This story originally appeared at Do You Remember by Jane Kenney.
We’ve all opened the vegetable drawer or Tupperware container left behind in the fridge expecting to find something edible when instead we find wilted lettuce or moldy food. As much as refrigeration has been able to expand the life of our food, we still need to be mindful of when a food expires, especially when foods – like leftovers – don’t come with an official expiration date. The time limit for refrigerated food is much shorter than you might think. Here are some common food items left behind in our refrigerators along with their expected lifespans. Be sure to check your fridge!
This includes more than just lettuce! Egg, chicken, tuna, ham, and macaroni salads can typically be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. A good rule of thumb is to eat salads sooner rather than later!
2. Hot Dogs
An opened package of hot dogs can last 1 week in the refrigerator. An unopened package can last as long as 2 weeks. Frozen, a package of hot dogs can last for 1 to 2 months.
3. Lunch Meat
Like hot dogs, an open package of deli sliced lunch meat can stay fresh for 3 to 5 days in the fridge. An unopened package is longer, about 2 weeks. If you open the package and it smells foul, it’s time to toss it out.
4. Bacon and Sausage
Bacon will last about 7 days in the refrigerator. Raw sausage, including chicken, turkey, pork, and beef, can last up to 2 days. Frozen sausages can be kept for 1 to 2 months.
5. Ground Meats
There’s a theme here: 1 to 2 days for your ground meat, including ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb, and chicken. If you’re not planning on eating your ground meat in the first couple of days, it’s best stored in the freezer until ready to use, and it can be stored in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.
6. Beef, Veal, Lamb, and Pork
Steaks, chops, and roasts can all last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Steaks can be frozen for 6 to 12 months, while chops can last 4 to 6 months in the freezer. Roasts, too, can get some longevity in the freezer, anywhere between 4 to 12 months. It’s important to know your cuts of meat and how best to store them.
Chicken and turkey, both whole and in pieces, can last 1 to 2 days refrigerated. Both groups last 9 to 12 months in the freezer.
8. Soups and Stews
With vegetables or meat added, a soup or stew should last 3 to 4 days in the fridge, or frozen for 2 to 3 months, which is great news for impending rainy (or sick) days!
Leftover (cooked) meat or poultry, chicken, and pizza can all last 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Frozen pizza will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer, while leftover meat or poultry (including nuggets or patties) may be frozen for 1 to 3 months.
Proper food storage is important! Know your foods groups and be sure to label leftovers with a date to help keep your food safe.