I just "answered" (via comment) How long can coconut milk last in the fridge? with a quick link to StillTasty.com. I believe that comment fully answers the question—and all that information was found in under a minute with Google (given, I knew the correct terms to search for; the OP probably didn't).

Previously, closing "general reference" questions has been discussed here; see Should "general reference" questions be asked and answered here? By that flow chart, the question should be closed. Unfortunately, it seems that general reference as a close reason was rejected by the SE team.

So, instead, borrowing an idea that I've seen on Stack Overflow, I suggest we should have a single question, which we close almost all "shelf life of X" questions as duplicates of. It should cover:

  • general guidelines for storage
  • resources where shelf life of a particular product can be looked up
  • tips on making storage more convenient (e.g., freezing in ice cube trays, soup in disposable coffee cups, etc.)
  • links to detailed guides on particular methods of storage (e.g., link to the home caning guide)

If no one objects, I'll ask the question and start a community wiki answer for it tonight.


It's nowhere near done, but: How long can I store a food in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer?

  • Its rather hard to do in a general sense, @Aaronut tried something similar back in November and got a lackluster response.
    – rfusca
    Feb 3, 2012 at 2:28
  • @rfusca- Aaronut's attempt was still to specific- for example, his question wouldn't have covered this milk in the fridge question. Most shelf life questions are so formulaic I agree with the idea of making a reference table or flow chart. Feb 3, 2012 at 15:13
  • @rfusca: I was mainly focused on the topic of the "danger zone" for which we seem to get endless question about (slightly fewer now that the [food-safety] tag wiki has been redone). I think this is a good idea, if it's done properly.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 3, 2012 at 18:11
  • @aaronut - oh, I'm all for it. Just saying something like that isn't easy.
    – rfusca
    Feb 3, 2012 at 18:12

3 Answers 3


This idea has been kicked around. Personally, I think its time has come.

I think we should, as a community, here in meta or in chat, define everything the question should answer.

Then formulate the answer with exhaustive resources and post it as one last community wiki.

I still think there are a lot of questions that are uniquely interesting that won't be closed by this. Canning and freezing for example are deep enough topics to warrant their own questions.

Definitely all questions about bacterial growth and rancidity at various temperatures, etc. could be covered.

  • 1
    Canning and freezing are definitely broad. I think we can cover them briefly in this question, with links to more broad descriptions. E.g., I sure have no plans to recreate the home food preservation guide. As far as planning it out in advance, not sure if that's needed, we can always edit. I plan to post the answer as CW (I think that's still possible, if not, I'll flag it for a mod to wikiify it)
    – derobert
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:56
  • Whatever you do, don't just make a big list of resources; the most important thing about answering questions here is to answer the question, not simply point people to another place they can get an answer. So a chart of foods and storage methods/times similar to what the USDA/FDA put out (hopefully more all-encompassing/detailed) would be awesome, but a big list of external resources really belongs in the [storage-method] and [storage-lifetime] tag wikis instead.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 3, 2012 at 18:12
  • @Aaronut: I don't plan on just a big list of resources. I'm thinking general information that'll answer the vast majority of questions (with references where possible), then links to resources for very specific information. I think what might work, is I could create it over here on meta, and then when we all think its ready, one of the diamond-mods could move it over.
    – derobert
    Feb 3, 2012 at 19:14
  • @derobert: Not sure what purpose the "staging" serves, it's OK to have continually updated posts on the main site (that's exactly what Community Wiki is supposed to be for). Just be careful not to try to make it too broad or all-encompassing, because the longer it gets, the more difficult it becomes to find specific information, and the less likely anyone is going to be to read it. I'm very much in your camp on the "we don't need a storage question for every single food" issue but at the same time, we shouldn't forget our mission to answer people's questions.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 4, 2012 at 0:16

The one certain thing, to me, is that this is something that needs to be addressed somehow. I don't want this site to eventually become a mirror for the entire content of stilltasty.com. I'm tired of seeing questions continually popping up, which require the same formulaic answer: look it up, keep it longer if you're okay with some risk or loss of quality. It doesn't do any favors for the people asking, and it's not really that useful for other users either. If stilltasty had better SEO, we probably wouldn't be getting the questions in the first place.

I think the English language stackexchange can at least provide some inspiration here:

  • General reference questions are out of scope - that's a reason to close questions. See for example this question; the description of the close reason is pretty clear. It's also exactly the same kind of thing as these shelf life questions:

    This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

  • The faq have a section about where to find answers to basic questions. This is at the top level a good thing. However, it includes a link to a question compiling good resources, which I think is best to regard this implementation as a cautionary tale. It seems too scattered to have all resources for all types of questions stored in one question. Linking to tag wikis which contain lists of subject-specific resources might be better.

Providing a canonical shelf life question is a reasonable suggestion as well, and could work in concert with those things, but it does have potential for problems, as discussed in the comments on Sobachatina's answer. The "general reference" close reason, generally in combination with a helpful comment, seems sufficient to me.

  • I'm currently writing the question and answer up. Sorry its taking so long. Its been a "fun" day, week really...
    – derobert
    Feb 5, 2012 at 5:11
  • @derobert: I'm trying to suggest that a different approach could potentially serve us better; I'm interested to see your question/answer, but I'm also interested in seeing what the community thinks about this approach.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Feb 5, 2012 at 5:12
  • Well, we're not getting a "general reference" close reason AFAIK. meta.stackexchange.com/q/86043/27727
    – derobert
    Feb 5, 2012 at 6:18
  • @derobert: Ah, I hadn't seen that, thanks.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Feb 5, 2012 at 6:22
  • I think it's also important to point out that the operative word in "general reference" is general. We're talking about sources like dictionaries or encyclopedias that answer the mind-numbing "what is cheese?" questions. The possibility/likelihood for using it to close questions that are answered by any reference source - as opposed to a general reference source - is the main reason why the team rejected the feature network-wide.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 5, 2012 at 18:49

Great job on the canonical question.

I've made some updates to our tag wiki in order to bring more attention to this question/reference and warn new members about potential duplicate closings.

(Note - that doesn't mean the mods are going to immediately close every storage question as a duplicate; this is the community's responsibility too.)

After looking at that question, I also think it's time to revisit the issue of merging the and tags (but not , I highlighted the difference in the tag wiki). The original rationale for not merging them was rather poor and derobert's Q&A (as well as StillTasty and the USDA/FDA tables) prove that the vast majority of storage questions yield both answers at the same time from the same sources.

Having one storage tag, as opposed to two, will at least improve our chances that people will read the wiki. If there are no objections then I am going to merge both of these and rename it .

  • I'm all for merging the two storage-* tags. I suggest though that we put freezing under storage, not food-preservation. Freezing is similar to refrigeration so far as technique. Then reserve food-preservation for methods that make perishable foods shelf-stable (e.g., canning, jams, curing).
    – derobert
    Feb 7, 2012 at 22:19
  • @derobert: Freezing is a subset of storage and/or preservation, not a synonym... it doesn't need to be put under anything, we don't have a tag hierarchy. Shelf-stable is what the food-preservation tag is supposed to mean though.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 8, 2012 at 4:48
  • Well, freezing is "under" food-preservation because the tag wiki says it is. And food-storage's wiki says its not for long-term (which freezing is). Sounds like we are in agreement, though, and the tag wikis just need cleaning up (and a bunch of questions need retagging).
    – derobert
    Feb 8, 2012 at 14:51
  • @derobert: Thanks for the example. The FP tag wiki definitely needs an update. I'll try to get to that sometime this week/end if nobody else does first.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 8, 2012 at 15:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .