Does This Smell Bad to You? How Long Foods Last

Photo (cc) by GoonSquadSarah

You got a killer deal on 5 pounds of bacon with your club card. Now you’re wondering how many strips your stomach and heart can take before those delectable applewood-smoked slices go bad.

Have no fear: They will keep for up to a week in the fridge and still be delicious up to a month when frozen.

Knowing how long basic foods remain edible can reduce both the waste of food and your money. Says the Natural Resources Defense Council:

The average American throws away between $28 to $43 in the form of about 20 pounds of food each month. … About two-thirds of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other one-third is caused by people cooking or serving too much.

Fortunately, many staple food items last much longer than you would expect. Sick of grilled cheese for lunch? Those individually wrapped slices of American cheese will keep in the fridge for a month or two.

But while frozen foods are said to keep indefinitely, that does not mean they’ll remain at top quality and be palatable.

If you have a question about a particular item’s shelf life in your freezer or fridge, StillTasty offers a handy “Keep It or Toss It?” feature. Just type in your query or check their listings of pretty much any food or drink imaginable and the magic timing will pop up. The site also explains how to properly store foods to get the best results.

While most of us smell and visibly inspect foods suspected of being past their prime, experts say the absence of mold or foul odors is not a clear indication that an item remains edible.

“You cannot see, smell or taste many harmful bacteria, so although the food may look ‘safe’ to eat, it is not. When in doubt, throw it out,” Weill Cornell Medical College says.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the shelf life of some basic food groups in the refrigerator and in the freezer:

Breads

  • Tortillas, sold refrigerated — one to two months in the fridge; three months in the freezer.
  • White bread — five to seven days in the pantry (not the fridge); three months in the freezer.
  • Unbaked homemade cookie dough — one or two days; four to six months.

Dairy

  • Butter — one to three months in the fridge; six to nine months in the freezer.
  • Hard cheeses — four weeks if opened; six months.
  • Soft cheeses — one week; six months.
  • Milk — seven days; one month.
  • Yogurt — two to three weeks; one to two months.

Meats

  • Raw ground beef — one to two days in the fridge; three to four months in the freezer.
  • Steaks — three to five days; six to 12 months.
  • Lean fish — one to two days; six months.
  • Fatty fish — one to two days; two to three months.
  • Whole chicken or turkey — one to two days; one year. If it’s cut into pieces before freezing, the parts should be used within nine months.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Bananas — five to seven days in the fridge after they’re ripe; two to three months in the freezer.
  • Lemons — one to two months; three to four months.
  • Broccoli — two weeks; eight to 12 months.
  • Carrots — four to five weeks; eight to 12 months.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation says most fruits and vegetables can last from eight months to a year if packaged correctly and frozen at or below 0 degrees.

Miscellaneous

  • Leftover pizza — three to four days in the fridge; two months in the freezer.
  • Tuna salad — three to five days in the fridge. Tuna salad does not fare well in the freezer, FoodSafety says.
  • Opened bottle of Champagne — three to five days in the fridge. Freezer time is not applicable.

In general, leftovers should be eaten within three or four days. The Mayo Clinic says that after a few days, the risk of contracting food poisoning increases. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat leftovers within four days, freeze them immediately, the clinic suggests.

Here are some tips to reduce food waste and help food last as long as possible:

  • “A good policy to remember and follow is ‘first in, first out.’ Rotate foods so that you use the older items first and enjoy your food at its best quality,” the National Center for Home Food Preservation says. If you’re freezing the food, put a date on the label.
  • For the tastiest foods and best storage, your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees or colder.
  • It goes without saying that the fresher the produce, the longer it will last once you get it home. Keep that in mind if you don’t plan to eat it right away.
  • The USDA suggests that food be frozen at peak quality for the best taste once thawed.

If you’re freezing food, tips offered by the National Center for Home Food Preservation include:

  • If you’re blanching or cooking first, cool food prior to freezing to help retain flavor, color and texture.
  • Use leak-proof packaging to protect food from other flavors and odors.
  • Use containers or bags made specifically for freezer use.
  • Allow enough space for the food to expand without popping the seal.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest
10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest

Think twice before pursuing these shrinking occupations.

10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself
10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself

Making any of these key foods yourself will improve meals — and your budget.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

The Most Common Reason That Older Adults Fall Down
The Most Common Reason That Older Adults Fall Down

The good news: It’s possible to avoid potentially devastating falls.

7 Common Online Shopping Mistakes That Will Cost You
7 Common Online Shopping Mistakes That Will Cost You

How many of these costly online shopping missteps are you making without realizing it?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

The CDC has unveiled a schedule that likely will determine who gets the next doses.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.