How Long Does Food Last in the Fridge?
Here at W&P, we’re all for maintaining a neat and organized refrigerator. Whether it’s labeling your leftovers, doing weekly cleanouts or leveling up your meal prep game with Insta-worthy food storage containers, taking a Marie Kondo approach to your food storage ensures that every item in your fridge has a place. That directly translates to less food waste, better tasting food and more money in your pocket.
Still, even with a highly organized refrigerator, accidents can happen. Maybe you bought a fresh filet of salmon that you didn’t get around to making because you were swamped with work. Or maybe your roommate’s Chinese takeout box hid your deli meat from view, and you didn’t realize it until a week later. Whatever the reason for your temporarily-forgotten items, you may be wondering, “How long does food last in the fridge?”
In this guide, we’ll talk about how long refrigerated items will last before it’s time to throw them out. We’ll also share some tips for keeping those perishables perky and fresh for longer, so you can enjoy them at their peak and minimize your food waste.
How Long Does Food Last in the Fridge?
How long your food stays fresh in the fridge largely comes down to the type of food, its expiration date and whether the item is opened or sealed. But generally, you should say goodbye to cooked or prepared food items if they’ve been sitting in the fridge for three to four days.
For uncooked foods, the refrigerator lifespan can vary significantly. Raw ground beef, for example, has a relatively short refrigerator life compared to other foods — as little as one to two days depending on the use-by date. This is because the grinding process exposes the meat’s surface to air, allowing spoilage bacteria to latch on and break down the food faster. Eggs, on the other hand, can last for three to five weeks in the fridge, thanks to the egg’s protective shell and enzymes.
Confused yet? Don’t worry! In cooperation with the USDA and Cornell University, the Food Marketing Institute developed a Food Keeper Database, which lists helpful guidelines to ensure food safety. Here’s a quick breakdown of when to toss common refrigerated items.
Meat, Poultry and Fish
- Beef, lamb, pork, steaks and roast: 3-5 days
- Ground meat: 1-2 days
- Cooked meats: 3-4 days
- Bacon: 1 week
- Lunch meats: 2 weeks unopened, 3-5 days after opening
- Raw chicken: 1-2 days
- Cooked Chicken: 3-4 days
- Lean fish: 1-2 days
- Cooked fish: 3-4 days
- Butter: 1-3 months
- Cream cheese: 2 weeks
- Cottage cheese: 1 week after opening, 2 weeks unopened
- Shredded cheese: 1 week after opening, 1 month unopened
- Yogurt: 1-2 weeks
- Milk: 1 week
- Tofu: 3 weeks
- Apples: 3 weeks
- Avocados: 3-4 days
- Berries, cherries: 1-2 days
- Grapes: 1 week
- Asparagus: 3-4 days
- Carrots: 3 weeks
- Celery: 1-2 weeks
- Leafy greens: 3-7 days
- Fruit, cut: 4 days after opening
When in Doubt, Use Sensory Cues
While the guidelines above can give you a better idea of how long your food will last in the fridge, they’re not always reliable. Sometimes, food spoils quicker than we expect. To ensure that the food you’re eating is fresh and safe for consumption, don’t be afraid to employ your senses. If your food develops an unpleasant odor or strange texture, you’ll want to give it the boot.
Enjoy Safer, Better-Tasting Food with These Cold Storage Tips
- Clean your refrigerator regularly. Wipe up spills immediately and do a thorough cleaning once a week.
- Check leftovers daily for signs of spoilage. If you notice changes in texture, color or smell, throw your food away.
- Do not place highly perishable items, like yogurt and milk, in the fridge door. Instead, place these items on the middle shelf where temperatures are more stable.
- Put a dry washcloth in with your salad. The washcloth will absorb the excess moisture, keeping your leafy greens nice and crispy.
- Store cold cuts in resealable bags. Stash your deli meats in reusable silicone bags made from premium food-grade silicone. Besides reducing plastic waste, reusable silicone bags prevent air from entering the packaging, preventing cold cuts from spoiling prematurely. (They’re also ideal for marinating meat and poultry!)
We hope this quick guide gave you a better idea of how long food can remain in the fridge before it spoils. For more smart food storage strategies and tricks, check out our blog — The Fresh Squeeze. You can also visit our website, where you’ll find a range of sustainable kitchen products to help you live better.