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A Guide to Food Shelf Life

by Product Specialist


We've all experienced it at one time or another. We open the refrigerator door to find food with incredible black film and tinges of green mold starring back at us. As hard as you may try, it can be difficult to determine the food shelf life of items stored in the fridge. This guide provides some basic food storage standards to save you from spoiled milk, moldy cheese and other undesirables.

Assorted Goodies

Tuna: 2-4 days.

Opened condiments: 1-6 months.

Preserves, jellies, jams: 6 months.


Most dairy products develop an incredibly bad smell when they have gone bad. If milk, cottage cheese or sour cream smells bad, it may be time to pitch it in the garbage.

Eggs: 3 weeks.

Milk: 7 days.

Cheddar or mozzarella cheese: sealed in the package 3-6 months.

Soft cheeses: opened 1 week.

Butter: opened 2-3 weeks, unopened 1-3 months.

Cottage cheese: opened 1 week, unopened 45-60 days.

Margarine: opened 1 month, unopened 4-5 months.

Cream cheese: 2 weeks.

Sour cream: 7-21 days.

Yogurt: 7-14 days.


Fruits that are exceptionally soft, mushy or taste odd are usually no good.

Canned fruits: opened 2-3 days.

Apples: 3 weeks.

Avocados: 5-10 days.

Berries: 2-3 days.

Bananas: 2 days.

Grapes: 1-2 weeks.

Melons: 1 week.

Oranges: 5-6 weeks.

Watermelon: 6-8 days.


Keep a sharp eye on leftovers that have a tendency to get pushed to the back of the refrigerator.

Poultry or meat leftovers: 3-4 days.

Pizza: 3-4 days.

Meat broth or gravy: 1-2 days.


Besides the smell, one of the telltale signs of bad meat is the color change.

Steak: 3-5 days.

Fresh hamburger: 1-2 days.

Chicken: 1-2 days.

Pork chops: 3-5 days.

Roasts: 3-5 days.

Fresh fish: 1-2 days.

Cooked fish: 3-4 days.

Processed Meats

Bacon: 7 days.

Hot dogs: opened 1 week, unopened 2 weeks.

Lunchmeats: opened 3-5 days, unopened 2 weeks.

Fresh sausage: 1-2 days.

Breakfast sausage patties or links: 7 days.

Hard sausages: 2-3 weeks.

Fully cooked ham: 3-4 days.


Fresh lettuce: 3-5 days.

Onions: 2 months.

Tomatoes: 1 week.

Cucumbers: 1 week.

Making a mental note of the date of your last shopping trip is a great way to monitor perishable goods and avoid spoilage. Whenever possible, check food labels for storage recommendations, and stay on top of foods that spoil quickly like vegetables, fruits and meats.