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Freezer Storage

The best temperature for frozen food storage is at 0°F (-17°C). The temperature should not reach higher than 5°F (-15°C). Check the temperature with a thermometer, or use this simple rule: If the freezer can not keep ice cream as a solid brick, the temperature is not cold enough. The freezing compartments of many refrigerators are not designed to give a temperature of 0°F, or freeze ice cream solid. They are meant for short term freezing and storage. In refrigerator freezers where temperature can be maintained at 0°F (-17°C) or lower in the freezer cabinet, food may be kept for the same storage periods as in a freezer.

Date food packages with an "expiration date" according to maximum storage time recommended especially if they are not date coded. Longer storage is not dangerous, but flavors and textures deteriorate.

Package frozen foods in moisture and air proof packages or freezer containers. Holes in freezer packages cause freezer burn.

Place foods to be frozen in the coldest part of the freezer.

Freeze no more than three pounds per cubic foot of freezer space within 24 hours.

Keep the freezer full for best results.

Keep a written inventory of freezer contents.

Thaw or cook prepared frozen food according to the label or package instructions.

Proper storage of food is an important part of keeping food edible and reducing any risk of illness caused by old or spoiled food.  Some foods must be stored in the fridge and eaten within a short period of time; while others will last much longer and can be stored at room temperature. All food has some limit to its storage time, even dried and canned foods have a limited shelf life.

Shelf life is dependent on many factors including the initial food type and quality, processing and preparation practices, storage temperature and the number and type of bacteria present before and after processing. Geographic area can affect storage time as can warm and/or humid climates that often shorten the shelf life.

When possible, follow any recommendations for the product such as the "best before" or “use by”date or other storage instructions included with the food item.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to go shopping, but there are a few general rules to help you out.

- Pick up your cold and frozen items last and pack them together, put them in the fridge or freezer first when you arrive home. Purchase only the foods that are frozen solid.

- Keep raw foods meat, fruit and vegetables away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

- Keep your meats separate from vegetables and fruits. Raw meats should be in there own bags.

- Pack foods that bruise or damage easily like fruits and breads above other foods.

- Carefully check dented cans for leakage and rust before buying. Do not purchase badly dented and bulging cans.

- Dusty cans or torn labels may indicate old stock.  Buy packaged food in fresh-looking packages.

- Check the use by and best before dates on packaged foods.

- When buying canned food, staples or in bulk, although these often have long shelf lives, buy only what you expect to use within the time recommended for each product.

- Check that any safety seals are intact

- Put dates on the food packages that are not date coded and use the oldest first.

Whenever carrying food outside your house whether shopping, barbecues, picnics, etc. avoid placing it in warm places, like near car heaters or in the direct sun. It is best to use a closed cooler to transport perishable foods or cover them with a heavy blanket or towel to help insulate them.

Cupboards and other dry storage places

Store foods in the coolest cabinets or a pantry and away from any heat sources such as appliances. Many staples and canned foods have a long shelf life if stored properly.

Store root vegetables away from other fruit and vegetables and in a dark cool place.

Keep pests out. After opening packets of dried foods like flour, rice and cereals reseal them tightly or transfer the contents to a storage container with an air tight seal.

Use clean, dry storage containers with tightly fitting lids.

Check that any safety seals are still intact when you first open such food packaging.

Store pet foods separately from human foods.

Storage times

No food lasts forever however well it is stored. Most pre-packed foods carry either a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date. Check them carefully, and look for information on how long food can be kept for once it has been opened.


Refrigerator Storage

Store food in the home refrigerator from 34 to 40°F (1 to 3°C). Although most modern fridges have a fairly uniform temperature through out, like ovens there are often warmer and colder areas. The door and box or drawer storage area are usually several degrees higher than the rest of the refrigerator. Most refrigerators when set to normal the general storage area is below 40°F (3°C). You can check the temperature in a refrigerator by placing a refrigerator thermometer at different locations in the cabinet. If the temperature is above 40°F (3°C), lower the temperatures.  

Frequent opening of the refrigerator door especially on warm and/or humid days raises the temperature of the refrigerator as does excessive frost build up in the freezer compartment.

Use food stored in the refrigerator quickly. Don't depend on the maximum storage time.

Clean the refrigerator regularly to cut down on food odors and contamination.

Remove spoiled foods immediately to prevent decay spreading to other foods.

Fridge/freezer maintenance

Make sure your fridge/freezer stays clean and in good working condition:

- Use a thermometer to check fridge and freezer temperatures. The coldest part of the fridge should be at no more than +5°C and the freezer at –18°C or below.

- Avoid overloading. If a fridge is over-packed with food or iced up it’s harder to keep the temperature down.

- Clean all internal and external surfaces often, especially fridge shelves and door storage compartments. Mop up any spills as soon as they happen.

- Defrost your fridge/freezer regularly.

Home deliveries

If you have home milk delivery provide a covered holder for the milkman to put the milk containers in and bring the milk indoors and store it in the fridge as soon as possible. Protecting  milk containers is important as birds, squirrels, raccoons, stray cats and dogs may find the milk container interesting and damage it.  If your milk gets pecked or punctured or seems to have been otherwise tampered with discard the milk.

If you have groceries delivered to your house, make sure they were packed properly and that they were transported correctly. Put them away as soon as they arrive, make sure to put the frozen and cold food away first to prevent thawing and spoilage.

If you order in hot food, check that it is piping hot when it arrives and then eat it as soon as possible.

For any food delivery make sure it has been packaged and transported correctly.

 First in, first out if in doubt throw it out!

‘Use by’ dates – are for highly perishable foods – those that ‘go off’ quite quickly.

No-one likes to waste food but it can be dangerous to eat foods past their ‘use by’ date.

‘Best before’ dates are for foods with a longer life. They indicate how long the food will be at its best quality.

These dates are not magical and food may spoil before it should. If a food does not looks, tastes or smells right throw it away, even if the package date says it it is still viable. Never eat any fruit or vegetables that has started to rot or  food from rusty or damaged cans, or from damaged or leaking cartons.

Throw away perishable food that has been left out at room temperature for more than a couple of hours and all food scraps. Other left-overs should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a couple of days.

Check the label on pre-packed food to see if it is suitable for freezing. If so, freeze it as soon as possible and label it with the date it went into the freezer.

When freezing cooked foods, use a clean freezer bags or container made for freezing and label them with the date and a description of the food. Check your freezer manual, cook book or recipe to see how long you can store the item for.

Shopping for and transporting food

One of the least thought about aspects of cooking is in many ways the most important. Without ingredients to cook with you really can’t cook.  

When buying produce, purchase the quantity you need and try to purchase locally produced ingredients whenever possible. Often buying local produce can be more expensive and sometimes impossible to get certain items out of season, so use common sense when purchasing your ingredients.

Keep prepared cold foods in the fridge until it’s time to eat them. Dairy products belong in the fridge too.

Many foods need to go in the fridge once they have been opened – check the labels to find out.

Never put open cans in the fridge,  transfer the cans contents into a storage container or covered bowl, and use within a couple of days.

Store foods in separate sealed covered containers, whenever possible..

Cover dishes and other open containers with foil or cling film. Do not re-use foil or film wraps to cover other foods.

Eggs should be kept in the fridge, in their box or carton

Raw foods, such as meat and poultry, may contain microbes that can cause food spoilage. To help prevent this, store them in the fridge or freezer as appropriate. To avoid cross-contamination (microbes jumping from one food to another) store these foods away from other foods. , especially cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods such as salads, fruit, cooked meats, cheeses, bread and sandwiches.

Store any meat well covered and on the bottom shelf of the fridge so it can not drip onto other foods accidentally.

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