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How Long to Keep Food in the Refrigerator

Updated on November 19, 2013

Food Safety At Home - Know When to Throw Food Out

Protect yourself and your family from getting food poisoning by knowing how long to keep foods in your refrigerator and to recognize when food has gone bad.

A Timetable on How Long to Keep Food in the Refrigerator

Here is a timetable on how long to keep food in your refrigerator before they spoil. The temperature should always be set to 40 degrees or less.


  • Milk, cottege cheese, cream cheese - 1 week (Unless otherwise dated on the package)
  • Eggs and butter - 2 weeks
  • Hard cheeses such as; (cheddar, Parmesan etc.) - 2 to 3 months

Note: Don't place milk and eggs on the inside door where it is the warmest part of the refrigerator.


  • Cooked or uncooked - 3 to 5 days


  • Apples and pears - 1 to 2 weeks
  • Oranges, lemons, lime and other citrus fruits - 2 weeks
  • Grapes - 3 to 5 days
  • Melons - 1 week


  • Left in original wrapping - 1 to 2 days


  • Chicken or Tuna Salad -1 to 2 days
  • Fried Chicken - 1 to 2 days
  • Chicken or beef broths - 1 to 2 days
  • spagetti and meatballs - 3 to 4 days
  • Roast beef, ham or pork - 3 to 4 days

How Long to Keep Food in the Freezer

The freezer is the ideal place to store foods that won't be used for a while. It is great for storing leftovers and freshly bought foods. Freezers should be set at 0 degrees. It's best to use vacuum packed bags to keep its freshness. Freezer paper or freezer zip-lock bags are good too.


Processed Meats

  • Ham, hot dogs, sausage, cold cuts - 1 to 2 month


  • Canned Ham - 1 month
  • Beef, pork and lamb - 2 to 3 months
  • Chicken - 4 months


  • Pork - 1 to 2 months
  • Ground beef and pork chops - 3 to 4 months
  • Loin of Pork and veal - 4 to 8 months
  • Lamb chops - 6 to 9 months
  • Steaks - 6 to 12 months
  • Chicken - 9 months
  • Whole turkey - 12 months

Prepackaged Processed foods have their own expiration dates stamped on them.

Defining Expiration Dates

Here are the meanings of the labels you see stamped on foods that you buy.

Sell By Date: This indicates the last day the item should be sold in the store. If you already brought the item home, you can keep it for an additional 2 to 3 days, or store it in the freezer.

Packed On Date: Canned foods can be saved for one year from that date.

Best If Used By Date: This means the food such as bread, is the most fresh by this date.

Expiration Date: Do not use food passed this expiration date. Toss it out.

How to Spot Contaminated Food

If you see mold (a greenish/grey substance) on any food, throw it out. Avoid sniffing it If a block of cheddar cheese has some tiny mold on one spot, cut off around it and rewrap the rest.

Don't use cans that are rusty, swollen or have leaks. Don't use jars that are cracked or have loose lids.

(Never leave dairy or cooked food out for more than two hours)

Simple Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning

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    • Pamela Sarzana profile image

      Pamela Sarzana 6 years ago from northern Indiana

      I wish more people had articles like these in front of them! and would actually read them. Maybe they could get a handle on their tummy troubles.:>