What You Should Know About Storing Tuna Salad

It's no doubt that rising food costs are forcing many of us to make our meals more budget-friendly. However, we want to stretch our dollars without stretching our waistlines or compromising our health, which means we can't rely on the Dollar Menu all the time. Tuna fish may get a bad rap for being cheap, but it earns mad props for its health benefits and long shelf life.

An unopened can of tuna has a long shelf life — up to three to four years, provided it's properly stored and the can isn't damaged. And that date on the can? It's not an etched-in-stone food safety date; it's more of a guideline to how long the tuna will be at its best quality. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), unopened shelf-stable commercially canned foods will keep "indefinitely." Talk about a budget win!

It's all well and good to stock up on canned tuna. But don't make tuna salad in bulk. You won't save money if you're throwing out pounds of tuna salad because it turned into a science project in your fridge faster than you could eat it. Canned tuna may stick around for years, but once you turn it into tuna salad, what's the best way to store it and for how long?

Store tuna salad in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days

Bacteria thrive in the 'Danger Zone,' which the USDA defines as temperatures between 40 F and 140 F. Food kept at these temperatures can cause food poisoning, so to prevent spoilage, store the tuna salad in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge at or below 40 F. If you open your fridge often, place the container in the back where the temperature is more stable.

This doesn't mean you can't take your tuna with you. If you've packed your lunch, add an ice pack to your lunch bag — or opt for vacuum-sealed flavored tuna in pouches, which require no refrigeration. If you're bringing tuna salad to a picnic or potluck, Taste of Home recommends setting your serving bowl on a bed of ice. Regardless of where you enjoy your homemade tuna salad, if you've left it out at room temperature for more than two hours, dump it in the trash. That fish has hit the Danger Zone.

If properly stored, tuna salad lasts for three to five days in the fridge. You'll know it's bad if you see any mold or dark spots on the tuna or vegetables, smell a foul odor other than tuna's usual scent, or notice a slimy texture (via Still Tasty). When in doubt, throw it out! Spoiled tuna can cause scombroid poisoning if eaten. Experiencing vomiting or abdominal cramps isn't worth it to save a few bucks.