Tip for Busy Parents – storing & using fresh food

Storing and using fresh food correctly is important for your health and your wallet.

Most fresh foods have a short shelf life and by not storing correctly you risk it being spoilt by bacteria and having to throw it out. Minced meat is one of those foods I’ve always worried about buying pre-minced and storing, because I’ve never felt comfortable about what might have been added to it.
So, many years ago when my kids were tiny, I decided not to buy pre-minced meat. Instead, I ask the butcher to mince a lean piece of beef, pork, lamb or chicken in front of me so that I know it’s just good quality meat and nothing else.

Whenever I buy minced meat, my butcher always reminds me to make sure I store it on the coldest shelf of my fridge and use it within 24 hours or freeze it. I’ve seen information on websites that says it’s OK to store minced meat for 2-3 days, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and listen to my butcher, especially when I am cooking a meal for my little grandson.

If I don’t use mince that I have purchased within 24 hours (which is not very often), I put it in a freezer bag and press it flat so that it freezes evenly and quickly. Being flat means it will also thaw out quicker. When it comes to defrosting mince, I always remove it from the freezer and place on a lower shelf in the fridge 24 hours before I need to use it. Once thawed, I use it immediately and never refreeze it.

Most of the time, I buy freshly minced meat and use it immediately to make meatballs and hamburgers in bulk that I freeze raw (in layers between sheets of baking paper), or I make Bolognese sauce that I cool to room temperature, then freeze in containers. This way, I always have something healthy to cook when I need to prepare a meal in a hurry.

If you aren’t sure about how long to store and use fresh food, refer to the table below published on the CSIRO website. You’ll also find a whole host of other useful information about fresh food.

Food Expected shelf life in the home
Seafood 3 days
Crustaceans and molluscs 2 days
Meat 3-5 days
Poultry 3 days
Milk  5-7 days
Cream  5 days
Cheese  variable (1-3 months)
Soft cheeses (camembert, brie) 2-3 weeks
Cottage, ricotta, cream cheeses 10 days
Eggs 3-6 weeks
Fruit and Vegetables variable
Sourced from: https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/Health/Food-safety/Refrigerating-foods