Food Storage Guidelines


Storage Basics

The following guidelines are based on storage from the "date of purchase". If there is a "use by" date, cook or freeze the product by that date. If there is an "expiration date" (EXCEPT FOR EGGS which last several weeks longer) then abide by the date. Best by dates are only best quality guidelines and are NOT safety dates. Foods are usable beyond those dates as shown on the chart below.
Click here to read more about food expiration dates, laws and history.

Bread And Cereal Products

Food Pantry (Room Temperature Refrigerator (33°F to 40°F) Freezer (0°F)
Baked quick breads 4-5 days 1-2 weeks 2-3 months
Bread 5-7 days 1-2 weeks 3 months
Bread crumbs and croutons 6 months

Bread rolls, unbaked
2-3 weeks 1 month
Cereals, ready-to-eat 2-3 months
1 year
Cereals, ready-to-cook 6 months

Corn meal 1 year 18 months 2 years
Doughnuts 4-5 days
3 months
Flour, cake, all-purpose 1 year
1-2 years
Flour, whole wheat
6-8 months 1-2 years
Pasta 2 years

Pies and pastries
3 days 4-6 months
Pies and pastries, baked

1-2 months
Pies and pastries, cream filled
2-3 days 3 months
3-4 days 1-2 months
Rice, brown 6 months

Rice, white 1 year 6-7 days+ 6 months+
Tacos, enchiladas, and burritos (frozen)
2 weeks 1 year
4-5 days 1 month

Packaged Foods And Mixes

Food Pantry (Room Temperature)
(33°F to 40°F)
muffin mixes 9 months

Cakes, prepared 2-4 days
2-3 months
Cake mixes 6-9 months

Casserole mix 9-12 months

Chili powder 6 months

Cookies, packaged 2 months
8-12 months
Crackers, pretzels 3 months

Frosting, canned 3 months

Frosting, mix 8 months

Fruit cake
2-3 months 1 year
Hot roll mix 18 months
Instant breakfast products 6 months

Pancake and piecrust mix 6 months

Pancake waffle batter
1-2 days 3 months
Toaster pastries 3 months

Sauce and gravy mixes 6 months

Soup mixes 1 year

Spices, Herbs, Condiments, Extracts

Catsup, chili, and cocktail sauce 1 month* 6 months 1 year
Herbs 6 months
1-2 years
Herb/spice blends 2 years
1-2 years
Mustard 2 years 6-8 months* 8-12 months
Spices, ground 6 months
1-2 years
Spices, whole 1-2 years
2-3 years
Vanilla extract 2 years

Other extracts 1 year

Other Food Staples

Bacon bits 4 months

Baking powder 18 months
Baking soda 2 years

Bouillon products 1 year

Carbonated soft drinks (12 oz. cans) 6-9 months
Carbonated soft drinks, diet (12 oz. cans) 3-4 months
Chocolate, premelted 1 year

Chocolate syrup 2 years 6 months*
Chocolate, semisweet 2 years

Chocolate, unsweetened 18 months
Cocoa mixes 8 months

Coconut, shredded 1 year 8 months 1 year
Coffee cans 2 years 2 months 6 months
Coffee, instant 6 months

Coffee, vacuum-packed 1 year ^

Coffee lighteners (dry) 9 months
1 year
Cornstarch 18 months
2 years
Gelatin 18 months

Honey, jams, jellies, and syrup 1 year 6-8 months*
Marshmallows 2-3 months
Marshmallow cream 3-4 months
Mayonnaise 2-3 months 12 months
Molasses 2 years

Nuts, shelled 4 months 6 months
Nuts, unshelled 6 months

Nuts, salted

6-8 months
Nuts, unsalted

9-12 months
Oil, salad 3 months^

Parmesan grated cheese 10 months
Pasteurized process cheese spread 3 months 3-4 weeks* 4 months
Peanut butter 6 months

Popcorn 1-2 years 2 years 2-3 years
Pectin 1 year

Salad dressings, bottled 1 year^ 3 months*
Soft drinks 3 months

Artificial sweetener 2 years

Sugar, brown 4 months

Sugar, confectioners 18 months

Sugar, granulated 2 years

Tea bags 18 months

Tea, instant 2 years

Vegetable oils 6 months

Vegetable shortening 3 months 6-9 months
Vinegar 2 years

Water, bottled 1-2 years

Whipped topping (dry) 1 year

Yeast, dry Pkg. exp. date


Food Pantry (Room Temperature) Refrigerator
(33°F to 40°F)
2-3 days 8 months
2 weeks
3-5 days
Brussels sprouts
3-5 days
1 week
2 weeks
1 week
1 week
Corn (husks)
1-2 days 8 months
1 week
1 week
Green beans
1-2 days 8 months
Green peas
3-5 days 8 months
1 week
Lima beans
3-5 days 8 months
2 days
Onions 1 week 3-5 days
Onion rings (precooked, frozen)

1 year#
1 week
Pickles, canned 1 year 1 month*
Frozen potatoes

8 month
Sweet potatoes 2-3 weeks

White potatoes 2-3 months
Potato chips 1 month

2 weeks
3-5 days
Rutabagas 1 week

Snap beans
1 week
Spinach 8 months
Squash, Summer
3-5 days
Squash, Winter 1 week

1 week
2 weeks
Commercial baby food, jars 1-2 years^ 2-3 days
Canned vegetables 1 year^ 1-4 days*
Canned vegetables, pickled 1 year^ 1-2 months*
Dried vegetables 6 months

Frozen vegetables

8 months
Vegetable soup
3-4 days 3 months


Food Pantry (Room Temperature) Refrigerator
(33°F to 40°F)
Apples Until ripe 1 month
Apricots Until ripe 5 days
Avocados Until ripe 5 days
Bananas Until ripe 5 days (fully ripe)
Berries Until ripe 3 days 1 year
Canned fruit 1 year 2-4 days*
Canned fruit juices 1 year 3-4 days*
Cherries Until ripe 3 days
Citrus fruit Until ripe 2 weeks
Dried fruit 6 months 2-4 days+
Frozen fruit

1 year
Fruit juice concentrate
6 days 1 year
Fruit pies, baked
2-3 days 8 months
Grapes Until ripe 5 days
Melons Until ripe 5 days
Nectarines Until ripe 5 days
Peaches Until ripe 5 days 1 year
Pears Until ripe 5 days 1 year
Pineapple Until ripe 5-7 days 1 year
Plums Until ripe 5 days

Dairy Products

Food Pantry (Room Temperature) Refrigerator
(33°F to 40°F)
1-2 months 9 months
2 weeks
Cottage cheese
1 week 3 months
Cream cheese
2 weeks
Cream-light, heavy, half- and-half
3-4 days 1-4 months
Eggnog commercial
3-5 days 6 months
4-5 months 12 months
Condensed, evaporated and dry milk 12-23 months^ 8-20 days*
8-20 days
Ice cream and sherbet

2 months
Hard natural cheese (e.g. cheddar, swiss)
3-6 months 6 months

4 weeks*
Hard natural cheese, sliced
2 weeks
Processed cheese
1 month 6 months
Soft cheese (e.g. brie)
1 week 6 months
1-2 days*
Snack dips
1 week*
Sour cream
2 weeks
Non-dairy whipped cream, canned
3 months
Real whipped cream, canned
3-4 weeks
2 weeks 1-2 months


Food Pantry (Room Temperature) Refrigerator
(33°F to 40°F)

Fresh beef and bison steaks
3-5 days 6-9 months
Fresh beef and bison roasts
3-5 days 9-12 months
Fresh pork chops
2-3 days 4-6 months
Fresh lamb chops
3-5 days 6-8 months
Fresh veal
1-2 days 4-6 months
Fresh ground meat (e.g. beef, bison, veal, lamb)
1 day 3-4 months
Cooked meat
2-3 days 2-3 months
Canned meat 1 year 3-4 days* 3-4 months
Ham, whole
1 week 1-2 months
Ham, canned 1 year 1 week* 3-4 months
Ham, canned "keep refrigerated"
6-9 months

1 week* 3-4 months
Shelf-stable unopened canned meat (e.g. chili, deviled ham, corn beef) 1 year 1week*
Ham, cook before eating
1 week
Ham, fully cooked
2 weeks

1 week*
Ham, dry-cured 1 year 1 month
Ham salad, store prepared or homemade
3-5 days
2 weeks 1 month

1 week*
Corned beef, uncooked
5-7 days 1-2 months
Restructured (flaked) meat products

9-12 months
Sausage, fresh
1-2 days 1-2 months
Smoked breakfast sausage links, patties
1 week 2 months
Sausage, smoked (e.g. Mettwurst)
1 week 1-2 months
Sausage, semi-dry (e.g. Summer sausage)
2-3 weeks* 6 months
Sausage, dry smoked (e.g. Pepperoni, jerky, dry Salami) 1 year 1 month* 6 months
Frankfurters, bologna
2 weeks 1-2 months

3-5 days*
Luncheon meat
2 weeks 1 month

3-5 days*
Meat gravies
1-2 days 2-3 months
TV beef and pork dinners

18 months#
Meat based casseroles
3-4 days 4 months
Variety meats (giblets, tongue, liver, heart, etc.)
1-2 days 3-4 months
Vinegar pickled meats (e.g. pickled pigs feet) 1 year^ 2 weeks*


Food Pantry (Room Temperature) Refrigerator
(33°F to 40°F)
Breaded fish

4-6 months
Canned fish 1 year 1-2 days*
Cooked fish or seafood
3-4 days 3 months
Lean fish (e.g. cod, flounder, haddock)
1-2 days 6 months
Fatty fish (e.g. bluefish, salmon, mackeral)
1-2 days 2-3 months
Dry pickled fish
3-4 weeks
Smoked fish
2 weeks 4-5 weeks
Seafood-clams, crab, lobster in shell
2 days 3 months
Seafood-oysters and scallops
1-2 days 3-4 months
1-2 days 1 year
Seafood-shucked clams
1-2 days 3-6 months
Tuna salad, store prepared or homemade
3-5 days

Poultry And Eggs

Food Pantry (Room Temperature) Refrigerator (33°F to 40°F) Freezer (0°F)
Chicken nuggets or patties
1-2 days
Chicken livers
1-2 days 3 months
Chicken and poultry TV dinners

6 months
Canned poultry^ 1 year 1 day*
Cooked poultry
2-3 days 4-6 months
Fresh poultry
1 day 1 year
Frozen poultry parts

6-9 months
Canned poultry
1 day 3 months
Poultry pies, stews, and gravies
1-2 days 6 months
Poultry salads, store prepared or homemade
3-5 days
Poultry stuffing, cooked
3-4 days 1 month
Eggs, in shell
3-5 weeks
Eggs, hard-boiled
1 week
Eggs, pasteurized
10 days 1 year

3 days*
Egg substitute
10 days 1 year

3 days*
Egg yolks (covered in water)
2-4 days 1 year
Egg whites (For each cup of egg yolk add 1 Tbs. of sugar or salt) 2-4 days 1 year
Wild Game

Frog legs
1 day 6-9 months
Game birds
2 days 9 months
Small game (rabbit, squirrel, etc.)
2 days 9-12 months
Venison ground meat
1-2 days 2-3 months
Venison steaks and roasts
3-5 days 9-12 months

Virginia Cooperative Extension  Legend: *Opened +Cooked ^Refrigerate after opening #After manufacture date.

Food Storage Tips

In addition to storing food in proper temperature and humidity conditions you can improve storage time and quality by packaging foods properly.

Pantry Packaging

Unless you use your staple products quickly (flour, sugar, grains) you should invest in some canisters with a good seal that will keep moths and other critters out of your grains.  Make sure to purchase food safe products only and measure your shelves to insure taller canisters will fit your space.

organized pantry shelf

These are my favorite canisters.  They come in 3 sizes and they have nice tight-fitting lids. I use a label maker to label the contents.  Also, sometimes I save the package information for weight and recipe information.

Refrigerator Storage Packaging

tupperware stackable refrigerator containers

Products such as Tupperware are now BPA free (produced after 2010) are a little more expensive but tend to hold up for years.  They provide many styles to choose from.  If you prefer glass, Anchor Hocking makes many styles of glass containers with tight fitting lids.

Freezer Storage Packaging

Freezer Bags - If you purchase re-seable bags such as ZipLoc make sure to select freezer grade bags. The freezer bags are heavier and offer more protection. You can use these bags to freeze solid foods such as meats and vegetables as well as liquids like soups.

Plastic Containers - If you like to freeze in stackable plastic containers make sure to only use BPA free plastic containers.  

Glass freezer containers -  Ball makes freezer-safe glass jars and companies such as Anchor Hocking and Pyrex make freezer-safe glass containers.  *Note: Don't overfill glass jars, they could crack when the contents freeze and expand.

Vacuum Sealers - You can purchase very inexpensive sealers and bags that are easy to use and help extend the life of your frozen foods.  The sealed packages also stack well helping you to optimize your freezer space.  For example the  Ziploc Vacuum Starter Kit, 3-Quart Bags, 1-Pump is about $5.00 and gets decent reviews on Amazon. Big box stores such as Costco sell a more expensive system at a discounted price.  These larger sealers run from around $70.00 to almost $200.00. 

Personally, I'd have to do a lot of freezing and storage to justify a $200.00 purchase.  Not to mention, to make this a truly useful tool it should probably sit out on your counter top; something I'm not fond of.

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.