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The Rules of Food Storage

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 21 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Temperature Storing Food Storage Rules

Good food storage is all about hygiene, safety and minimum wastage.

It would be a terrible shame to have to throw away a portion of tasty homemade lasagne because you’ve kept it too long or waste some cooked rice because you let it sit at room temperature.

Understanding the rules of food storage helps you to plan your meals better, too, as you will know what needs to be eaten when, rather than wasting something or making something else when there were enough leftovers to make something exciting and free!

The three basic rules of kitchen food storage are storing the food in the right place, at the right temperature and keeping them for the right amount of time.

Sell By Dates, Use By Dates And Best Before Dates

In terms of food storage, sell by dates and use by dates are your friends.

Plenty of people say they simply ‘trust their eyes and nose’ with regards to such dates, and it is true that we can all get a bit obsessed with sell by dates and end up throwing away perfectly good food, but use by dates really do need to be observed.

The difference between the two is that a sell by date is more of a guideline for the customer in the supermarket and they then have a few days to use the item, whereas a use by date is stricter. These tend to relate to refrigerated products that need to be used by that date.

There are all best before dates that you see on pretty much all boxes and packets of food. These, too, are guidelines for when the food will be past its best, but something like biscuits are not going to be perfect the day before the best before date and totally ruined the day after – use your common sense and you’ll be fine!

Storing Food In The Right Place

Generally, fresh, raw or cooked foods are best stored in the fridge or freezer. If you have some leftovers that you plan to use within the following day or two, keeping them in the fridge is fine. However, if you have a portion of lasagne or something left and do not plan to have it within three days, it is better to freeze it so that you do not waste it. This also makes for a very handy ‘home made ready meal’.

Storing Food At The Right Temperature

You must make sure that your kitchen fridge and freezer is maintained well – they must be within the manufacturer’s ideal temperatures. You do not want your fridge so cold that you get icicles on your food, nor do you want your ice cream to go soggy.

Cooked rice is particularly susceptible to bacteria if stored at the wrong temperature, so if you have leftover rice, cool it quickly and store it in a covered bowl in the fridge. Don’t leave it out overnight and then reheat it or you may find yourself with a nasty tummy bug.

Storing Food For The Right Time

As a general rule, leftovers and cooked food can be stored in the fridge for three days. If they contain ‘fresh’ ingredients such as cream or fish, they will be at their best on the day you prepare them or the day after – no longer.

Once you know the general points of the rules of food storage you can plan your weekly dinners around what leftovers or fresh groceries you have without wasting expensive ingredients.

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