image of woman pulling food storage container out of freezer for the post Why is Food Safety Important and Food Storage Tips

Why is Food Safety Important and Food Storage Tips

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. You can read more at the bottom of this page or read my full disclosure on my Affiliate Disclosure Page

The food you feed your family is one of the most important things to consider. Not only do we need nutrients and vitamins for our bodies, but we also want to enjoy what we eat and not feel guilty about it too. The quality of the food we buy depends on how well it has been handled from production through storage. If you are wondering why is food safety important, read this blog post with some valuable tips about food storage!

image of dried goods in glass containers with text overlay ofWhy is Food Safety Important and Food Storage Tips

Why is Food Safety Important?

It’s a critically important question that needs to be answered.


The consequences of improper food storage can result in serious illness or even death for some people .

Proper food storage can help you preserve the quality and nutritional value of foods. It also helps make sure your food dollar goes as far by preventing spoilage, which is why proper storage matters so much!

Signs of spoilage that make food unpalatable but not a bacterial hazard are the rancid odor and flavor of fats caused by oxidation, slime on the surface of meat, and the fermentation of fruit juices due to yeast growth. 

Some foods have off smells or tastes that indicate you’ve got dangerous bacterial spoilage. But even if your food doesn’t give these signals, it might still be high in bacteria count and subjecting yourself to this risk is not worth it!

Food Selection

When purchasing food for your home, it is important to make sure that the retailer or producer you are buying from has a good reputation and track record with safe handling. If there’s no date on an item (such as “sell by”) then use caution! While these dates may be helpful if followed correctly-they cannot guarantee safety in all cases because some products have expiration dates which aren’t federally required but still useful nonetheless.

If you buy a product labeled “keep refrigerated ” be sure that it has actually been refrigerated at the store and is in the refrigerated case.  Touch it to ensure that it is cold to the touch. Frozen products should be solidly frozen. Packages of precooked foods should not be torn or damaged in any way.

The best way to avoid cross-contamination between potentially hazardous foods and fresh produce while shopping is by keeping raw meats such as meat in individual plastic bags. Place packages with cooked or ready-to-eat products next to one another so that juices cannot drip onto other groceries, like vegetables for example!

Shop for fruit , dairy and other perishables last at the store. Keep refrigerated and frozen items together so they will remain cold. Place perishables in the coolest part of your car during the trip home – we put ours in the back seat during the summer so they stay cool with the air conditioning. If your trip from store to home is more than an hour, pack your food (especially dairy) in an insulated container with ice or an ice pack.

For an eye-opening answer to the question why is food safety important, check out this brief video by the FDA.

Food Storage Tips

Food storage. Seems simple enough, right? But, your food is only as good as the way you store it. To be honest, our food storage tips really start at the food store with the examples above. However, when you return home, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind.

We do our weekly shopping and put everything away in the refrigerator or pantry and go about our business until we need a certain item. Well, not exactly. Nearly every item you buy has a different “shelf life” or use by date to be safe – whether or not it is printed on the packaging (like milk, for example). To further complicate things, all items have a different shelf life depending on where they are stored and how (opened vs. unopened, room temperature vs. refrigerator, refrigerator vs. freezer). And that is just purchased items, what about leftovers? They have a whole different set of rules.

“Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” – Genesis 6:21 (ESV)

Today, we are going to take the mystery out of food storage. I’ll share some of my biggest food storage tips plus charts for how long you can keep certain foods and the leftover system that I use in my home.

Ready?

The quality of the food we buy depends on how well it has been handled from production through storage. If you are wondering why is food safety important, read this post with some valuable tips about food storage! Click To Tweet

Some of the surprising ones:

Eggs

Eggs are a staple in most homes. If you have chickens that lay eggs (like we do), unwashed eggs can stay at room temperature for at least a month, then should be moved to a fridge if not used.

Washed eggs (including those that you buy in the supermarket), are safe for up to five weeks.

Lunch/Deli Meat 

We’ve all heard that deli meat is made from processed meat (this is true in many cases, although there are some higher quality meats that have few fillers and additives). We would assume that processed meat would be safe for a longer period of time than fresh meat, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Unopened

Fresh Deli Meats last for

Packaged Lunch Meat* lasts for

Bologna lasts for

Salami (hard)* lasts for

Fridge

5-6 Days

7-10 Days

1-2 Weeks

2-3 Weeks

Freezer

1-2 Months

2-3 Months

1-2 Months

2-3 Months

*Such as Oscar Meyer or Hillshire Farms-type found in the meat case not at the deli.

Tomatoes

I was surprised to see that the “experts” allow just 3 days for tomatoes to be used before tossing them. Personally, I find that mine stays fine for almost a week, but after that it gets soft and needs to be tossed.

Condiments

I call these the “hardy” ones – most condiments can stay in the fridge for up to one year (Ketchup, Mustard, Honey, for example). Mayonnaise is only safe for three months in the fridge and two months in the freezer. Soy sauce, on the other hand, is safe for THREE years!

For a full breakdown of food storage, I’ve shared below four amazing charts from Real Simple magazine. Print them out and store them in your home binder, on your fridge or with your cookbooks. You’ll refer to these charts and food storage tips over and over again.

How long can you store meat, poultry and seafood

How long can you store dairy and eggs

How long can you store produce

How long can you store (almost) anything in the pantry

imag of three shelves full of fresh canned fruits and vegetables stored away in a garage on the wall for the postWhy is Food Safety Important and Food Storage Tips

Leftover Management

Now here comes my favorite of our food storage tips! We have a lot of leftovers in our home. I usually plan one night a week to eat leftovers, but besides that, they are eaten for lunch since I work from home or not at all. Once a week, I clean out my fridge (the night before we go food shopping, which incidentally is the same day as garbage day) and toss any uneaten leftovers or expired foods. When I did this, I would scratch my head trying to figure out when we ate lasagna or how long ago it was that we had fried chicken. You know, when you open the fridge and find UFOs (unidentified food objects) in there? I had had enough.

I grabbed a roll of masking tape, a permanent marking pen and created this chart. It is created as a printable, so you can print it off and use it, too.

When putting away any leftovers from a meal, I put a piece of masking tape on the container and mark it with what it is and the date (For example: Meatloaf 09/12/21). Then I write it on the chart and stick the chart to the side of the refrigerator with a magnet. (I’m a neat freak so this is the only thing allowed to be on the fridge!)


As someone eats the leftover and the container is empty, they cross off the item on the list. 

Now, when my family members are rooting through the fridge for something to eat, they can easily see what is in there without opening containers and how old it is. (or smelling them – ick!)

When it’s time to clean out the fridge before shopping, it’s easy to know what to toss.

Leftover Food Storage Tips (and Reheating)

To avoid food-borne illness, here are my top food storage tips for leftovers.

•  Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Foods left out longer should be discarded.

•  Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

•  With poultry and other stuffed meats, remove the stuffing and refrigerate it in a separate container.

•  Place hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer, but don’t overload the container. Cool air needs to circulate to keep food safe.

•  Use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Freeze quantities that can’t be used by then. Since bacteria can’t grow at freezer temperatures, food is generally safe while frozen, but you’ll need to use the frozen foods within a reasonable length of time for best quality.

•  Reheat leftovers thoroughly to a temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming. Soups and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

•  If you are reheating leftovers in the microwave, use only microwave-safe dishes. Remove food from plastic wrap, Styrofoam and/or freezer containers.

•  When reheating in the microwave, turn the dish midway through cooking, reposition it on rotating table, rearrange or stir food, and turn large food items over.

•  Allow food to stand after microwaving because the food will continue to cook after the microwave is off.

Do you have a great food storage tip? Share it and we may feature it in a future post on here or our social media channels!

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Sharing is Caring!