The convenience brought by shipping and door-to-door deliveries have made food more accessible than ever. Today, not only can you get pizza or fast-food meals pronto, but even the ingredients that you need to whip up a homecooked meal can also be sent to you by any Sydney delivery service. No need to go to the market!
However, note that all kinds of food are only edible until such time. The number of days that food can be stored before it becomes unpalatable or inedible is known as shelf life. Make sure you are familiar with these terms and dates associated with a shelf life when buying goods:
Use by Date: This is the date recognised by the manufacturer as the day that the consumer should use or eat the product to enjoy its best quality, although it can still be enjoyed after that, just not at its peak.
Sell by Date: This is the item’s expiration date or end of its shelf life at the store. This means that the store should remove it on the display if it’s not sold by the indicated date. However, the product may still be used and enjoyed past this date.
Best Before Date: Also known as “Best By,” it is the date recognised by the manufacturer as the date the product should be consumed to assure ideal quality.
Each type of goods—cooked, processed, or raw—differ in shelf life. Environmental factors also come into play. There are also different ways to extend shelf life and quality like refrigerating or freezing food.
This infographic is a handy guide on some of the most commonly delivered goods’ shelf life.
Fruits and Vegetables
Ideally, fruits and vegetables should be bought or delivered on the same day that it will be cooked and eaten to maintain their freshness and retain the nutrients. Shelf life will significantly depend if it was stored ripe or unripe, raw, or cooked.
For instance, not all fresh vegetables will rot after a day if left in the pantry. Onions and potatoes are likely to last longer compared to green leafy veggies like celery or lettuce that easily wilt when left to sit outside.
In case of fruits, ripe fruits should be refrigerated or frozen immediately, as letting it sit out in the pantry will spoil them quickly. Peaches and pears can last for a year if frozen, while apples can be refrigerated for a month.
Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
Pork, beef, chicken, and seafood should be kept frozen and be defrosted only on the day they are to be cooked. When kept in the freezer, pork can retain quality for three to four months, beef for six months, chicken for one year, lean and fatty fishes for two to three months, and shrimp for a year.
Sweets and Desserts
Usual desserts like cake and doughnuts can last up to four days when unrefrigerated, but can be frozen to last for three months.
Chocolate bars have a long shelf life, with the dark type trumping milk or white variants because it doesn’t have dairy. It can last for two years if unopened and stored correctly, and a year if opened and stored correctly. Milk and white chocolates live for half as long as their dark counterpart. Chocolates should be stored in the pantry and be refrigerated only when a cool and dry place is not available.
Whether a beer is canned or bottled, it is likely to last for six to nine months in the pantry and six months to two years in the fridge if unopened. If you prefer your beer to be at room temperature or if it was purchased that way, make sure to keep it in a cool dark place with a constant temperature.
Budget shelf wines, meanwhile, have shorter lifespans than fine wine and is intended to be consumed while fresh or soon after purchase. Wine boxes, for instance, may last for a year even when opened because they are in aseptic packaging that does not allow air that may ferment the product.
Unopened bottled white wine can last for one to two years and red for two to three years when stored in the pantry, while opened white wine can last one to three days and red for one to two weeks when refrigerated. The finer wines or the ones preserved in wine cellars can last for decades.
Cooked meals encompass boxed meals, fast-food, and pizza, which are just some of the most common food available for delivery. Any prepared food can only sit out for two hours maximum to ensure safety.
If possible, empty out your pizza and fast-food boxes within the day. Refrigeration is also possible, however, pizza can only stay good for three to four days even when fridged.
Unopened canned goods can last up to two years in the pantry—thanks to the preservatives added. Once opened, remove the food from the can, transfer into a sealed container, and store in the refrigerator to make it last for four days.
Rice and Bread
Since there are different types of rice and different ways to package and store it, shelf life can also differ. Uncooked white rice can last for four to five years, while cooked ones can last for a week when refrigerated. All types of cooked rice can last six to eight months when frozen, though this is not recommended.
Brown rice can spoil faster than white due to the fats between the retained layers, which the white doesn’t have since it has been milled and stripped of all layers and nutrients. Store raw rice in an airtight container or cool dark place with constant temperature. Cooked rice like any other cooked meals can only sit out at room temperature for two hours.
Bread and bagels fresh from the bakery can last for two to three days in the pantry and six months if frozen. Package bread and bagels, meanwhile, can last for five to seven days. It is not recommended to store bread in the fridge because will dry out faster. When storing in the freezer, use an air-tight freezer-safe container or a plastic bag with twist-tie closure.
To keep the flavor, coffee beans should only be ground on the day of brewing. Beans should be kept in a tightly closed container in the freezer to prevent moisture and other contaminants, and it would still be good even after three years. This goes the same for ground coffee, which can last for two years.
If you prefer instant coffee, then you’re in luck because if vacuum sealed, it will last for extended amounts of time. Brewed coffee should be consumed within four to six hours of brewing.
Unopened packaged milk can last for months even when stored in the pantry. However, once opened, it should immediately be refrigerated to make it last for up to 20 days.
Routinely check the milk before consumption for any discolouration, odour, or different texture even if it was refrigerated. The powdered variety can last up to a year.
Flowers like roses are usually cut. In this case, it should last up to a week. This should include proper care by cutting the stems, using flower food, and changing the vase’s water every few days.
When out of the water, roses can last only a few hours, depending on environmental conditions like heat or humidity. Fresh rose petals will dry out in three days after being plucked from the flower.
No one likes to eat food that has gone bad or has seated out for too long that it has become unpalatable. When ordering fast-food or any ready-made food for delivery, it is best to consume immediately to avoid spoilage or waste and ensure freshness and flavor from your food.
Keep in mind that all goods go stale or spoil, but proper storage or refrigeration and freezing can significantly help in retaining some of its quality for an extended period.
Jake Smith works as the National Sales Manager for Go People. He’s excited about the prospect of e-commerce, and how Go People can deliver the courier service of the future to businesses all around Australia. His ultimate dream is to meet the one and only Ronnie Coleman.