When Do Foods Really Go Bad? A guide to knowing how long you can keep food in your fridge

by: Sid Kirchheimer | from: AARP Bulletin | August 7, 2012

If your household is typical, you probably throw away between $28 and $43 in the form of about 20 pounds of food each month, mostly because of spoilage. But you can reduce waste — and cut your grocery costs — by knowing how long different foods safely keep in the refrigerator.

Follow these guidelines:

1-2 days: Fresh fish and shrimp, poultry, ground turkey, sausage, raw hamburger and stew meats. Stuffed meats should be consumed within one day.

3-4 days: Cooked chicken, fish, ham and meat leftovers; soups and stews; pizza; canned seafood that’s been opened; and store-cooked convenience meals.

Up to 5 days: Opened deli meats; egg, chicken, tuna and macaroni salads; steaks, chops and roasts; and opened canned ham labeled “keep refrigerated.”

Up to 7 days: Hot dogs, bacon, smoked sausage links and patties.

Up to 14 days: Smoked fish, unopened deli meats and vacuum-packed dinners.

Fresh eggs in shell last up to five weeks, but hard-boiled eggs should be eaten within one week and egg substitutes within three days after opening the package. Milk, yogurt and cream cheese should be eaten within seven days of their “sell by” dates, but most sliced cheeses last three weeks or longer when stored in airtight bags or containers.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer issues.

Also of interest: How to stop wasting food.

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