Spring-Clean Your Refrigerator and Freezer
Tips for keeping foods fresh, safe, and tasty
Food Storage Dos and Don'ts
Here are some tips to remember when storing and using foods:
- Wrap foods tightly with two layers of freezer wrap before putting in the
freezer or use shrink wrapping for an air-tight seal around the food.
- Store eggs in their cartons -- and don't keep them on the refrigerator
- Don't wash fresh produce until you're ready to use it. Store it in
perforated plastic bags, and use within a few days. Bananas should not be
- To allow for air circulation in either your fridge or freezer, don't
overfill the compartments. Without good circulation, it's difficult to maintain
the proper temperatures.
- Store leftovers in tightly covered containers within two hours after
cooking. Use in 3-5 days.
- Store food and cleaning supplies separate.
- Keep potatoes and onions in a cool, dry location. Don't refrigerate them or
keep them under the sink, where moisture from pipes can cause damage.
- Check use-by or sell-by dates on food packages. Remember, these dates don't
apply once the package is opened.
- Best-if-used-by dates are the most reliable ones to follow. They take
normal handling into account.
- Put raw meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, in a plastic bag.
This will keep the juices from dripping onto other foods.
How Long Can I Freeze It?
Food kept in the freezer so long that ice crystals dominate its appearance
is safe to eat, since no organisms can live in subzero temperatures. And the
nutritional quality remains intact. Still, you probably don't want to eat it --
the quality of this frozen tundra will certainly be less than ideal.
To prevent freezer burn, make sure that the food is tightly wrapped or
shrink wrapped with freezer-quality wrap, and get as much air out between the
food and the wrap.
For some guidelines on how long you can safely keep food in the refrigerator
or freezer, I consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here's a chart with
the times for various foods.
40 degrees Fahrenheit
(5 degrees Celsius)
0 degrees F
(-18 degrees C)
|Beef: Ground||1-2 days||3-4 months|
|Steaks and roasts||3-5 days||6-12 months|
|Pork: Chops||3-5 days||4-6 months|
|Ground||1-2 days||3-4 months|
|Roasts||3-5 days||4-6 months|
|Lunch Meat||3-5 days||1-2 months|
|Sausage||1-2 days||1-2 months|
|Hot dogs||Unopened, 2 weeks|
Opened, 1 week
|Prepared salads (egg, tuna, etc)||3-5 days||Don't freeze|
|Gravy||1-2 days||2-3 months|
|Soups or stews||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Lean (such as cod,|
|1-2 days||up to 6 months|
|Fatty (such as blue, perch,|
|1-2 days||2-3 months|
|Chicken: Whole||1-2 days||12 months|
|Parts||1-2 days||9 months|
|Giblets||1-2 days||3-4 months|
|Swiss, brick, processed|
|Soft cheese||1 week||6 months|
|Milk||5 days||1 month|
|Ice cream, ice milk||-||2-4 months|
|Butter||1-3 months||6-9 months|
|Buttermilk||7-14 days||3 months|
|Cream cheese||2 weeks||-|
|Cream||3-5 days||4 months|
|Sour cream||7-21 days||-|
|Eggs: Fresh in the shell||3 weeks||-|
|Pasteurized liquid||3 days (opened)|
10 days (unopened)
|Mayonnaise||2 months||don't freeze|
|TV dinners||-||3-4 months|
|Store-bought convenience meals||1-2 days||-|
|Cooked meat leftovers||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Pizza||3-4 days||1-2 months|
|Stuffing, cooked||3-4 days||1 month|
|Dough - tube can, cookies||use-by date||2 months (don't freeze tube cans)|
|* Cheese can be frozen, but freezing will affect
the texture and taste.|
|SOURCES: Food Marketing Institute for fish and
dairy products, USDA for all other foods|