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The Ultimate Food Storage Cheat Sheet!

It's hard to know exactly when food passes that magical barrier between good and gone bad, tasty and disgusting. Expiration dates tell us one thing, while experience whispers another. Most of the time we manage, but sometimes we just leave the food in and forget to take it out, and not only does it go bad but it stinks up the whole fridge!

For that reason, I've gathered for you the most comprehensive cheat sheet, so you will know once and for all - when will my food go bad?



Food Item Room Temperature
(70° F)
Fridge
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments

Breads

Dough
Tube cans of rolls, biscuits, pizza dough, etc.
Use-by-date Don't freeze
Ready-to-bake pie crust
Use-by-date 2 months
Cookie dough
Use-by-date unopened or opened 2 months
Breads, fresh Store at room temperature. Use the date as a guide or use within 3 to 5 days. Storing in the refrigerator promotes staling. 3 months Over wrap well to prevent drying out; thaw at room temperature
Bread and rolls, unbaked dough
1 to 2 days 2 months Sometimes dough doesn't rise as well if frozen
Muffins, rolls, quick breads
3 days 1 to 2 months Wrap individually, pick in rigid containers to prevent crushing
Pancakes and waffles
2 days 1 to 2 months Freeze with waxed paper between each two. Heat without thawing in a toaster or under broiler
Pastries, Danish, Doughnuts
Store at room temperature.  Best used within 1 to 3 days 3 months
Tortillas, corn or flour
1 week 3 months Wrap well

Baked Goods

Cakes

Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Angel food & sponge cakes
3 days 4 to 6 months Wrap well
Cheesecake
3 to 7 days 4 to 6 months Wrap well
Fruit cakes

1 year Wrap well
Layer cakes
Store at room temperature. Best used within 3 to 7 days 2 to 4 months Wrap well. Butter frosting freezes well, fluffy egg white frostings don't
Cookies
Cookies, baked

4 to 6 months Pack in airtight container
Cookies, unbaked dough
2 to 3 days 6 months Form refrigerator dough cookies in rolls; wrap tightly, thaw in refrigerator before slicing or dropping on cookie sheets
Pies
Chiffon pie, Pumpkin pie
1 to 2 days 1 month
Fruit pies, baked
1 to 2 days 1 year Wrap well; thaw at room temperature; heat in 350 degree F. oven about 15 minutes
Fruit pies, unbaked

8 months Cut holes in upper crust to vent; bake unthawed
Pies, starch-thickened custard
1 to 2 days Do not freeze Fillings become watery and lumpy and pastry becomes soggy
Pies, nut, baked
4 to 5 days 6 months Wrap well
Pie shells, unbaked
1 day 2 months Fit in pie pans; prick crusts. Stack pie pans with 2 layers freezer paper between. Place in freezer bags. Either bake frozen or thaw in refrigerator

Dairy & Eggs

Dairy

Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Butter
1 to 3 months 6 to 9 months Leave in original wrapping; overwrap well
Buttermilk
7 to 14 days Do not freeze Texture changes
Canned Milk, opened
3 to 5 days
N/A
Cheese, Hard (such as Cheddar, Swiss)
6 months, unopened
3 to 4 weeks, opened
6 months Best used in cooking; will crumble when sliced; thaw in refrigerator to minimize crumbling
Cheese, parmesan, grated

1 to 2 months Repackage in freezer bags
Cheese Soft (such as Brie, Bel Paese)
1 week 6 months Texture can change
Cottage Cheese, Ricotta
1 week Doesn't freeze well Separates, becomes grainy
Cream Cheese
2 weeks Doesn't freeze well Can be mixed with other ingredients and frozen; by itself becomes crumbly
Cream--Whipped, ultra-pasteurized
1 month Doesn't freeze
Cream--Whipped, Sweetened
1 day 1 to 2 months Freeze small mounds of lightly sweetened whipped cream on cookie sheet; then repackage so the mounds won't be crushed; thaw in refrigerator or serve frozen.
Cream--Aerosol can, real whipped cream
3 to 4 weeks Doesn't freeze
Cream--Aerosol can, non dairy topping
3 months Doesn't freeze
Cream, Half and Half
3 to 4 days 4 months Texture changes
Eggnog, commercial
3 to 5 days 6 months
Ice Creams, Sorbets
Can't Refrigerate 1 to 2 months Overwrap to prevent ice crystals, freezer burn
Margarine, Spread substitutes
4 to 5 months 12 months Leave in original wrapping; overwrap well
Milk
7 days 1 month Allow room for expansion in freezer container; thaw in refrigerator. Freezing affects flavor and appearance; use in cooking and baking.
Pudding
package date; 2 days after opening Doesn't freeze Can separate
Sour cream
7 to 21 days Doesn't freeze Separates when thawed
Whipped Butter and Margarine

Doesn't freeze Emulsion will break and product will separate.
Yogurt
7 to 14 days 1 to 2 months Texture changes

Eggs

Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Fresh, in shell
3 to 5 weeks Don't freeze Shells break; eggs lose quality
Raw whites
2 to 4 days 1 year Gently stir whites together; freeze in ice cube trays; remove blocks to plastic freezer bag when solid. Each contains about 2 tablespoons. 1 cube - 1 egg white.
Raw yolks
1 week Don't freeze well Yolks can clump
Hard cooked eggs
1 week Don't freeze well Whites become rubbery; water separates
Liquid pasteurized eggs, egg substitutes,
     opened
     unopened


3 days
10 days

Doesn't freeze well
1 year

If opened, read label instructions regarding freezing 
Freeze if unopened.
Mayonnaise, commercial, refrigerate after opening
2 months Doesn't freeze

Fruit

Fruit, Fresh




Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Commercially Frozen

1 year
Canned Fruits
unopened - 12 to 24 months
opened - 2 to 3 days
opened - 1 to 2 months Do not store in opened can. Store in airtight container.
Dried fruits
   cooked
   uncooked


3 to 5 days
6 months

4 to 6 months
12 months

Apples
3 to 5 months

Apricots, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums
3 to 5 days 6 months See preserving instructions for individual fruits
Avocados 2 to 3 days after ripened 5 to 10 days

Bananas Store at room temperature

Freeze whole in skin or peel and mash; great in breads and cakes
Berries, cherries
2 to 3 days Freeze individually on cookie sheets; repackage in heavy plastic bags
Cranberries
3 to 4 weeks
8 to 12 months
Grapefruit 7 days 2 weeks 4 to 6 months Wrap cut surfaces to prevent loss of Vitamin C.
Grapes
1 to 2 weeks

Guavas, papayas
1 to 2 days

Kiwi Fruit 3 to 5 days after ripening 4 to 6 months if unripe.

Lemons 1 week 2 to 5 weeks

Limes 1 week 2 to 5 weeks

Melons
1 week 8 to 12 months Wrap cut surfaces to prevent Vitamin C loss, control odors.
Oranges 3 to 4 days 5 to 6 weeks

Peaches Ripen at room temperature 2 to 3 days

Pineapple 1 to 2 days 3 to 5 days

Tangerines 2 to 3 days 1 week

Watermelon Uncut watermelon can be stored at room temperature for a few days 6 to 8 days

Fruit Beverages
Juices in cartons, fruit drinks, punch
3 weeks unopened
7 to 10 days opened
8 to 12 months

Meats

Deli & Vacuum-Packed Products

Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Store-prepared (or homemade) egg, chicken, ham, tuna, macaroni salads
3 to 5 days Doesn't freeze well
Hot dogs & Luncheon Meats
Hot dogs,
   opened package
   unopened package


1 week
2 weeks

1 to 2 months
1 to 2 months

Changes texture, flavor
Changes texture, flavor
Luncheon meats
   opened package
   unopened package


3 to 5 days
2 weeks

1 to 2 months
1 to 2 months

These lose flavor quickly; wrap tightly
These lose flavor quickly; wrap tightly
Bacon & Sausage
Bacon and pancetta
7 days 1 month Leave unopened in original wrapping; over wrap well
Sausage, fresh; raw from chicken, turkey, pork, beef
1 to 2 days 1 to 2 months Over wrap packages well
Smoked breakfast links, patties
7 days 1 to 2 months Over wrap packages well
Hard sausage--pepperoni, jerky sticks
2 to 3 weeks 1 to 2 months Keep in original packaging; over wrap well
Summer sausage--labeled "Keep Refrigerated"
   opened
   unopened


3 weeks
3 months

1 to 2 months
1 to 2 months

Ham, Corned Beef
Corned beef, in pouch with pickling juices
5 to 7 days Drained, 1 month
Ham, canned--labeled "Keep Refrigerated"
   opened
   unopened


3 to 5 days
6 to 9 months

1 to 2 months
Doesn't freeze

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
Hamburger, ground beef
1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months Remove from supermarket wrapping; wrap well in freezer plastic wrap; over wrap with heavy-duty aluminum foil
Ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb & mixtures of them
1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months Remove from supermarket wrapping; wrap well in freezer plastic wrap; over wrap with heavy-duty aluminum foil
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork
Steaks
3 to 5 days 6 to 12 months Wrap pieces individually, then over wrap tightly
Chops
3 to 5 days 4 to 6 months Wrap pieces individually, then over wrap tightly
Roasts
3 to 5 days 4 to 12 months Wrap pieces individually, then over wrap tightly
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 Don't freeze well
Soup & Stews
Chili

4 to 6 months All-meat chili freeze better than those containing beans, which can break down & become mushy
Soups, broth-based
3 to 4 days 4 months Freeze in usable amounts or individual servings
Soups, cream-based, such as chowders, bisques
2 days Do not freeze Can curdle and separate
Stock
3 to 4 days 4 to 6 months Freeze in usable amounts
Stews
3 to 4 days 4 to 6 months Freeze in usable amounts





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, turkey, or duck, whole
1 to 2 days 1 year Keep in original packaging
Chicken or turkey, pieces
1 to 2 days 9 months Over wrap well
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 Best frozen in stock, used in soups, casseroles
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

Seafood and Fish

Fish
Lean fish (cod, flounder, haddock, sole, etc.)
1 to 2 days 6 months remove from light supermarket wrap; wrap well or use ice method below.
Fatty fish (salmon, bluefish, mackerel, salmon, etc.)
1 to 2 days 2 to 3 months Place on cookie sheet, loosely covered with foil. Freeze. Dip in water several times; freeze to form thin ice glaze; wrap well; over wrap well
Cooked fish
3 to 4 days 4 to 6 months Texture becomes mushy
Smoked fish
14 days or date on vacuum package 2 months in vacuum package Vacuum package
Shellfish
Clams, oysters, scallops; live

7 to 10 days Remove from shells; freeze in their own liquid in airtight plastic freezer bags or containers; raw scallops easily become rubbery
Cooked shellfish
3 to 4 days 3 months
Crab, cooked
1 to 2 days 2 months If in shell, leave in shell; dip in water and freeze to form thin ice glaze to prevent drying out and becoming stringy; then repackage
Fish Sticks

18 months
Lobster tails, raw

3 months Over wrap original wrapping well
Lobster & Crab, live
same day purchased

Shrimp, crayfish, squid, shucked clams, & mussels; raw
1 to 2 days 3 to 6 months Dip in water, freeze, to form ice glaze; place in freezer plastic bags
Shrimp, cooked

Don't freeze Texture becomes mushy
Shrimp, breaded, commercial


1 year

Staples or Pantry Items

Staples or Pantry Items Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Baby Food, canned unopened - 12 months
opened - 2 days



Baking Powder unopened - 18 months
opened - 6 months


Keep dry and covered.
Baking Soda unopened - 2 years
opened - 6 months


Keep dry and covered.
Biscuit Mix 12 to 18 months


Bouillon Cubes or Granules 2 years

Keep dry and covered.
Brownie Mix 9 to 12 months


Cake Mix 9 to 12 months


Candies
2 to 4 months 6 months Chocolate-coated varieties may develop white bloom on outside from temperature; thaw in refrigerator





Catsup, Chili Sauce unopened - 12 months
opened 1 month


Refrigerate for longer storage
Cereals, ready-to-eat 6 to 12 months
(opened & unopened)


Refold package liner tightly after opening
Chocolate semi-sweet - 18 months
unsweetened - 18 months


Keep in a cool place
Chocolate Syrup unopened - 2 years opened - 6 months
Cover tightly and refrigerate after opening

Cocoa Mixes

Cocoa, Baking

unopened - 8 months
opened - 3 to 6 months

24 months



Cover tightly
Coconut, shredded 
(canned or packaged)
unopened - 1 year
 
opened - 6 months
 

Refrigerate after opening

Coffee, cans

Coffee, instant


Coffee, whole bans
 

unopened - 2 years

unopened - 1 to 2 years
opened - 2 months

1 to 2 weeks
 



Storing coffee at room temperature is the most convenient method of storage. It works well for coffee that will be consumed within one to two weeks of purchase.
Cornmeal 12 months

Keep tightly closed
Cornstarch Indefinite

Keep tightly closed
Crackers 6 months
3 months Freeze "sleeves" in heavy plastic bags

Flour, white

Flour, whole wheat

Flour, bread

6 to 8 months


6 to 8 months


6 to 8 months


1 year


1 year


Store in refrigerator


Gelatin, all types 18 months

Keep in original containers
Grits 12 months

Store in airtight container
Herbs 6 months


Honey 12 months

Cover tightly. If crystallizes, warm jar in pan of hot water
Jelly, Jam & Preserves unopened - 12 months opened - 6 months
Refrigerate after opening
Molasses unopened - 12 months
opened - 6 months


Keep tightly closed. Refrigerate to extend storage life.
Marshmallow Cream unopened - 3 to 4 months


Marshmallows 2 to 3 months

Keep in airtight container
Mayonnaise unopened - 2 to 3 months opened - 2 to 3 months
Refrigerate after opening
Mustard, prepared yellow unopened - 2 years
opened 6 to 8 months


May be refrigerated. Stir before using.

Nuts (Nuts; hazelnuts, walnut, pecans), in shell

Nuts, vacuum can

4 months
 

3 months

1 year



2 years



Refrigerate after shelling. Freeze for longer storage.

 
Milk (condensed or evaporated, canned

Milk, non-fat dry
 

12 months +

unopened - 6 months
opened - 3 months



Invert cans every 2 months
 

Store in airtight container

Olives, bottled or canned 1 year


Pancake Mixes 6 to 9 months


Pasta (dry spaghetti, macaroni, etc.) 2 years

Once opened, store in airtight container
Peanut Butter unopened - 6 to 9 months
opened - 2 to 3 months


Refrigeration not necessary, but will keep longer if refrigerated.
Pectin, liquid opened - 1 month


Pickles unopened - 1 to 2 years


Pie Crust Mix unopened - 8 months


Popcorn 1 to 2 years

Keep in airtight container
Potatoes, Instant 6 to 12 months


Pudding Mixes 12 months


Rice, white

Rice, flavored or herb

2 years +

6 months



Keep tightly closed
Salad Dressings, bottled unopened - 10-12 months
opened -3 months


Refrigerate after opening

Salad Oils (corn, canola)

Olive Oil

18 months

24 months



Sauces & Gravy Mixes 6 to 12 months


Shortening unopened - 18 months
opened - 6 to 8 months



Spices, whole

Spices, ground

1 to 2 years

6 months



Store in airtight container in a dry place.

Sugar, granulated

Sugar, brown

Sugar, confectioners or powdered

Sugar, sweeteners
 

2 years +

4 months

18 months

2 years +



Put in airtight container and cover tightly
Syrups 12 months

Keep tightly closed. Refrigerate to extend storage life.

Tea, bags

Tea, instant

Tea, loose

18 months

3 years

2 years



Store in airtight container
Tofu
1 week 5 months Change storage water every day or two after opening.





Vanilla Extract unopened - 2 years
opened 12 months


Keep tightly closed
Vinegar unopened - 2 years +
opened - 12 months


Keep tightly closed
Yeast, dry or frozen compressed
6 weeks 1 to 2 years











Vegetables

Vegetables Room Temperature
(70° F)
Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)
Freezer 
(0 °F)
Comments
Commercially Frozen

1 year Store in original package
Canned Vegetables
opened - 3 days
Do not store in the opened can. Store in airtight container.
Artichokes
1 week

Asparagus
3 to 5 days 8 to 12 months
Beets, carrots
2 weeks 8 to 12 months
Beans, broccoli, lima beans, peas, summer squash
3 to 6 days 8 to 12 months
Bell Peppers
1 to 2 weeks 3 to 4 months Freeze raw, slice in strips or dice
Cabbage
1 week Do not freeze To watery to freeze well
Cauliflower
1 week 8 to 12 months
Celery, chilies
1 week 8 to 12 months
Corn
Use immediately for best flavor 8 to 12 months
Green onions
3 to 5 days Do not freeze Become limp
Greens: collards, kale, mustard, spinach, Swiss chard
3 to 5 days 8 to 12 months
Green beans
1 week 8 to 12 months
Lettuce and salad greens
1 week Do not freeze Too watery; becomes limp
Mushrooms
1 to 2 days 8 to 12 months Slice thinly and saute first, otherwise they become rubbery and lose flavor
Radishes
2 weeks

Squash, hard 3 to 6 months


Tomatoes

3 to 4 months Cut in wedges, freeze in usable portions in freezer bags. Use in cook dishes.

Image courtesy of: Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net

Submitted by: Rajesh Sourash

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