How to Store Dairy Products

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

milk-glass-bottle
Photo by Jamie Chung   

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.

*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.

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