Life Expectancy of Prepped Food: The Basics
By Donna&Danielle on January 8, 2018
You have planned your menu for the week and prepped your food. You have made a commitment to yourself to eat healthier. But you wonder how long will the food keep? How long will it stay fresh? When do you toss it in the garbage?
In the past when I prepped used to simply rinse produce under the faucet, stick it in a container or bag. and think I was done. The step I was missing to keep produce fresh longer was drying! Drying those veggies and fruits with a paper towel will help extend the life of your produce.
An interesting bit of info I have found is that the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends washing all produce, even if the peel (like those on oranges and bananas) is inedible. They share that dirt and bacteria can travel to the inside of the produce as you curt or peel it. So to be safe, wash all produce, even bananas!
So what do you do after you wash, dry and prep your produce? Store it of course! Most of us use aluminum foil, plastic wrap, plastic bags and airtight plastic or glass containers. They are all good choices. Airtight is key! For perishables, store them quickly. Don’t let them hang out on the counter more than 2 hours. Make sure that your refrigerator is at the proper temperature. It should be set at 40 degrees or below.
So now for the million dollar question: How long does prepped food keep? It is variable. Below is a list of some foods and their expected lifespan after being prepped and wrapped. Remember that the more air tight they are the better. AND remember the times are variable. For a more complete list check out this charts from food safety.gov: Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer as well as this chart from storeitfoods.com: Shelf Life
- Raw,ground meat 1 or 2 days
- Raw chops, roasts and steaks (beef, veal, lamb, and pork): 3 to 5 days
- Sausage (pork, beef or turkey): 1 or 2 days
- Cooked meat: 3 to 4 days
- Fresh chicken: 1 or 2 days
- Cooked chicken: 3 to 4 days
- Fresh fish (such as salmon, tilapia and other whitefish): 1 or 2 days
- Fresh shellfish (such as shrimp, scallops and lobster): 1 or 2 days
- Cooked fish: 3 or 4 days
- Citrus fruits: 2 to 6 weeks
- Grapes: 1 to 3 weeks
- Melons: 1 week
- Peaches and nectarines: 2 to 3 weeks
- Pears: 1 to 3 months
- Other fresh fruit: 3 to 5 days
- Asparagus: 2 or 3 days
- Broccoli, brussels sprouts, green peas, green onions, greens, lima beans, mushrooms, rhubarb, summer squash: 3 to 5 days
- Cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, snap beans and tomatoes: 1 week
- Beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips: 2 weeks
- Eggs, hard boiled 1 week
- Egg-containing products (such as sauces): 1 or 2 days
Finally, learn from experience. There may be foods that you find aren’t as appealing when you prep them ahead or that seem to go bad before you eat them. For those foods you may want reorganize your meal plan to include them earlier in the week or prep them as needed.
Remember trust your instincts, your nose and eyes. If it smells suspicious or looks funky, I toss it.