This page gives you all the essential information for safe food handling and storage. Some foods deteriorate faster than others and it is important to know which things you should use up first when deciding your menus.

TIPS: Fridge and Freezer

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 F and your freezer at 0 F
  • Foods thawed and held above 40 F for more than 2 hours should be thrown away
  • Never defrost at room temperature
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into small shallow containers
  • Cut large pieces of cooked meat into small pieces to cool faster
  • Refrigerate home cooked meals in a timely fashion. Foods will keep 3-4 days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer
  • Any bread that contains meat or dairy products must be refrigerated within 2 hours. Same for any cakes with dairy icing or frostings
  • Never overload your refrigerator so the air can circulate evenly
  • Check sell by and use by dates on packages
  • Once you purchase food be sure to take it home immediately. If not transport it in a cooler
  • If your power goes off, if the freezer door is kept shut a full freezer will stay fresh for about 2 days, a half freezer about 1 day. Fridge food should be OK for 4 hours
  • Safety first – If you feel your food may have been compromised even within these guidelines please discard:
    • Cooked Meats: 3-4 days in fridge; 2-3 months in freezer
    • Cooked Ham: 3-4 days in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
    • Cooked Poultry: 3-4 days in fridge; 4-6 months in freezer
    • Rotisserie Chicken: 3-4 days in fridge; 4 months in freezer
    • Cooked Fish: 3-4 days in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
    • Cooked Shellfish: 3-4 days in fridge; 3 months in freezer
    • Smoked Fish: 5-8 days in fridge; 2 months in freezer
    • Juice: 3 weeks in fridge; 8-12 months in freezer
    • Cooked Pasta: 1-2 days in fridge; 2 months in freezer
    • Pesto or Salsa: 3 days in fridge (after opening); 1-2 months in freezer
    • Sour Cream: 2 weeks in fridge; do not freeze
    • Yogurt: 7-14 days in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
    • Hard cooked Eggs: 1 week in fridge, do not freeze
    • Raw Eggs: 2-4 days in fridge; 12 months in freezer
    • Bread: 1-2 weeks in fridge; 3 months in freezer
    • Cakes: 1 week in fridge; 2-3 months in freezer
    • Pies: 1 week in fridge; 2-3 months in freezer
    • BBQ Sauce: 12 months in pantry (unopened); 4 months in fridge (after opening)
    • Ketchup, Cocktail Sauce: 12 months in pantry (unopened); 6 months in fridge (after opening)
    • Mayo: 2-3 months in pantry (unopened); 12 months in fridge (after opening)
    • Mustard: 12 months in pantry (unopened) and in fridge (after opening)
    • Olives: 12-18 months in pantry (unopened); 2 weeks in fridge (after opening)
    • Pickles: 12 months in pantry (unopened); 2 weeks in fridge (after opening)
    • Salad Dressing: 10-12 months in pantry (unopened); 3 months in fridge (after opening)

If you have further questions regarding this call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 800-535-4555

TIPS: Pantry Storage

  • Pantry foods should be stored in a clean dry cabinet at below 85 F
  • Never purchase cans that are punctured, leaking, rusted or bulging
  • Most canned foods can be safely stored for several years, below are some guidelines:
    • Low Acidic Canned Goods: 2-5 years
    • High Acidic Canned Goods: 12-18 months
  • Never keep any foods that say “Keep Refrigerated” on the label in the pantry
    Safety first – If you feel your food may have been compromised even within these guidelines please discard:

    • Dried Beans/ Lentils: 12 months
    • Canned Goods (low Acid): 2-5 years in pantry (unopened); 3-4 days in fridge (after opening)
    • Canned Goods (high acid): 12-18 months in pantry (unopened); 5-7 days in fridge (after opening)
    • Dried Fruits: 6 months
    • Dried Herbs: 1-2 years unopened; 12 months after opening
    • Honey: 12 months
    • Jams, Jellies, Preserves: 12 months in pantry (unopened); 6 months in fridge
    • Olive and Veg Oils: 6 months; 1-3 after opening
    • Nuts: 12 months (unopened) 1 months after opening
    • Pasta: 2 years
    • Rice: 1 year
    • Spaghetti Sauce: 18 months in pantry (unopened); 4 days in fridge (after opening)
    • Whole Spices: 2-4 years in total
    • Ground Spices: 2 years in total
    • Sun-dried Tomatoes (in oil): 12 months in pantry (unopened); 6 months after opening
    • Vinegar: 2 years in pantry (unopened); 12 months after opening

This information and more developed by
Food Marketing Institute
USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline
FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition