Of all the things we waste, food is one of the areas you can make a serious impact. Follow these guidelines to know what is still fresh―and what to toss.

By Betty Gold
Updated February 10, 2020
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Is that chicken breast at the bottom of your freezer still safe to eat? How about the soy sauce that’s been in your fridge for who knows how long?

It can be difficult to know when food needs to be tossed and when it’s perfectly safe to salvage. Safety comes first, of course, but the United States tosses nearly 40 percent of its food every year. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, that adds up to over $160 billion wasted annually.

If you’re feeling guilty thinking about all of the food your family may be unnecessarily tossing out every week, don’t worry. There are endless easy ways to change your habits to waste fewer ingredients, starting with knowing exactly how long foods stay fresh in your fridge and freezer. We’ve demystified the process with this handy guide, which incorporates advice from the USDA, food scientists, and food manufacturers. (Scroll down for downloadable versions that are perfect for hanging on the fridge). Remember: expiration dates should be taken with a grain of salt, as they're not federally regulated. A “use by” or “best by” date typically says when the product will be at its best quality. When in doubt, remember that your nose knows. If you notice off odors or a change in appearance in your food, do not consume it.

Fridge

Produce

  • Apples: 3 weeks
  • Blueberries: 1 week
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: 1 week
  • Chard, kale, and spinach: 3 days
  • Leafy herbs: 3 days
  • Lemons and limes: 3 weeks
  • Lettuce: 5 days
  • Melon: 5 days
  • Mushrooms: 1 week
  • Strawberries and raspberries: 3 days
  • Winter squash: 1 week
  • Woody herbs: 3 weeks

Dairy

  • Hard cheeses: 4 to 6 months, unopened
  • Butter: 3 months
  • Cream cheese: 2 months, unopened
  • Eggs: 3 to 5 weeks
  • Heavy cream: 1 month
  • Milk: 1 week
  • Pizza: 3 to 4 days
  • Ricotta and cottage cheese: 1 week
  • Sour cream: 3 weeks
  • Soft cheese: 2 weeks, unopened
  • Tofu: 3 weeks
  • Yogurt: 2 weeks

Meat, Poultry, Seafood

  • Bacon: 2 weeks, unopened
  • Chicken: 1 to 2 days
  • Cold cuts: 2 weeks, unopened
  • Fish fillets: 2 days
  • Ground meat: 1 to 2 days
  • Hot dogs: 2 weeks, unopened
  • Pork, chops and roasts: 3 to 5 days
  • Raw shrimp: 2 days
  • Shellfish (in shells): 2 days
  • Shellfish (shucked): 1 day
  • Steaks: 3 to 5 days

Opened Condiments

  • Ketchup: 6 months
  • Maple syrup: 1 year
  • Mayonnaise: 2 months
  • Mustard: 1 month
  • Salsa: 1 month
  • Soy sauce: 1 year

Freezer

Times are based on a freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Storing and eating frozen foods past these deadlines isn't dangerous, but flavors and textures will begin to deteriorate.

Meat, Poultry, Seafood

  • Bacon: 1 month
  • Chicken, raw: 9 to 12 months
  • Chicken or turkey, cooked: 4 to 6 months
  • Cold cuts: 2 months
  • Fish fillets: 6 months
  • Ground meat: 4 months
  • Ham, cooked: 1 to 2 months
  • Hot dogs: 1 to 2 months
  • Meat casseroles, cooked: 3 months
  • Pork, chops and roasts: 4 to 12 months
  • Raw shrimp: 6 months
  • Shellfish (shucked): 3 months
  • Steaks: 4 to 12 months
  • Tofu: 5 months

Other

  • Bread and cake: 3 months
  • Butter: 6 to 9 months
  • Cookies, baked or dough: 3 months
  • Fruit: 6 to 12 months
  • Fruit pies, unbaked: 9 months
  • Ice cream and sorbet: 2 months
  • Pizza: 1 to 2 months
  • Soups and stews: 2 to 3 months
  • Yogurt: 2 months

Download and print out your own versions to stick up in the kitchen: