Stack and Store!

How long can food keep, when are they still safe to eat, and how to store them the right way to maximise shelf life and ensure food safety

Issue: Apr 2014

In Singapore's hot, humid weather, foods properly stored can enjoy a longer shelf life
In Singapore’s hot, humid weather, foods properly stored can enjoy a longer shelf life

On average, each person in Singapore throws away over 130 kilograms of food a year (according to a National Environment Agency report in 2012). Leftovers and spoilt food from improper storage are among the reasons why there is food wastage. With the proper tips on storage and shelf life of food, though, you can throw away less, buy less, and eat fresh.

Use by Date, Sell by Date, and Other Dates

Know the difference between a “use by” and “sell by” date to know if the food you have is still safe to eat
Know the difference between a “use by” and “sell by” date to know if the food you have is still safe to eat

“Use by” dates tell you when the food expires. Even if it looks and smells fine past the date, do not eat it. “Best before” dates show how long the food will be at its best quality. You can still consume it after the date but it will not taste as good. “Sell by” dates show when stores can sell the products. If refrigerated, you can still eat the food three to five days past its “sell by” or “best buy” dates.

Fridge vs Freezers

Do not allow food that needs to be refrigerated or frozen to sit in room temperature for more than two hours. In Singapore’s hot and humid climate, no more than an hour would be a safer bet.

Do not overstuff your freezer or fridge because that impedes proper circulation of air, affecting how cold the fridge can be maintained
Do not overstuff your freezer or fridge because that impedes proper circulation of air, affecting how cold the fridge can be maintained

If you want to keep food longer than a few days, freeze it. Foods that are already frozen should remain in the freezer unless you intend to use them soon. Foods near their “use by” or “sell by” dates can be frozen to extend their shelf life.

Make sure cooked food is sufficiently cooled before refrigerating or freezing because hot food will raise the temperature inside your fridge which can promote bacterial growth.

Do not over-stuff your fridge or freezer because it impedes properly circulation of air inside, affecting how cold the refrigerator can keep your food.

Storage Buddies

In the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer, food kept in proper containers stay fresh and edible for longer periods. Food that is not properly wrapped in the freezer can suffer from freezer burn, making them tough and inedible. So, arm yourself with some storage buddies.

(Left) Zak Stackable Canisters (from S$16.95) and (right) Oxo Pop Containers (from S$23.95) are some clear containers from Howards Storage World that can be used for storing food
(Left) Zak Stackable Canisters (from S$16.95) and (right) Oxo Pop Containers (from S$23.95) are some clear containers from Howards Storage World that can be used for storing food
Photo credit: Howards Storage World

At Howards Storage World, you can stock up on a multitude of containers for a variety of foods. Zak Stackable Canisters (from S$16.95) and Oxo Pop Containers (from S$23.95) come in different sizes for different needs and are airtight and stackable so they great space-savers, too. Reseal Storers (from S$4.95) have the added feature of being microwave-safe and come with an air release vent. For storing food in bulk, Howards Tallis Staking Bins (S$26.95) has more than 27-litre in capacity. The Smart Lock containers (from S$13.95) are great for packing cooked food for storage or for picnics.

All their containers are clear so you can see what you have. They are also BPA-free. BPA or Bisphenol A is a chemical found in hard plastics and coatings of food and drinks can. It can imitate human hormones and can be hazardous to health.

Storing Meats

Décor Tellfresh 1.25L Meat Storers (S$10.95) from Howards Storage World are containers you can use to store your deli meats or even fresh meats in the freezer or fridge
Décor Tellfresh 1.25L Meat Storers (S$10.95) from Howards Storage World are containers you can use to store your deli meats or even fresh meats in the freezer or fridge
Photo credit: Howards Storage World

Where: Fresh beef, poultry and pork can be kept on bottom shelf of the refrigerator so that the drippings will not contaminate other foods.

Fresh fish should be kept in the coldest part of the fridge.

How Long: Fresh meat and organ parts can remain in the fridge for up to two days; roasts, steaks, chops and ribs for three to five days.

Fresh fish can be kept in the fridge for no more than two days.

Once opened, prepared meats like hot dogs can remain in the fridge for up to a week, bacon for up to seven days, and deli-sliced meats for up to five days.

How: Keep all meats in its store wrapping. If they do not come with a Styrofoam tray, put a dish under them to catch any drippings.

If you want to keep fresh fish in the fridge, it is best to let it sit in a bed of ice.

If they do not come with wrappings, keep the meats in clean, sealed containers. Make sure you keep raw and cooked foods separately to avoid contamination.

Storing Dairy

To make eggs last longer, they should be kept in their cartons on the shelf instead of on the door of the fridge where it is warmer
To make eggs last longer, they should be kept in their cartons on the shelf instead of on the door of the fridge where it is warmer

Where: Milk and cheese should be kept at the back of the fridge’s top shelf where the temperature is more constant. This will help them last longer.

Eggs should be kept in their carton on a shelf in the fridge instead of in the compartment at the door of the fridge where it tends to be warmer.

How Long: Eggs can keep for up to five weeks in the fridge.

How: Cottage cheese, soft cheeses, yoghurt, sour cream, milk and cream should remain in the containers they came in. Once your have poured out the milk or cream, do not return the left overs to the container. Keep them in tightly sealed containers.

Storing Vegetables

Vegetables kept in the crisper remain fresh longer
Vegetables kept in the crisper remain fresh longer

Where: The vegetable crisper in your fridge is the best place for most vegetables.

How Long: Most vegetables do not survive beyond a few days in the fridge.

Some, like carrots, potatoes, turnip, onions, garlic and ginger can keep for a few weeks in a vegetable basket on your counter.

How: Store your vegetables in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags in the vegetable crisper. You can get these bags at Daiso. They also have freezer bags you can use to freeze your food.

Fruits

Store fruits like for like and keep apples away from other fruits and vegetables because they can cause other produce to ripen and rot
Store fruits like for like and keep apples away from other fruits and vegetables because they can cause other produce to ripen and rot

Where: If you want the fruit to ripen, put them on the counter. Once ripened, store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for longer.

How Long: Unwashed and in their original containers, berries usually keep between five and seven days. More fragile ones like raspberries and blackberries last only two days.

Most fruits last up to five days in the fridge.

How: In or out of the fridge, do not keep apples, pears or bananas near other uncovered fruits or vegetables. They release ethylene gasses that act as a natural ripening agent. In fact, it is best to keep like with like because different fruits emit different gases that can cause others to deteriorate.

Do not wash the produce (fruits or vegetables) before storing in the fridge. The dampness can cause the produce to rot faster.

Leftovers

Store leftovers in manageable portions in containers in the fridge if you are using them within a day or two; and in the freezer if you intend to consume them later on
Store leftovers in manageable portions in containers in the fridge if you are using them within a day or two; and in the freezer if you intend to consume them later on

Where: Store leftovers in the fridge if you want to eat it within a day or two. Otherwise, freeze them.

How Long: Canned food can last for years. But once opened, they can keep for no more than seven days in the fridge.

How: Leftovers should be divided into portions and kept in airtight containers. Refrigerate what you cannot finish within two hours of cooking. Once opened, do not leave the food in the can. Residual metal can leach into the food leaving a metallic taste.

Courts has a selection of containers (S$3.10 for packs of two or three containers) in varying shapes (round and rectangular) and sizes (150ml – 900ml) that are great for portioning out leftovers.

Shop with us:

Courts
21 Chua Chu Kang Ave 4
Lot One Shoppers' Mall
#03-01
Singapore 689812
Tel: 1800-222 6868
www.courts.com.sg
Courts
3 Tampines Central 5
Tampines Mall
#03-25
Singapore 529510
Tel: 1800-222 6868
www.courts.com.sg
Daiso
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard
#B4-47
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6634 7801
Daiso
68 Orchard Road
Plaza Singapura
#04-01
Singapore 2338839
Tel: (65) 6884 9210
Daiso
2 Jurong East Street 21
IMM
#03-48/50
Singapore 609601
Tel: (65) 566 9585
Daiso
1 Jelebu Road
Bukit Panjang Plaza
#04-03/04
Singapore 677743
Tel: (65) 6766 1677
Daiso
604 Sembawang Road
Sembawang Shopping Centre
#01-18
Singapore 758459
Tel: (65) 6484 3418
Daiso
11 Rivervale Crescent
Rivervale Mall
#02-01
Singapore 545082
Tel: (65) 6384 3040
Howards Storage World
68 Orchard Road
Plaza Singapura
#04-43
Singapore 238839
Tel: (65) 6238 8048
www.hsw.com.sg
Howards Storage World
1 Vista Exchange Green
The Star Vista
#B1-29
Singapore 138617
Tel: (65) 6694 3971
www.hsw.com.sg
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