Food storage: Meat, poultry, fish, and dairy

Here's how, where, and how long to store "fridge foods."

Meats and poultry are quite perishable – and not cheap! Improper handling can waste food and money.

  • As soon as you get meat or poultry home, stow it in the freezer or the coldest spot in the refrigerator.
  • Keep meats and poultry in their original store packaging to avoid handling the food and risking cross-contamination. However, if the package leaks or seems otherwise insecure, unwrap and securely rewrap the meat or poultry in plastic.
  • Raw beef, chicken, or turkey can keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days. Properly frozen, chicken can keep for about 6 months, ground beef for 2 to 3 months, and cuts of pork, lamb or veal for about 8 to 12 months. To freeze, wrap tightly in aluminium foil or freezer paper.

Fish and seafood need to be handled with care to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Refrigerate fish as soon as possible. Take a cooler if you'll be driving around with fish before heading home.
  • If refrigerating, put fish in a baking dish filled with ice and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Refresh the ice a couple of times each day. Fridge fish will keep for a couple of days.
  • If freezing, wrap fish in plastic and stow it in the coldest part of the freezer. Lean fish, like cod, will keep for 6 months in the freezer, whereas fattier fish, like salmon, will keep for 2 months. Frozen shellfish will last about 2 to 4 months.

Dairy products need quick refrigeration to stay fresh and unspoiled and to beat the expiry date deadline.

  • Milk will quickly sour if kept at room temperature. Even inside the fridge, milk should be kept in a consistently cool spot, which means the door shelves are a no-no (all that opening and closing can expose the milk to the warmer air outside).
  • While the fridge door shelf is bad for milk, it's an ideal spot for cheese. Cheese should be wrapped securely and stowed in a warmer part of the fridge. The harder the cheese, the longer it will last. Soft, creamy cheeses will remain good for about a week, whereas hard cheeses can last up to 10 months.
  • Yogurt should be kept in its original container. Note the expiration date. Unopened yogurt should be tossed by that date, but opened yogurt should be kept for no longer than 3 days.

Eggs are among the most fragile of foods. And yet eggs hold up well if properly handled.

  • Got those handy-dandy egg-holders in your fridge door? Ignore them. When the fridge door is opened and closed, eggs are exposed to the warmer air outside. Not to mention they can be jostled and broken that way. Keep eggs in their original packaging and stow them in a consistently cool spot.
  • Properly stored eggs can stay fresh for up to a month.

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