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Storing food safely

Barbara Willenberg, former Associate State Nutrition Specialist & Jo Britt-Rankin, State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Store food as soon as you get home from grocery shopping. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods like meat, poultry or fish right away to keep it fresh. If you will not use perishable foods within several days, freeze it. Keep fresh eggs in their carton in the refrigerator.

Leave meat, poultry and fish in the store packages when you put them in the refrigerator. Be sure to cover packages with plastic bags or put them on plates to keep blood from dripping onto other food. Before freezing, cover foods with freezer wrap to prevent freezer burn. Freezer burn won't make you sick, but it does make meat tough and tasteless.

Keep fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. Fresh fruits and vegetables will keep longer in the refrigerator.


Cold moist storage (32-40 degrees F and 90-95% relative humidity) is recommended for potatoes.


Onions and garlic will remain good for a long time in a cool, dry place like an unheated room. A basement or cellar can be used if they are not damp. This is also a good place to store extra canned goods. Don't store food where it will freeze during the winter months.

Baked goods, like bread, will stay fresh at room temperature for several days. The refrigerator causes bread to get stale. If you have extra bread, freeze it.

Store canned foods in the coolest kitchen cabinets, not over your stove. Keep cans away from household cleaning products and leaky pipes. Put new cans at the back of your cabinet so you will use older ones first.

Caution: If you notice that a can is bulging or leaking, don't use it! It could be dangerous. Other danger signs are bad odor or foaming when you open the can. Even a tiny taste of spoiled home-canned foods, could make you sick or cause death!

Read University of Missouri Extension guide GH1451, "Before You Start to Can, Learn the Basics" to learn more about canning and preserving food. This guide can be found at



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Last Updated 7/20/2010