inside of refrigerator

Safe Food Storage

A full-length PDF version of document EC446, Food Storage, including the storage chart is available here.

Julie A. Albrecht, Extension Food Specialist

Proper food storage helps maintain food quality by retaining flavor, color, texture and nutrients, while reducing the chance of contracting a food-borne illness.

Foods can be classified into three groups. See a chart of storage life by following each link:

  • Perishable foods includes meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and many raw fruits and vegetables. All cooked foods are considered perishable foods. To store these foods for any length of time, perishable foods need to be held at refrigerator or freezer temperatures. If refrigerated, perishable foods should be used within several days.
  • Semi-perishable foods, if properly stored and handled, may remain unspoiled for six months to about one year. Flour, grain products, dried fruits and dry mixes are considered semi-perishable.
     
  • Staple, or non-perishable, foods such as sugar, dried beans, spices and canned goods do not spoil unless they are handled carelessly. These foods will lose quality, however, if stored over a long time, even if stored under ideal conditions.

There is no exact method to determine how long a food will maintain quality and be safe to eat, because many conditions affect quality. The storage life of foods is affected by the:

  • freshness of the food when it reached the grocery store
  • length of time and the temperature at which it was held before purchase
  • temperature of your food storage areas
  • humidity level in your food storage areas
  • type of storage container or packaging the food is stored in
  • characteristics of the food item

food stored in pantry

Additional Resources:

Fruits & Vegetables Storage: Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Better Taste  (Source: UCDavis)

Eggs: Commonly asked questions (Source: USDA) Shell Eggs from Farm to Table
Printable PDF

How Food Spoils

Food Storage Chart Learn how long you may keep many items found in your kitchen/pantry

Refrigerated / Freezer Storage

Odor Problems  — Refrigerator/Freezer

UNL Extension Food Specialist
Julie Albrecht, Ph.D., R.D.
Email: jalbrecht1@unl.edu