Never get caught with spoiled milk again. These guidelines* for storing dairy products will help keep your fridge fresh.

By Elizabeth Passarella
Updated March 15, 2012
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These items should be kept in the refrigerator, though cheeses benefit from a little extra TLC. Place soft ones, like Brie and mozzarella, in an airtight container once open. Wrap semihard and hard cheeses, once open, in wax or parchment paper, then stow in a resealable plastic bag. (If you’re freezing, replace the paper with plastic wrap.) Good news for those who like to stock up on milk and yogurt when they’re on sale: Both can be frozen. Just transfer them into freezer containers or freezerproof glass jars, leaving 1 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion; once thawed, mix to redistribute the solids.

Buttermilk

Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Butter spreads and dairy spreads

Refrigerator: 3 months

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Butter, sticks

Refrigerator: 3 months

Freezer: 6 months

Cheeses, Hard

Such as Parmesan and pecorino

Block

Refrigerator: 4 months

Freezer: 6 months

Grated

Refrigerator: 1 month

Freezer: 4 months

Cheeses, Semihard

Such as Cheddar, Gouda, and Swiss

Block, packaged

Refrigerator: 6 months (unopened); 1 month (open)

Freezer: 6 months

Slices, deli

Refrigerator: 1 week

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Slices, packaged

Refrigerator: 1 month (unopened); 1 week (open)

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Cheeses, Soft

Such as goat cheese and Brie

Refrigerator: 2 weeks (unopened); 1 week (open)

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Note: Fresh mozzarella will keep for about 3 days.

Cottage cheese

Refrigerator: 1 week

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Cream

Refrigerator: 10 days (light cream); 1 month (heavy and whipping cream)

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Cream cheese

Refrigerator: 2 months (unopened); 2 weeks (open)

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Egg substitute

Refrigerator: 10 days (unopened), 3 days (open)

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Eggs, unshelled

Refrigerator: 5 weeks

Freezer: Do not freeze whole eggs; egg whites will keep for up to 6 months.

Half-and-half

Refrigerator: 4 days

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Milk

Refrigerator: 1 week

Freezer: 3 months

Note: Some organic milk is ultra-pasteurized (heated at a higher temperature to kill more bacteria), which gives it a longer shelf life.

Ricotta

Refrigerator: 1 week

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Sour cream

Refrigerator: 3 weeks

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Soy milk

Refrigerator: 1 week

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Tofu

Refrigerator: 3 weeks (unopened); 1 week (open; keep covered in water)

Freezer: 5 months

Note: Freezing makes tofu dense and chewy, but it will still be fine for cooking.

Whipped cream, can

Refrigerator: 1 month

Freezer: Do not freeze.

Whipped topping, nondairy

Refrigerator: 3 months (can); 2 weeks (tub)

Freezer: 6 months (tub)

Yogurt

Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Freezer: 2 months

*Real Simple consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food scientists, food manufacturers, and a host of other experts—including fishmongers, cheese sellers, coffee roasters, bakers, and bartenders—to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products, Real Simple chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.