Food Storage Guide

If you are like me, you try to get the most out of your grocery budget. Sometimes I buy too much and find myself having to either find a fast recipe to use up food before it goes bad or I will have to toss it. I hate seeing our hard earned money in the trash. Here are a suggestions on food storage. Knowing how long we can store the items we love will help us save money.  When we know better we do better.

Breads

Room Temperature
(70° F)

Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)

Freezer 
(0 °F)

Comments

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 2 to 3 days 2 months Sometimes dough doesn’t rise as well if frozen
Bread Crumbs and Croutons 6 months
Muffins, rolls, quick breads 3 days 1 to 2 months Wrap individually, pack in rigid containers to prevent crushing
Pancakes and waffles 2 days 1 month 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
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

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, homemade and baked 2 to 3 weeks 4 to 6 months Pack in airtight container
Cookies, store bought and packaged 2 months 8 to 12 months
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 2 to 3 days 1 month
Cream and Custard Pies 2 to 3 days 6 months
Fruit pies, baked 2 to 3 days 6 to 8 months 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
Quiche 2 to 3 days 6 months

Dairy

Room Temperature
(70° F)

Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)

Freezer 
(0 °F)

Comments

Butter
Margarine, Spread substitutes
1 to 3 months, unopened
2 to 3 weeks, opened4 to 5 months, unopened
1 month, opened
9 months
1 year
Leave in original wrapping; overwrap well
Cheese, Hard (such as Cheddar, Swiss)Cheese, parmesan, gratedCheese Soft (such as Brie, camembert) 6 months, unopened3 to 4 weeks, opened1 week 6 months1 to 2 months6 months It is recommended that you don’t freeze cheese! Freezing destroys the character of the cheeseIf you do freeze, the cheese is best used in cooking; will crumble when sliced; thaw in refrigerator to minimize crumbling. Repackage in freezer bags
Cottage Cheese, Ricotta Cheese 1 week, opened
45 to 60 day, unopened
Doesn’t freeze well Separates, becomes grainy
Cream Cheese Never expose cream cheese to room temperature for more than 2 hours or 1 hour at 90° F or higher. 2 weeks Doesn’t freeze well Can be mixed with other ingredients and frozen; by itself becomes crumbly.
Cream-Whipped, ultra-pasteurizedCream-Whipped, SweetenedCream-Aerosol can, real whipped creamCream-Aerosol can, non dairy toppingCream, Half and Half 1 month1 day3 to 4 weeks3 months3 to 4 days Doesn’t freeze1 to 2 monthsDoesn’t freezeDoesn’t freeze4 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.
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
Milk: Whole, Reduced & Low Fat, & Fat FreeMilk Substitutes: Soy, Rice, and Almond
Buttermilk, fresh
Buttermilk, powderedCondensed Milk, canned
Dry/Powdered Milk
Evaporated Milk, canned
3 to 5 years12 to 23 months, unopened12 to 23 months, unopened12 to 23 months, unopened 7 days
85 days, unopened
7 to 10 days, opened2 weeks
8 to 20 days, opened
8 to 20 days, opened
8 to 20 days, opened
1 month
3 months
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
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, 3 days, opened
10 days, unopened
Doesn’t freeze well
1 year
If opened, read label instructions regarding freezing. Freeze if unopened.
Mayonnaise, commercial, refrigerate after opening 2 to 3 months, unopened 1 year, unopened
2 months, opened
Doesn’t freeze

Fruits

Fruit, Fresh

Room Temperature
(70° F)

Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)

Freezer 
(0 °F)

Comments

Commercially Frozen Fruits 1 year
Canned Fruits 12 to 24 months, unopened
opened – 2 to 3 days
Do not store in opened can. Store in airtight container.
Dried fruits 6 months 3 to 5 days, cooked Keep cool, in airtight container; if possible, refrigerate
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 12 months, unopened
2 days, opened
Baking Powder 18 months, unopened
6 months, opened
Keep dry and covered.
Baking Soda 2 years, unopened
6 months, opened
Keep dry and covered.
Barbecue Sauce 1 year, unopened 6 months, opened
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/Ketchup, Chili Sauce, Cocktail Sauce 12 months, unopened
1 month, opened
Refrigerate for longer storage
Cereals, ready-to-eat 6 to 12 months
(opened & unopened)
Refold package liner tightly after opening
Chili Powder 6 months
Chocolate semi-sweet, 18 months
unsweetened, 18 months
Keep in a cool place
Chocolate Syrup 2 years, unopened opened – 6 months Cover tightly and refrigerate after opening
Cocoa Mixes
Cocoa, Baking
8 months, unopened
3 to 6 months, opened24 months
Cover tightly
Coconut, shredded
(canned or packaged)
unopened – 1 year opened – 6 months Refrigerate after opening
Coffee, cansCoffee, instantCoffee, whole bans unopened – 2 yearsunopened – 1 to 2 years
opened – 2 months1 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 18 months Keep tightly closed
Cornstarch Indefinite Keep tightly closed
Crackers 6 months 3 months Freeze “sleeves” in heavy plastic bags
Flour, whiteFlour, whole wheatFlour, bread 6 to 8 months6 months6 to 8 months 1 year1 year 1 to 2 years1 to 2 years1 year Store in refrigerator
Gelatin, all types 18 months Keep in original containers
Grits 12 months Store in airtight container
Herbs, driedHerbs, fresh 6 to 12 months 1 week 1 to 2 years
Honey 12 months, unopened and opened Cover tightly. If crystallizes, warm jar in pan of hot water
Horseradish 1 year, unopened 4 to 6 monrha
Hot Sauce 3 years
Jelly, Jam & Preserves unopened – 12 months opened – 6 months Refrigerate after opening
Maple Syrup 1 year, unopened 3 years, opened
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
Molasses unopened – 12 months
opened – 6 months
Keep tightly closed. Refrigerate to extend storage life.
Mustard, prepared yellow unopened – 2 years
opened 6 to 8 months
May be refrigerated. Stir before using.
Nuts (Nuts; hazelnuts, walnut, pecans), in shellNuts, vacuum can 4 months
3 months
1 year 2 years Refrigerate after shelling. Freeze for longer storage.
Milk (condensed or evaporated, cannedMilk, 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
Pectin, dry
opened – 1 month
unopened – 1 year1 year
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, whiteRice, 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 months24 months
Sauces & Gravy Mixes 6 to 12 months
Shortening unopened – 18 months
opened – 6 to 8 months
Spices, wholeSpices, ground 1 to 2 years6 to 12 months 2 to 3 years1 to 2 years Store in airtight container in a dry place.
Sugar, granulatedSugar, brownSugar, confectioners or powderedSugar, sweeteners 2 years +4 months18 months2 years + Put in airtight container and cover tightly
Syrups 12 months Keep tightly closed. Refrigerate to extend storage life.
Tea, bagsTea, instantTea, loose 18 months3 years2 years Store in airtight container
Tofu 1 week 5 months Change storage water every day or two after opening.
Vanilla Extract 2 years, unopened
2 months, opened
Keep tightly closed
Vinegar 2 years, unopened
12 months, opened
Keep tightly closed and store in a cool, dark area.
Yeast, dry or frozen compressedVacuum-sealed bag Package expiration dateIndefinitely 1 to 2 years

Vegetables

Vegetables

Room Temperature
(70° F)

Refrigerator 
(37° to 40° F)

Freezer 
(0 °F)

Comments

Commercially Frozen 8 to 12 months Store in original package
Canned Vegetables 1 year 3 to 5 days, opened 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
Garlic bulbsGarlic cloves, individual 3 to 4 months5 to 10 days You can freeze whole, unpeeled heads and remove cloves as you need them Store in a cool, dark, and dry location (dampness is the enemy of garlic, so store away from stove and sink).
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 cooked dishes.

 

For questions on items not listed here see http://shelflifeadvice.com

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