Shelf Life Tips

From Purchase to Storage, Tips on Extending Shelf Life

Grocery ShoppingThe average American wastes more than 200 pounds of food a year, says the Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine.  The Vegetarian Times website says, “Americans throw out 25% of the produce we buy because it’s gone bad.” What a pity! Ever wish you had a magic wand that could keep your food purchases safe and tasty until you’ve consumed the very last morsel or drop? It would be nice, but you don’t really need that wand.  If you select foods carefully, get your perishables home and refrigerated promptly, and wrap and store foods appropriately, you can extend the shelf life of your food purchases and thereby cut down on grocery shopping trips and food bills.

Shelf Life of Foods: What You Need to Know

refrigeratorDespite the fact that the name of this site is Shelf Life Advice, it's impossible to guarantee that the shelf life information we give you will accurately predict how long a particular edible item will last in your home. And despite the fact that many of your food purchases have a use-by date stamped on them, the food is likely to seem just fine to you for days or even weeks after that date. We asked the scientists on our site's Advisory Board to enlighten us about shelf life and use-by dates by answering the questions below. 

A Food App You're Apt to Like; A Brand-New Invention for Getting Shelf-Life Information

Foodkeeper appFinding better ways to help consumers figure out how long their edible purchases will last is an ongoing priority.  Recently, the U.S. government and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been working together on the matter, and they've come up with an app called Foodkeeper with shelf life information on some 400 products including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and produce. Also for shelf-life answers, chemists at MIT have developed an inexpensive portable sensor that can detect gases produced by decaying meat; it tells consumers whether to eat that chicken or discard it.  Let's learn more about both of these projects.

Battling the Ripening of Bananas

bananaQuestion from a reader:  "How can I manage to keep ripe but not overripe bananas in my home?  I don't live near a grocery store and can get to one only once a week. I usually wind up with mushy, disgusting-looking bananas that I have to throw out."


My condolences.  I know that bananas can drive you bananas. You may be comforted to know that your query has given my research skills quite a workout. Online, I've found plenty of advice, some of which didn't work for me. Keep in mind this witty comment (often quoted with slight variations) by H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), journalist, satirist, and curmudgeon: "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." 


In addition to the online methods for prolonging the edible life of bananas that I tested, this article includes more trustworthy wisdom from four of the scientists who serve on the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board.

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