Shelf life is a critical property of food products that everyone must pay attention to, from the producer to the consumer, which is you. To explain in broad terms, the shelf life of a food refers to the period during which a particular food can be safely consumed while preserving its acceptable or desirable quality.
While some foods last for the long term and are likely to remain fit for consumption for months, or even years, others spoil quickly. The article will go through the shelf-lives of some of the most popular food items found in your fridge or pantry.
Foods With Longest Shelf Life
While certain pantry food items would not last as long as we like, many long shelf-life foods are perfect to stock up on. Many of these foods with naturally long shelf lives are the staples in every household. These products may have exceeded their “use-by” dates; however, they are perfectly safe to consume even after that while maintaining their freshness. Therefore, do not be afraid to buy these grocery items in bulk (of the space and budget allows) as they can last ages and limit your grocery store visits.
Salty, sour, and thoroughly satisfying, there is not much better than a good pickle inside a scrumptious Cuban sandwich or perhaps as a stand-alone snack. If you are one of those pickle-obsessed people, then you may count your lucky stars and stock up on pickles. Pickles remain safe to consume for up to two years after the expiry date. However, once you pop open a jar, you must store it in the fridge, and it will stay fresh for almost the same period.
The sodium and vinegar content acts as a powerful preservative, creating a hostile environment for bacteria to thrive in it.
A fantastic staple to stock up on for oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, or granola, oats have an incredibly long shelf life and can easily last for up to two years without going bad. Store them in an air-tight metal or glass container, and they can last even longer.
Fairly indestructible, seal-packed dried pasta can be stored in your pantry for 2-3 years, whereas opened dry pasta is good to go for about one year. While it is unlikely to grow harmful bacteria beyond that time, it will start losing its flavor as it ages.
Stored in a cool, dry place, uncooked white rice has an indefinite shelf life, Yes, you heard that right! A staple item found in almost every household kitchen, several types of rice can last forever and remain suitable for consumption. Unfortunately, brown rice spoils much faster (1-2 years) due to its high oil content.
Beans and Legumes
Dried beans and lentils can last forever in your pantry. However, they may start to lose their moisture and become even drier after a couple of years. Therefore, if you cook them up after their best-by date, they might take a bit longer. Perhaps, using an Instant Pot can cut down on some cooking time!
The good thing about canned items is that they can last much longer than fresh foods. An unopened can of tuna remain perfectly edible for up to 5 years while maintaining its optimum flavor and texture, though it will likely remain safe to use even beyond that.
Pure honey can remain suitable for use for decades, or maybe generations down the road if you store it in a tightly sealed jar. While it may darken or crystallize, do not be put off by that. It will remain perfectly safe to consume regardless.
According to the USDA, you can store an unopened package of powdered milk for up to 10 years. However, it can last for up to 20 years, provided you store it in the right conditions, i.e. a cool, dark place.
Good to keep on hand for a quick snack, baking, or perhaps unexpected guests, dried fruits like apricots, prunes, and raisins can last for up to a year in your pantry without going bad. You can further extend their shelf life for 6-8 months by putting them in the freezer.
Foods With Shortest Shelf Life
Some foods are highly perishable. Knowing which items go bad quickly is essential as it can help cut down on food waste and save your hard-earned dollars. Besides, expired foods serve as a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria. Accordingly, here is a list of some foods you do not want to store for too long.
Dairy products like unopened pasteurized milk stay good for about two weeks. That is seven days beyond its expiration date. Similarly, unopened yogurt can maintain its peak quality for over a month. While opened yogurt spoils faster than sealed yogurt, it remains fit to consume 10-14 days past its use-by date.
One of the best starchy foods, there is not much better you can bring home than freshly baked bread straight from the oven. However, bread has a very short shelf life as it starts to grow mold or go stale in three or four days.
Whether you buy them fresh or canned, mushrooms do not last for more than a week to ten days. To maximize freshness, store them in a refrigerator in a porous paper bag, as plastic bags trap moisture which causes mildew to grow.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits like bananas, strawberries, and berries typically remain in good condition for only 3-4 days. However, certain fruits like apples and oranges can retain their freshness for 1-2 months. That is if you keep them unwashed, uncut in the refrigerator.
Similarly, vegetables like cabbage, winter squash, onion, garlic, winter squash, and potatoes can stay fresh for 2-3 months under the right conditions. On the other hand, veggies like carrots, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, and leafy greens last less than a week and are best consumed right away.
The shelf life of food will depend on the formulation of ingredients, processing methods, type of packaging, and storage conditions. While some foods have a super long shelf life and remain safe to consume for an indefinite length of time, others are highly perishable and prone to bacterial growth.
Being aware of the shelf life of different foods is essential. Consuming out-of-date, stale food is not only unpleasant but can also also be unhealthy as it could lead to food poisoning or worse.
Featured photo: Pixabay (stevepb).