Shelf Life of Common Foods: Toss or Keep?

Sarika Rana  |  Updated: September 04, 2017 16:13 IST

Shelf Life of Common Foods: Toss or Keep?
Are you sure of the grocery that you bought today will stay fresh and tasty for a week or so? Most foods bought at a grocery store do not come with expiration date and need to be checked for their freshness from time to time. It is a common misconception that if we store foods in the refrigerator, they might stay fresh and edible. It is imperative to keep a track of the time a food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate, or in some cases, become unsafe and less nutritious. Sure, all foods have a certain shelf life and cannot be kept beyond a certain period.

Our expert nutritionist, Dr. Shilpa Arora says, "every food has a shelf life and should not be consumed after the specified period. Considering the sources most foods come from nowadays, we must try to keep it simple and maintain a healthy and balanced life."

Here is a handy list of common foods and their shelf lives that will help you know how long foods remain fresh and nutritious and just how much you should stock them up:

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1. Canned Foods


"When we talk about canned foods, you would know their shelf life generally extends to one or two years, which is only possible due to the preservatives added to them. They are high on sodium and sugar that keep them fresh for a long time, causing various health issues. Nowadays, we lead an unhealthy lifestyle and choose canned food over fresh, leading to high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and other health hazards. These foods are extremely dangerous in the long run and may have a negative impact on your life. Try and avoid canned foods as much as you can," insists Dr. Shilpa Arora. Once opened, you must remove the food from the can and place it in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

canned food

2. Dairy Products

  • Milk: A packaged milk box doesn't need to be stored in the refrigerator if they are unopened. However, once opened, store it in the fridge and consume it within seven days. However, if you notice any discoloration, odour or a different texture, you must immediately throw it away. Powdered milk can last up to a year.
  • Cheese: Hard cheese can last six months if unopened and must be consumed within three to four weeks after opening the pack. On the other hand, soft cheese should not be stored for more than a week.
  • Cream: Heavy cream can last up to 10 days and sour cream for about one to three weeks if refrigerated well.
  • Yoghurt: While yoghurt can survive for up to one to two weeks in the refrigerator, it can be frozen for about a month.
  • Butter: Butter when kept in the refrigerator, can last up to two weeks and if frozen, it can extend to about a year. As far as peanut butter is concerned, unopened package can stay fresh until six to nine months, while opened package must be consumed within three months.
milk 620

3. Eggs

Eggs may last long for around two to four weeks if kept in the refrigerator. They can last up to one year if you take them out the shell, beat them and freeze in a freezer safe container. As far as hard-cooked eggs are concerned, you must consume them within a week, freezing them is not recommended.

eggs 620

4. Meats


In the case of meat, here's a list -

  • Ground meats- one or two days
  • Chicken- one or two days
  • Fish- Fish can be kept uncooked until one or two days, while cooked fish can last up to three to five days provided it is refrigerated.
  • Bacon- five to seven days
  • Hot dogs- Packaged hot dogs generally stay fresh till two weeks if unopened and must be consumed within one week after it is opened.
  • Pork (sausage) - It lasts until one or two days in the refrigerator and one or two months in the freezer.
processed meat 620

5. Edible Oils

Edible vegetable oil, corn and canola oil will last up to one to two years if unopened, while opened packages last till about six to eight months. Olive oil can stay till about six months.

olive oil

6. Fruits

  • Canned fruits- Should be stored in an air-tight container, can last up to 3 days.
  • Apples - 1-2 months
  • Bananas - 2-3 days or until they ripen
  • Berries, cranberries - 3-4 weeks
  • Grapes - 1-2 weeks
  • Lemons - 2-5 weeks
  • Melons (watermelons/muskmelons) - 6-8 days
  • Oranges - 2-3 weeks
  • Peaches - 2-3 days
  • Pineapple - 3-5 days
  • Pears - 10-14 days
  • Plums - 2-3 days
  • Kiwi - 6-8 days
citrus fruit

7. Vegetables
  • Canned Vegetables- Should be stored in air tight container, can stay up to 3 days
  • Asparagus- 3-5 days
  • Beans- 3-6 days
  • Beetroot- 4-8 days
  • Broccoli- 5-7 days
  • Cabbage- 4-8 days
  • Carrots- 1-3 days
  • Cauliflower- 10-14 days
  • Cucumber- 10-12 days
  • Celery- 3-4 days
  • Fennel- 6-7 days
  • Lettuce - 10-12 days
  • Mushrooms- 2-3 days
  • Okra or lady finger- 5-7 days
vegetables 620
  • Onions- 1-3 weeks (must be kept in a dry cool place)
  • Peas- 5-6 days
  • Peppers- 1-2 weeks
  • Potatoes- 2-3 weeks (do not refrigerate)
  • Radishes- 2-3 weeks
  • Spinach- 2-3 days
  • Tomatoes- 7 days (ripe), 2-3 weeks (green)
  • Turnips- 4-5 days

Our expert Dr. Shilpa Arora suggests that one should have homegrown vegetables to avoid any hazardous consumption and live healthy. It is also recommended that the products you buy must be consumed within a few days of purchase, so that you know you are not eating anything that may convert into a dangerous food putting your health at risk.

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