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Tips and Tricks

Food Storage

To ensure edibles remain safe to eat and retain their quality, check this chart. Keep in mind that the listings are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Some products may spoil faster (or last longer) than times given, depending on storage conditions in your kitchen.

Foods From the Refriferator Case

Chilling foods helps maintain quality and safety, but not forever. Foods kept frozen at 0° F do remain safe almost indefinately, but quality suffers with lengthy storage.

Product Refrigerated Frozen
Butter Spreads and Dairy Spreads 3 months Do not freeze
Butter, Sticks 3 months 6 months
Buttermilk 2 weeks Do not freeze
Cheese, hard (Parmesan, Pecorino)    
Block 4 months 6 months
Grated 1 month 4 months
Cheese, semihard (Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss)    
Block, Packaged (unopened) 6 months 6 months
Block, Packaged (open) 1 month 6 months
Slices, Deli 1 week Do not freeze
Slices, Packaged (unopened) 1 month Do not freeze
Slices, Packaged (open) 1 week Do not freeze
Cheese, soft (Goat Cheese, Brie, Bei Paese)    
(unopened) 2 weeks Do not freeze
(open) 1 week Do not freeze
Cottage cheese 1 week Do not freeze
Cream, light 10 days Do not freeze
Cream, heavy, whipping, ultrapasteurized 1 month Do not freeze
Cream cheese    
(unopened) 2 months Do not freeze
(open) 2 weeks Do not freeze
Egg Substitute    
(unopened) 10 days Do not freeze
(open) 3 days Do not freeze
Eggs, in shell 5 weeks Do not freeze
Hard-cooked 1 week Do not freeze
Eggs, unshelled    
Whole 5 weeks Do not freeze
Whites 5 weeks 6 months
Half-and-Half 4 days Do not freeze
Margarine 4-5 months 12 months
Milk 1 week 3 months
Ricotta 5 days Do not freeze
Sour cream 3 weeks Do not freeze
Soy and Nut Milks 1 week Do not freeze
(unopened) 3 weeks 5 months
(open; covered in water) 1 week 5 months
Whipped Cream, Can 1 month Do not freeze
Whipped Topping, Tub 3 months 6 months
Yogurt 2 weeks 2 months
(live in shell) 2 days Do not freeze
(shucked) 1 day 3 months
Crabmeat, Packaged    
(unopened) 1 month 3 months
(open) 5 days 3 months
Crabs, Live Whole 1 day Do not freeze
Fish (Fatty), Fresh (Salmon, Mackerel) 2 days Do not freeze
Fish (Lean), Fresh (Cod, Flounder, Sole, Tilapia, etc.) 2 days 6 months
Fish, Frozen 2 days (thawed) 6 months
Lobsters, Live Whole 2 days Do not freeze
Lobster Tails, Frozen 2 days (thawed) 6 months
(live in shell) 2 days Do not freeze
(shucked) 1 days 4 months
(live in shell) 2 days Do not freeze
(shucked) 1 days 4 months
Scallops 2 days 3 months
Cooked 3 days 3 months
Fresh or Thawed 2 days 6 months
Frozen 2 days (thawed) 6 months
Chops 3 days 6 months
Ground Meat and Premade Patties 2 days 4 months
Roasts and Loins 3 days 6 months
Sausage, Uncooked 2 days 2 months
Steaks 3 days 6 months
Stew Meat 2 days 4 months
Cold Cuts    
Deli Sliced 5 days 2 months
Packaged (unopened) 2 weeks 2 months
Packaged (open) 5 days 2 months
Hot Dogs    
(unopened) 2 weeks 2 months
(open) 1 week 2 months
Sausage, Cooked (Kielbasa, Andouille)    
(unopened) 2 weeks 2 months
(open) 1 week 2 months
Sausage, Cured (Pepperoni, Sopressata)    
(unopened) 3 months Do not freeze
(open) 6 weeks Do not freeze
(unopened) 2 weeks 1 month
(open) 1 week 1 month
Chops 3 days 6 months
Ground Meat and Premade Patties 2 days 4 months
Ham, Cooked    
(whole) 1 week 2 months
(half) 4 days 2 months
(steaks) 4 days 2 months
Ham, Country 3 months 1 month
Roasts and Loins 3 days 6 months
Sausage, Uncooked 2 days 2 months
Stew Meat 2 days 4 months
Ground Meat and Premade Patties 2 days 4 months
Pieces, Fresh 2 days 6 months
Sausage, Uncooked 2 days 2 months
Whole, Fresh 2 days 6 months
Chicken Nuggets, Patties (cooked) 1-2 days 1-3 months
Rotisserie Chicken (cooked) 3-4 days 4 months

Dairy and Eggs

• Dairy items should be kept in the refrigerator, though cheeses benefit from a little extra TLC. Place soft ones, like Brie and mozzarella, in an airtight container once open. Wrap semihard and hard cheeses, once open, in wax or parchment paper, then stow in a resealable plastic bag. (If you're freezing, replace the paper with plastic wrap.) Good news for those who like to stock up on milk and yogurt when they're on sale: Both can be frozen. Just transfer them into freezer containers or freezerproof glass jars, leaving 1 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion; once thawed, mix to redistribute the solids.

• Fresh mozzarella will keep for about 3 days (do not freeze). For shredded mozzarella, follow the rules for semisoft cheeses.

• Some organic milk is ultra-pasteurized (heated to a higher temperature to kill more bacteria), which gives it a longer shelf life.

• Freezing makes tofu dense and chewy, but it will still be fine for cooking.


• Leave seafood in its original packaging and, if possible, place it on a bowl of ice in the refrigerator. However, live shellfish (like clams) should not be put on ice; open or poke holes in the packaging. To freeze seafood, slip the original packaging into a resealable freezer bag.

• Fatty fish can turn mushy when frozen at home and thawed. If you want to stock some in the freezer, but already frozen.

Meat and Poultry

• Keep meat and poultry in its original packaging in the refrigerator. To freeze, slip the packaging into a resealable plastic freezer bag. If you're freezing for several months, it's best to wrap pieces individually in plastic before bagging; this will make them less vulnerable to freezer burn. Another way to cut the risk of freezer burn is to buy vacuum-packed meats and poultry (which can also last about 2 days longer in the refrigerator).

• Wrap unused sausages in butcher paper or wax paper, then plastic bags, and use within a day of opening the original packaging.

• After using part of a ham, rewrap in butcher paper or wax paper, then tuck into a sealed plastic bag and place in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Product Shelf Raw Refrigerated
Alfalfa Sprouts No 3 days
Apples 2 days 3 weeks
Apricots Until ripe 5 days
Artichokes 2 days 1 week
Arugula, Bagged and in Clamshells No Follow expiration date on package
Arugula, Bunch No 5 days
Asparagus No 4 days
Avocados Until ripe 4 days
Bananas Until ripe 2 days, skin blackens
Beets 1 day 3 weeks
Bell Peppers    
Green No 1 week
Red, Yellow, and Orange No 5 days
Blackberries No 2 days on paper towel-lined plate
Blueberries No 1 week
Bok Choy No 3 days
Broccoli No 1 week
Broccoli Rabe No 1 week
Brussels Sprouts No 1 week
Cabbage, Green and Red No 2 weeks
Cabbage, Savoy and Napa No 1 week
(whole) No 5 days
(cut) No 3 days
Carrots No 2 weeks
Cauliflower No 1 week
Celery No 2 weeks
Chard (Swiss and Rainbow) No 3 days
Cherries No 3 days in an open bag or bowl
Chili Peppers    
Dried 4 months in an airtight container No
Fresh No 2 weeks
Clementines No 5 days
Coconuts, Fresh 1 week 3 weeks
Collard Greens No 5 days
Corn, Unshucked No Best on 1st day, 3 days max
Cranberries No 1 month
Cucumbers No 5 days
Eggplant 1 day 5 days
Endive No 5 days
Escarole No 3 days
Fennel No 1 week
Garlic 2 months No
Ginger No 3 weeks
Grapefruit 1 week 3 weeks
Grapes 1 day 1 week in an open bag or bowl
Green Beans No 5 days
Herbs, Leafy    
Basil, Cilantro, Chives, Tarragon No 3 days
Parsely, Mint No 5 days
Herbs, Woody (Rosemary, Thyme) No 2 weeks
Jicama No 1 week
Kale No 3 days
Kiwis Until ripe 4 days
Lemons 10 days 3 weeks
Lettuce, Bagged and in Clamshells No Follow expiration date on package
Lettuce, Head    
Iceberg No 2 weeks
Leaf No 7 days
Limes 10 days 3 weeks
Mangoes 3 days 1 week
Mushrooms No 1 week (in a paper bag)
Mustard Greens No 3 days
Nectarines Until ripe 5 days
Okra No 3 days (in a paper bag)
Yellow, Red 2 months (whole) 4 days (cut)
Spring, Green, Scallions No 2 weeks
Oranges 3 days 2 weeks
Papayas 3 days 1 week
Parsnips No 1 month
Peaches Until ripe 5 days
Pears 3 days 5 days
Peas, English and in Pods No 4 days
Pineapple 5 days (whole) 3 days (sliced)
Plums 3 days 5 days
Pomegranates No 3 weeks (whole); 3 days (seeds)
New, Fingerling 5 days 1 week
Red, Russet, Yukon Gold 3 weeks 2 weeks
Radicchio No 4 days
Radishes No 2 weeks
Raspberries No 3 days on a paper towel-lined plate
Rhubarb No 1 week
Rutabaga 1 week 2 weeks
Shallots 1 month 4 days (cut)
Snow Peas No 4 days
Spinach, Bagged and in Clamshells No Follow expiration date on package
Spinach, Bunch No 3 days
Squash, Summer No 5 days
Squash, Winter (Acorn, Butternut) 3 weeks (whole) 1 week (cut)
Strawberries No 3 days
Sugar Snap Peas No 4 days
Sweet Potatoes and Yams 2 weeks in a paper bag 2 days (cut)
Tangerines 3 days 1 week
Tomatillos No 1 month (in a paper bag)
Tomatoes 3 days No
Turnips No 2 weeks
Watercress, Bagged and in Clamshells No Follow expiration date on package
Watercress, Bunch No 4 days
Watermelon 2 days 1 week (whole); 2 days (cut)
Zucchini No 5 days

Fresh Produce

• Unripe fruit is safe at room temperature, but once ripened, it will spoil quickly.

• After Cooking, all vegetables must be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours.

• To ripen apricots, keep at room temperature in a paper bag until soft and fragrant.

• Trim the ends of asparagus before wrapping the spears in a damp paper towel, then in a plastic bag.

• To ripen avocadoes, keep them at room temperature in a paper bag until soft. Eat immediately or refrigerate to get a few more days.

• Discard damaged and moldy berries before storing to prevent the spread of mold.

• Leave some air around green beans when storing to avoid browning and mold.

• Wrap leafy herbs in a just-damp paper towel and then loosely in a plastic bag to keep fresh.

• Hearty squash can live for weeks on a countertop as long as there's no bruising or damage.

• Once soft spots appear, sweet potatoes can rot quickly. Trim any spots and transfer to the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Shop Smart

If you have many errands, make the grocery store your final stop. Pick up perishables last and go right to checkout; once home, refrigerate immediately.

Have raw meat, poultry and seafood placed in separate bags to avoid cross-contamination.

The Big Chill

Set your refrigerator at 40° F, the optimal temperature to keep foods fresh and delay spoilage for the maximum amount of time.

For an Efficient Refrigerator

Keep foods that require maximum chilling on the top shelf.

Arrange items to allow optimal air flow.

Place most-reached-for foods in front, less-used items in back.

Leave eggs in carton to protect from temperature fluctuations and strong odors.

Safe Handling

When prepping raw meat, poultry or fish for storage, wash hands and all surfaces that come in contact with meat after wrapping each item.

Keep raw juices from dripping on other foods in fridge by storing meat in well-sealed plastic bags or on plate.

Best Refrigeration Advice

When in doubt—throw it out!

First in—first out!

Did You Know?

Prepared seafood salads should be refrigerated until serving.

Tomatoes never go in the refrigerator.

In the Freezer

Set your freezer at 0°F and avoid stuffing full, so foods remain uniformly frozen, retaining their flavor and nutritional value.

What Do I Do If the Power Fails?

DON'T OPEN THE DOOR! Don't even peek; food will stay frozen 2 days if the freezer is full or 1 day if half full. If food has started to thaw, refreeze only items that still have ice crystals.


Cool hot food before freezing.

Wrap in air-tight packaging: freezer containers/bags, heavy-duty foil or "suitable for freezing" plastic wrap.


Fridge: Large items like turkey need 1 day per 5 lbs; allow 1 day for small items.

Cold water: immerse in leak-proof bag; change water every ½ hour.

Microwave: Follow manufacturer how-to's. Cook food immediately.

Shelf-Stable Foods

These items should be safe before opening unless can or packaging has been damaged. After opening, store in tightly closed containers. For many shelf-stable items, storage at room temperature affects only quality, unless the product is contaminated (bugs in flour, for example). Some foods, such as mayonnaise, must be refrigerated after opening.

    In Refrigerator In Pantry
Product Unopened In Pantry After Opened After Opened
Baking ingredients      
Baking powder 6 months   3 months
Baking soda 18 months   6 months
Biscuit or pancake mix 15 months   Package use-by date
Cake, brownie and bread mixes 12-18 months   Package use-by date
Flour, white 6-12 months   6-8 months
Flour, whole-wheat 1 month 6-8 months  
Canned goods, low acid 2-5 years 3-4 days  
Canned goods, high acid 12-18 months 5-7 days  
Whole beans, non-vacuum bag 1-3 weeks 3-4 months frozen  
Ground, in cans 2 years 2 weeks  
Ketchup, tomato, cocktail sauce or chili sauce 12 months 6 months 1 month
Mayonnaise, commercial 2-3 months 2 months  
Mustard 12 months 12 months 1-2 months
Olives, black and green 12-18 months 2 weeks  
Pickles 12 months 1-2 months  
Salad dressings, commercial, bottled 10-12 months 3 months  
Salsa, picante and taco sauces 12 months 1 month  
Herbs, dried 1-2 years   1 year
Jams, jellies, preserves 12 months 6 months  
Juice, boxes 4-6 months 8-12 days  
Maple syrup, pure genuine 12 months 12 months  
Spices, whole 2-3 years   1 year
Ground 1-2 years   1 year
Paprika, red pepper, chili powder 2 years Store in fridge  
Brown 4 months   Sugar never spoils
Granulated 2 years   Sugar never spoils
Confectioners' 18 months   Sugar never spoils
Vinegar 2 years   12 months
Worchestershire sauce 1 year   1 year

Pantry Pointers

• Store canned goods in a cool, clean, dry place.

• Never store foods under sink or with cleaning supplies.

• Wrap brown sugar tightly to prevent hardening.

• Opened maple syrup, jam and jelly should be refrigerated to prevent mold.