Question: I go grocery shopping once a month for my family and I tend to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in larger quantities. What is the best way to safely store these items to keep them fresh?
Answer: The “best way” to store your food depends on the food items that you’ve purchased.
Storing foods properly can greatly impact their quality and safety over time. For specific storage information at your fingertips, try the U.S Department of Agriculture Foodkeeper app. This recently updated app offers consumers information on how to avoid food waste by providing information on how to store food safely and information on how long certain foods last.
Not only does the app offer tips on how to keep and store fresh foods, it also includes information on how to store more than 400 food and beverage items that are available in an online data feed. Each time a user opens the Foodkeeper app, it will check the data feed for updates on food safety issues.
According to USDA, the app helps users understand food storage and “empowers consumers to select methods that extend shelf life and keep items fresh longer than if they were not properly stored.”
Understanding food safety is an important step to avoid foodborne illness. Some 48 million people get foodborne illnesses, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With that in mind, the app offers storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and cooking information on several types of food. The storage of unopened and opened food packages is also addressed.
For example, apples should be eaten within three weeks if they are stored in a pantry, according to the Foodkeeper app. If the apples are stored in a refrigerator, they should be eaten within four to six weeks. However, apples properly prepared can be stored in a freezer safely for eight months, the app says.
Carrots, on the other hand, can safely be stored in a refrigerator for two to three weeks and can be stored frozen for up to one year, the app says.
The app also provides guidance on how to store condiments and sauces. Jars and cans of gravy can be stored for two to five years if stored in a pantry but, when opened, can only be stored for one to two days in a refrigerator. Although jams and jellies can be stored for up to 18 months if stored in a pantry, they should be used within six to 12 months once opened and refrigerated.
The app, which also offers mobile accessibility, is available for Android and IOS devices. The information can also be accessed online at FoodSafety.gov.
Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected]