Last updated on September 28th, 2022 at 07:04 am
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When you’re at the grocery store and there’s a great sale on lunch meat, it’s always a good idea to check the expiration date on the packages to make sure you can use or freeze them before they expire. Sometimes a grocery store will put them on clearance or manager’s special because they are going to expire soon.
Also, remember that once you open the package you will have to consume the lunch meat within 3-5 days of the day you opened the package. What I like to do is write the “opened date” on the package with a Sharpie marker. Keep in mind that when you refrigerate lunch meat you need to keep it in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent any exposure to air.
However, if you decide to forego the packaged lunch meat for something a bit healthier, and purchase freshly sliced meat from the deli, you’ll need to plan on eating the meat within 2-5 days of the day you purchased it (not the day you open it). This is because the manufacturing process of packaged meat adds preservatives which are not present in freshly sliced meat from the deli.
Roast beef from the deli will last for 2-5 days in the fridge (assuming you keep it refrigerated properly). If you freeze your deli roast beef it will last 1-2 months before it will start to lose some of its flavor and texture.
Also, keep in mind that you should refrigerate any lunch meat as soon as possible to maintain the shelf life. If you get distracted or the lunch meat falls out of the bag in your car on the way home and you end up leaving it at room temperature for more than 2 hours, the safest thing to do is throw it away.
It’s definitely not worth getting sick to save about $5, right?
Furthermore, when you do your grocery shopping, it’s a good idea to buy your chilled (milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, hot dogs, etc.) and frozen foods (ice cream, frozen pizza, frozen hamburger patties, etc.) just before you check out so they don’t get warm while you are doing your other grocery shopping. Also, plan on going straight home to get them in the refrigerator or freezer ASAP.
Depending on the climate of your area and the length of your drive, you might want to consider using an insulated cooler bag or ice pack(s) to keep chilled and frozen foods cold on your way home. It’s also a good idea to have your groceries bagged with all the cold items together to preserve their temperature.
When you arrive home, you’ll want to put chilled and frozen foods into the fridge or freezer immediately. Even though it might be easier to get someone in your household to help, it’s a good idea for the person who bought the groceries to put away anything that is chilled or frozen so you can make sure nothing was forgotten in the car.
You might want to also check your receipt to refresh your memory. We left milk in our car overnight once, in the summer, and it was NOT something I’d recommend!
How Can You Tell If Deli Roast Beef Is Bad?
Food safety is very important whether the food is prepared at a restaurant or at home. In a restaurant setting, the employees have rules to follow in order to prevent food borne illnesses. However, at home we don’t always know these rules by heart.
Whenever I had a question about food, I used to ask my dad because he managed the meat department at our local grocery store. Over the years I have learned a lot about food safety, but sometimes I still refer to the internet for clarification. A few important food safety and food storage tips to remember:
- Wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
- Refrigerate raw meat on the bottom shelf and keep it in a container that won’t leak.
- Wash your reusable grocery bags often, especially if you use them for raw meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
Now that we know how many days properly refrigerated packaged lunch meat and deli lunch meat will last, we should discuss the gray area. How do you know if the meat is good on day 3, day 4, or day 5?
There are four things to consider when you are trying to decide whether your deli or packaged roast beef (or any other lunch meat) is safe to eat:
- Mold – The most obvious sign that any food is unsafe to eat, including lunch meat, is mold. If you see mold on your food, you should toss it.
- Change in color – Check the color of your lunch meat in good lighting to make sure it doesn’t look gray or brown. If you’re not exactly sure if the color is okay then check for an off smell or slime to help you make the decision whether to eat or throw out the lunch meat.
- Smell – Like milk, it’s a good idea to check the aroma of your lunch meat before you eat or serve it. (We’ve had milk sour before the expiration date so that is a lesson you learn quickly.)
- Slime – One of the most common factors that show your lunch meat needs to be thrown out is a slimy feeling on the surface of the meat. Slime is gross and is a warning sign that you should throw the lunch meat away.
So, to recap, if your lunch meat has mold, a change in color, a bad smell or feels slimy do not eat or serve it.
What Happens If I Eat Expired Lunch Meat?
Food poisoning bacteria grows more easily on some types of food than others. If you have a weakened immune system, take extra precautions when eating, drinking or preparing high-risk foods such as:
- Raw meat
- Cooked meat
- Cooked pasta
- Cooked rice
- Prepared salads
- Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider
- Pâtés and meat spreads
There are many different types of food borne illnesses. The most common are Listeria, Norovirus, and E-coli. If you eat expired lunch meat (or other unsafe foods) you might experience fever, chills, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Keep in mind that a group of people might all eat the same unsafe food, but only some of them may end up getting sick. That’s because the stronger your immune system is, the less likely you are to suffer ill effects of bacteria or viruses whether they are food borne or airborne.
You might have a weakened immune system if you have / are:
- Drug addiction or steroid use
- Cancer (especially when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments)
- An organ transplant recipient
- Anorexic / Bulimic
- A cigarette smoker
- An insomniac
- Very stressed
A few ways to strengthen your immune system is to get regular exercise, eat a diet high in vitamins and minerals (or at least take a daily multivitamin), and try to keep a wake / sleep schedule that includes at least 7 hours of sleep each night.