Food Storage

Tue March 15, 2016

Do you cringe when you open the door to the fridge and smell leftover odors?  Or do you come home from work just to find your husband or wife eating something out of the fridge from 2 weeks ago?  My mom always told me the rule for leftovers in the fridge was a week…anything longer should be tossed.  But, I’ve seen this rule tested by husbands eating food that was 2 weeks old and not getting sick.  So it made me start to wonder what really is best when it comes to food storage. 

Turns out there are many different rules, depending on the food and where they are stored.  Here’s a great chart to help guide you when storing your food.

Product 

Refrigerator (40F) 

Freezer (0F) 

Deli

Entrees, cold or hot

3 to 4 days

1 to 2 months

Store-sliced lunch meats

3-5 days

1-2 months

Salads

3 to 5 days

Do not freeze

Hot dogs & Luncheon Meats

Hot dogs,
opened package

1 week

1 to 2 months

unopened package

2 weeks

1 to 2 months

Luncheon meats, opened package

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

unopened package

2 weeks

1 to 2 months

Bacon & Sausage

Bacon

7 days

1 month

Sausage, raw from chicken, turkey, pork, beef

1 to 2 days

1 to 2 months

Smoked breakfast links, patties

7 days

1 to 2 months

Hard sausage – pepperoni, jerky sticks

2 to 3 weeks

1 to 2 months

Summer sausage – labeled "Keep Refrigerated"opened

3 weeks

1 to 2 months

Unopened

3 months

1 to 2 months

Ham, Corned Beef

Corned beef, in pouch with pickling juices

5 to 7 days

Drained, 1 month

Ham, fully cooked vacuum sealed at plant, undated, unopened

2 weeks

1 to 2 months

Ham, fully cooked vacuum sealed at plant, dated, unopened

"use by" date on package

1 to 2 months

Ham, fully cooked, whole

7 days

1 to 2 months

Ham, fully cooked, half

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Ham, fully cooked, slices

3 to 4 days

1 to 2 months

Hamburger, Ground & Stew Meat

Hamburger & stew meat

1 to 2 days

3 to 4 months

Ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb & mixtures of them

1 to 2 days

3 to 4 months

Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork

Steaks

3 to 5 days

6 to 12 months

Chops

3 to 5 days

4 to 6 months

Roasts

3 to 5 days

4 to 12 months

Variety meats – tongue, liver, heart, kidneys, chitterlings

1 to 2 days

3 to 4 months

Pre-stuffed, uncooked pork chops, lamb chops, or chicken breast stuffed with dressing

1 day

Do not freeze

Soup & Stews

Vegetable or meat added

3 to 4 days

2 to 3 months

Meat Leftovers

Cooked meat and meat casseroles

3 to 4 days

2 to 3 months

Gravy and meat broth

1 to 2 days

2 to 3 months

Fresh Poultry

Chicken or turkey, whole

1 to 2 days

1 year

Chicken or turkey, pieces

1 to 2 days

9 months

Giblets

1 to 2 days

3 to 4 months

Cooked Poultry

Fried chicken

3 to 4 days

4 months

Cooked poultry casseroles

3 to 4 days

4 to 6 months

Pieces, plain

3 to 4 days

4 months

Pieces covered with broth, gravy

1 to 2 days

6 months

Chicken nuggets, patties

1 to 2 days

1 to 3 months

Pizza

Pizza

3 to 4 days

1 to 2 months

Stuffing

Stuffing – cooked

3 to 4 days

1 month

Beverages, Fruit

Juices in cartons, fruit drinks, punch

3 weeks unopened,
7 to 10 days opened

8 to 12 months

Dairy

Butter

1 to 3 months

6 to 9 months

Buttermilk

7 to 14 days

3 months

Cheese, Hard (such as Cheddar, Swiss)

6 months, unopened
3 to 4 weeks, opened

6 months

Cheese Soft (such as Brie)

1 week

6 months

Cottage Cheese, Ricotta

1 week

Do not freeze

Cream Cheese

2 weeks

Do not freeze

Cream – Whipped, ultrapasteurized

1 month

Do not freeze

Whipped, Sweetened

1 day

1 to 2 months

Aerosol can, real whipped cream

3 to 4 weeks

Do not freeze

Aerosol can, non-dairy topping

3 months

Do not freeze

Cream, Half and Half

3 to 4 days

4 months

Eggs, in shell

3 to 5 weeks

Do not freeze

Raw yolks, whites

2 to 4 days

1 year

Hard cooked

1 week

Do not freeze

Egg substitutes, liquid

 

 

opened

3 days

Do not freeze

unopened

10 days

1 year

Eggnog, commercial

3 to 5 days

6 months

Margarine

4 to 5 months

12 months

Milk

7 days

3 months

Pudding

package date; 2 days after opening

Don't freeze

Sour cream

7 to 21 days

Don't freeze

Yogurt

7 to 14 days

1 to 2 months

Dough

Tube cans of rolls, biscuits, pizza dough, etc.

"use by" date on package

Don't freeze

Ready-to-bake pie crust

"use by" date on package

2 months

Cookie dough

"use by" date on package

2 months

Fish

Lean fish (cod, flounder, haddock, sole, etc.)

1 to 2 days

6 months

Fatty fish (bluefish, mackerel, salmon, etc.)

1 to 2 days

2 to 3 months

Cooked fish

3 to 4 days

4 to 6 months

Smoked fish

14 days or date on vacuum package

2 months in vacuum package

Shellfish

Shrimp, scallops, crayfish, squid, shucked clams, mussels and oysters

1 to 2 days

3 to 6 months

Live clams, mussels, crab, lobster and oysters

2 to 3 days

2 to 3 months

Cooked shellfish

3 to 4 days

3 months

When following these rules, it is also important to note that you should be storing foods correctly. 

  • Store all leftovers in airtight, leak-proof containers or wraps. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking. Don’t worry, modern refrigerators can handle the heat of food being stored in them directly from cooking, so no need to let cool first.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate from other foods in the fridge and store like with like: apples with apples, carrots with carrots. Fruits and vegetables give off different gases that can cause others to deteriorate. Store fruits and vegetables susceptible to drying out in perforated or unsealed plastic bags to maintain a moist environment yet still allow air to circulate. Also, don't wash produce before refrigerating it as the dampness can make it mold and rot more quickly.
  • Store cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream, milk, and cream in the containers they came in. If removed from original containers for serving, do not put them back into the containers they came in.  Store in new clean air-tight containers.
  • Store hard cheeses in the store wrapping until you use them, then wrap them in wax paper, foil, or loose plastic.
  • Keep all fresh meat, fish, and poultry in its store wrapping. You may want to consider putting a plate under it if it came in a Styrofoam bottom wrapping to catch any juices that can sometimes leak.
  • Don't refrigerate canned sauces or foods in the opened cans. Once a can is opened, residual metal on the rim can leach into food and leave a metallic taste.
  • Don’t stuff your refrigerator too full. Cool air needs to circulate to keep food at a safe temperature.