The Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods

Child reading back of jar
  Peter Dazeley/Getty Images 

You probably know that butter will last one to three months when you store it in the refrigerator, while you need to use up refrigerated buttermilk in two weeks. But do you know how long fish and shellfish last in the fridge? How about ground meats, coffee cream, or egg substitutes?

Know Expiration Dates

It's important to know the expected expiration date of various foods you might have stored in your fridge. Without this knowledge, you might end up throwing out perfectly good refrigerated food or failing to use foods before they go bad. Read on to learn how long foods stay fresh in the fridge, so you don't eat something you shouldn't or toss things out before you should. The following chart lists the shelf life of everything from ketchup to leftovers.

The first column lists the food, followed by the shelf life in the second column, and links to related articles—where available—to give you more information on these foods in the third column. It's worth taking the time to click the links because the articles explain how to freeze large portions of food (such as a  ham), safely use up other foods before they expire (such as sour cream), and tell if foods are still good (such as eggs). 

The Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods

Food Shelf Life
Meat and Seafood
Bacon 7 days
Chicken or turkey 1-2 days
Chops (pork, veal, lamb) 3-5 days
Fish and shellfish 1-2 days uncooked, 3-5 days cooked
Ground meats 1-2 days
Ham, canned 6-9 months unopened, 3-5 days opened
Ham, fully cooked, half 3-5 days
Ham, fully cooked, slices 3-4 days
Ham, fully cooked, whole 7 days
Hot dogs 2 weeks unopened, 1 week opened
Lunch Meat 2 weeks unopened, 3-5 days opened
Organ meats 1-2 days
Roast 3-5 days
Sausage, hard (ex: pepperoni) 2-3 weeks
Sausage, smoked 7 days
Sausage, summer 3 months unopened, 3 weeks opened
Sausage, uncooked 1-2 days
Steak 3-5 days
Dairy
Butter 1-3 months
Buttermilk 2 weeks
Cheese, hard 6 months unopened, 3-4 weeks opened
Cheese, processed slices 1-2 months
Cheese, soft 1 week
Coffee cream 10 days
Egg Substitute 10 days unopened, 3 days opened
Eggs 3-5 weeks in the shell, 2-4 days out of shell
Heavy cream 10 days
Milk 1 week
Sour cream 1-3 weeks
Whipped cream (can) 3 months
Yogurt 1-2 weeks
Condiments
Chili sauce 6 months
Chutney 1-2 months
Cocktail sauce 6 months
Horseradish 3-4 months
Jams, Jellies 6 months after opening
Ketchup 6 months
Mayonnaise 2 months
Mustard I year
Olives 2 weeks
Pickles 2 weeks
Salad dressing 2 months
Leftovers
Meat or poultry 3-4 days
Broth 2 days
Casseroles 3-4 days
Egg dishes 3-4 days
Fish 3-4 days
Gravy 3-4 days
Hard-boiled eggs 1 week
Milk, condensed 4-5 days
Milk, evaporated 4-5 days
Pasta 1-2 days
Pizza 3-4 days
Salads (egg, chicken, macaroni, etc. 3-5 days
Soups and stews 3-4 days
Spaghetti sauce 4 days
Drinks
Coffee, can or bag 2 weeks
Lemonade 6 days
Orange juice 6 days
Soda 2-3 days
Other
Flour, whole wheat 6-8 months
Rolls, yeast 1 week
©Erin Huffstetler

Sources: USDA, Food Marketing Institute

Other Resources

Of course, you don't store all your foods in the fridge. Learn about the shelf life of pantry foods and the shelf life of frozen foods. Once you learn how long foods stored the fridge, freezer, and pantry will last, you'll be in good shape to save money by consuming or preserving foods before they expire—rather than having to throw them out.