Storage guide, safe food storage

How long can you store food? Packaged food almost always has an expiration date. This date is a guideline and only applies, for example, if a product is stored at a certain temperature, such as in the refrigerator. The expiration date only applies as long as the packaging is closed. The nutrition center has developed a special storage guide for food where the expiration date is missing or no longer applies. Fresh products have a “use by” date, which indicates when a product can still be used safely.

Nutrition Center

The Nutrition Center publishes a free storage guide with all the information you need to know about the safe storage of food. It also contains tips:

  • To do smart shopping
  • Tips for cooking
  • Advice on the design of the refrigerator

Many products have an expiration date or a “use by” date. What do these dates mean?

Use until (TGT) means:

  • The expiry date by which the food can still be safely used
  • Listed on highly perishable foods, such as fresh meat or fish
  • Food should only be used after this date if frozen immediately after purchase

Best before (THT) means:

  • The expiry date by which the food retains its proper quality
  • Listed on many refrigerated, frozen, dried, canned or other foods
  • Food may be used after this date if the packaging is undamaged and/or the food still looks, smells or tastes good

Shop smart

The storage guide gives some good tips on how to do smart shopping in the supermarket. If you want to avoid having to throw away food regularly, it is wise to think in advance about what you are going to buy. Always make a shopping list in advance that matches the supermarket route. Check the refrigerator in advance to see which products need to be used up the fastest and take this into account when purchasing. When using fresh ingredients, see whether you can reuse them in other dishes, so that you don’t have to throw away leftovers.

In the supermarket, pay attention to the expiration date of the products you buy. Do not leave perishable products in the car for too long. Grab these products last in the supermarket, if your route allows it. Use a cool bag if necessary.

Smart cooking

To cook smart, it is important to carefully measure how much you need to prepare. This differs per person. Certain dishes can be consciously prepared for multiple meals, such as pasta. You can freeze the leftovers so that you have an easy, ready-made meal on busy days. Always make sure that you remove the frozen product from the freezer in a timely manner and let it thaw gently in the refrigerator.

Hygiene while cooking is very important. Even though all products are fresh, if you do not observe hygiene you can still get sick. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you start cooking. Be careful with raw meat, fish or eggs. Always use clean and different cutting boards and a clean countertop. Replace the dishcloth in time. Prevent cross-contamination. Bacteria from raw food should not get into the prepared food.

Prepare raw food properly by heating it long enough. Leftovers that you reheat should also be thoroughly heated. This also applies to leftovers that you take with you from a restaurant. Use it the next day at the latest and reheat it only once. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed well under running water.

Store food smartly

The storage guide then provides storage tips for in the refrigerator, outside the refrigerator and in the freezer:

In the fridge:

To safely store food in the refrigerator, it must meet a number of requirements:

  • Temperature in the refrigerator should be around 4 degrees C
  • Clean the refrigerator thoroughly once a month
  • Distribute the products correctly over the refrigerator, raw products in the coldest place at the bottom of the refrigerator
  • Use sealable containers to protect the food from drying out or bacteria
  • Do not put warm leftovers in the refrigerator, but first let them cool for a maximum of 2 hours
  • Allow frozen meat to thaw slowly in the refrigerator

Outside the refrigerator

  • Potatoes are best stored in a cool and dark place
  • Many vegetables are better stored in a cool, dark place outside the refrigerator
  • Only leafy greens and cut vegetables should be kept in the refrigerator
  • Fruit can be stored outside the refrigerator, only cut fruit must be kept in the refrigerator

In the freezer

If you want to be able to store food for longer, you can freeze products. The recommended temperature in the freezer is -18 degrees C. Many products can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months without compromising quality. To keep an overview of the products in your freezer, it is important to freeze the food in well-sealable containers or freezer bags. Always state on the container or freezer bag what it contains and when it was frozen. Fresh vegetables should always be blanched in boiling water before they can be frozen. The storage guide provides guidelines for how long certain products can be frozen:

Bread and cream pastries

4 weeks

Raw pork

4 months

Lean fish (cod, plaice, tuna)

6 months

Raw beef and chicken

9 months

Blanched vegetables and soft fruit

12 months

Ice

12 months

Digital storage guide

Information about the shelf life of specific products can be found in the digital storage guide of the Nutrition Center. At www.voedingscentrum.nl/bewaarwijzer you can choose a product and you will receive information about how long you can store this product. These storage periods are guidelines and assume that the product is stored in the correct place. For example, the storage periods in the refrigerator apply to meat products, because this is not safe outside the refrigerator.