Meal prep is a great way of planning your weekly eating schedule and cutting back on food expenses in your family. However, it’s important to answer the question, “How long does meal prep last in the fridge?” to ensure you keep your family safe. Most meal prep fridge meals should stay good for at least 4-6 days, though this varies heavily based on the foods.
In this article, we’re going to examine various types of meal prep dishes and examine how long can meal prep last in fridge temperatures for each by using a detailed table that makes your search easier.
Types of Meal Prep and Their Shelf Life
Below, we’ve included a diverse and comprehensive meal prep guide that should help you prepare your dishes carefully, store them properly, and avoid long-term problems. Please read through each entry here to make sure you understand what you need to do to keep your family safe. There’s a good chance that you’ve probably kept some meal prep dishes stored for too long in either the fridge or freezer, but we’re here to help protect you and your loved ones:
|Type of Meal Prep||Shelf Life (In the Fridge)||Shelf Life (In The Freezer)|
|Cooked Meals||3-4 days (depending on the ingredients)||2-3 months (before frosting)|
|Salads||2-3 days (lettuce starts going bad)||1-2 months (before frosting)|
|Soups and Stews||4-5 days (depending on the ingredients)||2-3 months (when properly kept airtight)|
|Smoothies||2-3 days (variable based on the ingredients)||3-4 weeks (fruits and veggies may lose freshness)|
|Overnight Oats||5-6 days (before the oats get hard)||5-6 months (especially when kept airtight)|
|Hard-Boiled Eggs||2-4 days (depending on initial egg freshness)||3-4 weeks (eggs may spoil quickly in the freezer)|
|Chopped Fruits and Vegetables||2-3 days (veggies start going soft eventually)||1-2 months (depending on the initial freshness)|
|Cooked Grains and Legumes||3-5 days (varies depending on the item)||3-4 months (legumes and grains can freeze a long time)|
|Tofu and Tempeh||5-7 days (especially when cooked)||1-3 months (freeze with water in a bag for the best results)|
|Yogurt Parfaits||2-3 days (milk starts going bad in the yogurt)||1-2 weeks (cheese and milk may not last long)|
|Hard Cheeses||3-4 days (depending on the cheese type)||1-2 weeks (cheese and milk may not last long)|
|Soft Cheeses||4-5 days (depending on he cheese)||1-2 weeks (cheese and milk may not last long)|
|Nuts and Seeds||6-7 days (depending on the seeds)||5-6 months (when sealed in airtight bag)|
|Switches||1-2 days (ingredients may start spoiling)||2-3 months (before frosting)|
How to Properly Store Your Meal Prep?
Not that you have a pretty good answer to the question “How long does meal prep last?” it’s important to know a few steps that can make your meal prep fridge process smoother. If you follow these steps, your meal prep will be much safer, and you won’t run into nearly as many spoilage risks. So, when someone asks you, “Is meal prep safe?” you can say “YES!” and tell them these useful tips to ensure that they handle meal prep properly and smoothly and provide their families with great and healthy meals.
1. Cook Food Properly
When doing meal prep, it’s critical to make sure that you cook food properly. For example, you need to get your meat to the proper temperature (typically 145 degrees for beef, pork, lamb, fish, and shellfish, 160 for ground beef, and 165 for poultry). All foods need to be cooked all the way through because this helps them to last longer in the fridge after prep.
2. Eat Meals in Reasonable Order
Carefully plan each of your meals and eat them in an order that makes sense. For example, meals that don’t last as long, such as fish or other meal dishes, should be eaten first to ensure that they don’t spoil. Lettuce and cabbage also tend to go bad fairly quickly and become slimy, so make sure that you eat salads fairly quickly to minimize any problems.
3. Use Airtight Containers
Don’t simply throw your prepped meals into plastic bags or containers, but make sure that they’re as airtight as possible. Doing so can keep out the oxygen that can contribute to food spoilage. It slows down this process and makes it easier for you to store your food for longer, which is great if you’re looking to keep your food healthy and your prep effective. Thankfully, there should be plenty of airtight containers available at local supermarkets or online that you can purchase and use.
4. Immediately Store Your Food
Meal preppers may make the mistake of letting their cooked foods sit outside the fridge or freezer for too long. This mistake is likely to cause your foods to spoil more quickly when stored and could ruin your experience. Typically, you should immediately seal and store your meals to keep them out of excessive air and moisture. Any more than 1-2 hours outside is a real issue that could make your food spoil very quickly and ruin your meal prep and planning processes.
5. Freeze Foods You Aren’t Going to Eat
When planning for more than 3-5 days of meals, take any you can’t eat in at least five days and freeze them. Doing so keeps them fresh and usable for months. Note that while many of the foods you store can be kept in a freezer for longer than 1-3 months, it’s typically best to check or even toss these items out after three months. That’s because they start losing quality fairly quickly and could even lose vitamins and nutrients through leaching.
6. Don’t Keep Your Leftovers
After you eat a meal prep from the fridge, it’s probably best to toss any leftovers that you aren’t likely to eat that day. After it’s been exposed to air and moisture, it’s more likely to spoil and end up being wasted. Just as importantly, you have other food available to eat the next day, so keeping leftovers is likely to throw off your meal prep and plan. It’s typically best to only cook portions that you know you’re likely to eat in a day. In that way, you minimize the risk of wasting foods.
How to Tell If Your Meal Prep is Spoiled?
Properly storing your meal prep foods should help them stay fresh and edible for several days. However, there’s always a risk that you might store your food too long and experience a real danger of spoiling. As a result, it’s important to know a few warning signs of food spoilage. These will ensure that your meal prep is safe and your family is protected from danger.
The moment you see mold growing on your food, it’s probably time to toss it out. Mold can grow as quickly as 12-24 hours after storage, depending on the food type. Cooling it in the fridge does help keep your meal prep safe from these growths. The moment you see even a single spot of mold, you have to toss out your food to avoid getting sick.
When you start to notice brown spots and other discoloration on your meal prep foods, there’s a good chance that they’re already going bad. It’s technically not as severe as molding, and you can probably cut around these areas if they’re small. That said, it’s usually a better idea to just throw them away to avoid potential food poisoning risks.
As food starts going bad, it’s going to produce pretty pungent odors. Typically, your meal prep dishes should have a pleasant odor that’s redolent of its ingredients and the meal itself. Any odors that make your nose tinge or that basically smell like rot are signs your food is going bad. Toss it out rather than take the risk eating it might pose.
All foods have specific textures, and changes to them can indicate a real problem. For example, soft food that gets hard and dries out is typically going bad and needs to be tossed out. The same is true of the opposite issue: if hard foods soften or feel too tender to the touch, they’re not good anymore and should be thrown out to avoid any issues.
Now that you know a few facts about proper meal prep, it’s important to take a deeper look at some frequently asked questions. These are things we didn’t have time to cover in the space above but which you should know to ensure you’re safe. Make sure you read through these carefully to see if we answered any of the pressing questions about meal prep you need answered.
Is it okay to meal prep for 7 days?
Most meal preppers typically don’t prep ahead more than 3-4 days because that’s about the maximum amount of time most food stays good in the fridge. However, you can definitely meal plan for the week, as long as you buy fresh foods halfway through the week.
Can you meal prep chicken for 5 days?
It’s probably pushing it to meal prep chicken for five days because most experts state that it’s good in the fridge for about four. However, freezing chicken can help it last a little longer but requires you to take it out of the cold early in the day to ensure it’s ready to eat.
What is the longest-lasting meal prep?
Foods like orange chicken stir fry with broccoli can last as long as a week because the ingredients will stay fresh and edible for most of the time. Any vegetable-based dishes tend to last longer because meat is more likely to spoil and cause safety issues.
Is it safe to meal prep?
It’s absolutely safe to meal prep as long as you do it properly and avoid eating meals if they start to spoil. The USDA suggests planning for no more than a few days at a time to avoid issues. Meal planning for a week or more can help you budget more effectively, though.
How often should I meal prep?
Typically, you should meal prep no more than one week ahead of time because that’s about the maximum length most meals will stay good. Planning too far ahead of time is more likely to cause issues with your food and cause it to spoil well before you get to it.
What meal preps won’t go bad?
There are basically no meal preps that don’t go bad because foods will inevitably spoil, even if they’re chilled or frozen. Though some meal preps can freeze for months at a time, they’ll inevitably start losing flavor and taste, so plan your prep very carefully.
Food for Thought
By now, you should know the answer to the question, “How long does meal prep last?”. Now, you can handle meal prep fridge situations and provide your family with safe and consistent meals that will provide them with tasty foods for days ahead. So, make sure you clean out your fridge and carefully choose your next meal prep plans to ensure that you get the best results for your family’s needs.