are shelf stable until you open them. For example, many sauces must be put in the fridge after opening them.
These are some everyday food items that are perishable and should be in a home refrigerator or freezer/refrigerator.
- Meat (any variety, including beef, pork, chicken)
- Dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.)
- Cooked food items (leftovers)
- Chopped/prepared produce
Each food item has a different length of time in which it can stay in the fridge and still be consumable. Most meat and seafood products (except for bacon, cooked ham, and certain beef cuts) are okay to stay in the fridge for 1-2 days.
Salads with cooked fish, chicken, eggs, etc., are safe in the fridge for 3-5 days. Cooked poultry, meat, or fish can stay in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. The longest-lasting product is eggs, which can stay in the fridge for 3-5 weeks when you store them in their shells.
Why do we need to store them?
The USDA recommends storing perishable foods in the fridge at 40°F or lower and the freezer at 0°F or lower. By keeping your food at safe temperatures, you can ensure you stay healthy.
When perishable food sits at dangerous temperatures for too long (41°F- 135°F), it develops bacteria that are harmful to consume. This bacteria can also cause various viruses to occur in the body.
Three main types of foodborne pathogens can cause you to be ill if you don't eat food that has been stored properly in a freezer/refrigerator. These pathogens are Salmonella, Listeria, and E.Coli. Sickness from eating contaminated food typically results in stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
How to Store Food
With the current outages across America due to high summer temperatures, it's even more essential to understand proper storage techniques. Use the below guide to aid in proper storage techniques, plus additional tips for an electrical outage.
Keep Food in the Right Zone in the Fridge
Keeping your food in the correct zone in the fridge is essential to preventing cross-contamination between food items. Always stock items in the front that will expire or go bad first. Then, place items with a longer fridge shelf life in the back and rotate them as you purchase new food items.
Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should always sit on the lowest shelf in the fridge. This food is most likely to cross-contaminate other ingredients by dripping onto packages or other food items.
Track Storage Times
It's important to keep track of the items in your fridge to ensure you throw them in the garbage when they're not safe to consume. You can keep track of your perishable items by including a label and the date when each item was put into the fridge.
While each type of food has a different timeline for when it's no longer good to eat, you can use a general rule of thumb: four days in the fridge. This can help you avoid the food healthy question of whether an item is still okay to eat.
Regularly Clean Your Fridge
Tossing out food that is no longer consumable and keeping your fridge clean is also necessary to avoid food poisoning. Keep a regular schedule of when your food is going bad, so you know which items to consume first.
You'll want to have preparations in place if a power outage occurs in your neighborhood or state. Make sure you have an alternative source of electricity ready, which can include a generator. Avoid opening and closing the fridge/freezer as much as possible so that the cold air can stay in the appliance.
Finally, disconnect your other appliances to avoid any issues with power surges.
Since food can grow harmful bacteria easily (within a few hours), it's essential to store your perishable foods properly. Whether you store the food in a mini fridge, full-size retro refrigerator, or something in between, the refrigerator size does not matter as long as the storage temperatures are correct.