Storing Foods in Refrigerator and Freezer

How long food keeps

Keeping foods in your pantry and freezer is often as simple as checking the expiration date on the package. For foods you've prepared yourself, it's not quite as clear cut.

How you package your foodstuffs can make a difference too. Items in a vacuum package are often good for up to double the times noted for plain zipper pouch-protected foods or plastic freezer containers. Whenever you see water crystals on frozen food, it's an indication that some drying has taken place.

Nutritional values begin to erode as soon as food is harvested and as the natural aging processes take place. If you maintain a pantry, rotate stock regularly to keep food values as high as possible. The following tables assume a refrigerator temperature of between 32–40°F and a freezer temperature of 0°F. Check your temperature using a good thermometer occasionally to make sure food isn't being compromised.

Baked Goods

The thing about baked goods is how lovely they are when they are fresh. Buy fresh and luxuriate in the aroma and texture. With good baked breads, cakes, and cookies there's really not a terrific reason to stockpile them.

  Refrigerator Freezer
Bread Don’t refrigerate. Signs of spoilage are often evident after 7 days.

1 month

Raw Cookie Dough 2-3 days 3 months
Cakes Store at room temp., except for cheesecake Unfrosted cakes 2–4 months; fruit and angel 6–12 months
Cheesecake 3-7 days 1 month
Pumpkin Pie 2–3 days 1–2 months
Fruit Pie 2–3 days 6–8 months

Dairy

Typically, most aged, hard cheeses freeze reasonably well and keep fine in the fridge too. If they get a bit of mold, you can usually cut it off and use the clean cheese. This is not true of soft cheeses. Once you get even a hint of mold, pitch it.

  Refrigerator Freezer
Milk 1–2 weeks Not recommended
Cream, Half & Half 1–2 weeks 3-4 weeks
Buttermilk 1–2 weeks Not recommended
Open Canned Milk 1–2 weeks Not recommended
Fresh Whipped Cream 1 day Not recommended
Aerosol Can Whipped Cream 3 months Not recommended
Sour Cream 2–3 weeks Not recommended
Cottage Cheese & Ricotta 1–2 weeks 4 weeks
Yogurt 1 month Not recommended
Hard Cheese & Grated Cheese (Opened) 6-12 weeks Easy to freeze. Defrost in fridge to reduce crumbling.
Soft Cheese (Brie, Bel Paese) 2 weeks Not recommended
Cheese Spreads 3-4 weeks 6–8 months
Cream Cheese 2 weeks Not recommended. You can freeze cream cheese and use in recipes where creaminess isn't required.
Butter 3 months 12 months
Margarine 3 months 12 months
Pudding 2 days Not recommended

Eggs

The closer you are to your egg source, the longer you can expect them to keep.

  Refrigerator Freezer
Fresh in-shell, unwashed 1–2 months 12 months. To freeze, mix eggs well. Add a small amount of sugar or salt to preserve. Label with additive and use sugared eggs with desserts, salted eggs for baking or omelettes.
Fresh in-shell, washed 4-5 weeks 12 months.
Hard Boiled 2 weeks Not recommended
Raw Whites/Yolks 2-4 days 12 months.
Pudding 2 days Not recommended

Deli Foods

Buy deli type foods only for immediate consumption. If taking to a party or picnic, be vigilant about keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold! That said, some of us really do like cold pizza and Chinese food for breakfast.

  Refrigerator Freezer
Entrees, Cold or Hot 3-4 days Not recommended
Sliced Lunchmeat 3-5 days 1–2 months
Salads (excluding green) 3-5 days Not recommended

Fruit

Keeping fruit can be tricky. It depends on how ripe it is when you buy it and what conditions it needs to fully ripen. Some need a chill, others want to be left out on the counter. Many fruits can be prepared for freezing using a sugar and citric acid pack so you can enjoy them long after the season is past. That said, they are typically best used for jam or smoothies because freezing breaks them down so they taste fine but look ugly.

  Refrigerator Freezer
Apples 1 month at 32–35°F Must be prepared for freezing.
Apricots, Grapes, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears & Plums 2 weeks–1 month at 32°F Must be prepared for freezing.
Avocados 3-5 days at 35–45°F (buy green and leave on counter for a week) Not recommended
Bananas & Plantains Bananas turn brown in the fridge but remain perfectly edible for a week or so. Not recommended
Blueberries 2 weeks at 32°F with 90% humidity 6–8 months. Wash, dry, freeze in single layer. When frozen package and label.
Cherries 2 weeks at 32°F Must be prepared for freezing.
Grapefruit, Lemons, Limes & Oranges 2–6 weeks depending on type Must be prepared for freezing.
Guavas & Papayas 1-2 days Not recommended
Juice, opened container 1 week  
Kiwis 3-5 days Must be prepared for freezing.
Mangoes Do not refrigerate Not recommended
Melons 1 week Not recommended
Pineapple, whole 1 week at 50–55°F Not recommended

Meat - Fresh

As a general rule, the smaller the cut or package the less time it takes to dry out.

  Refrigerator Freezer
Chicken or Turkey Pieces 1-2 days 9 months
Whole Chicken or Turkey 1-2 days 12 months
Beef Roasts & Steaks 3-5 days 6–12 months
Duck & Goose 1-2 days 6 months
Game Birds 1-2 days 6 months
Giblets 1-2 days 3–4 months
Ground Meat or Stew 1-2 days 3–4 months
Lamb Roasts or Chops 3-5 days 6–12 months
Pork Roasts or Chops 3-5 days 4–8 months
Pre-stuffed Pork, Lamb Chops or Chicken Breasts 1 day 3 months if prepackaged for freezing
Heart, Liver, Tongue 1-2 days 6–12 months
Venison Roasts, Steaks, or Chops 3-5 days 3–4 months
Ground Meat 1-2 days 3–4 months

Meat – Smoked or Processed

Preserved and deli meats should be presented carefully if used in a buffet setting. Keep in mind that the clock starts ticking the minute you set food out and is cumulative, so if you leave crackers and ham salad out for a half hour this evening, and set it out again for a half hour tomorrow, the total is one hour, not a half hour for each time. (It's something to think about so you can avoid getting sick.)

  Refrigerator Freezer
Bacon 7 days 1 month
Corned Beef 5-7 days 1–2 months
Whole Ham, Fully Cooked 7 days 6 weeks
Slices of Ham & Half Ham, Fully Cooked 3-5 days 6 weeks
Hot Dogs 7 days 1–2 months
Sausage – Smoked Links & Patties 7 days 1–2 months
Sliced Sausage (Pepperoni) 2-3 weeks 1–2 months

Meat – Cooked

  Refrigerator Freezer
Chicken Nuggets or Patties (prepackaged) 1-2 days 2–3 months
Fried Chicken 3-4 days 2–3 months
Ground Turkey/Chicken 1-2 days 2–3 months
Rotisserie Chicken 3-4 days 2–3 months
Cooked Red & White Meats 3-4 days 2–3 months

Seafood – Fresh

  Refrigerator Freezer
Fresh Lean Fish: Cod, Flounder, Trout, Haddock, Halibut, Pollack & Perch 3–5 days 4–6 months
Fatty Fish: Mullet, Smelt, Salmon, Mackerel, Bluefish, Tuna & Swordfish 3–5 days 3 months
Shucked Mussels & Clams 7-2 days 1-2 days
Shucked Oysters 7-9 days 3–4 months
Crabmeat 7 days  
Shrimp 3–5 days 6–12 months
Scallops, Crayfish, Squid 2-3 days 2-3 days
Caviar (Opened) 1 day Not recommended

Seafood – Cooked or Processed

  Refrigerator Freezer
Cooked Pieces 5–7 days Not recommended
Smoked Fish 14 days Not recommended
Cooked Shellfish 3-4 days Not recommended

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