Shelf Life
Food Storage Possibilities

Food Storage Possibilities

How long will they keep?  Food Storage Guidelines.
On the Shelf - In the Refrigerator - Or Out of the Freezer

Food Storage and Shelf Life

The following shelf life chart was originally prepared by Virginia Cooperative Extension of Virginia State University and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and is being used here with permission.  This food storage chart provides "general recommended storage times from date of purchase for various food products stored under optimum conditions. Storage generally is not recommended under conditions where no time is listed in the chart. For maximum shelf-life, consumers should always purchase fresh food and never temperature abuse food."

Food

Pantry (Room Temperature)

Refrigerator (33°F to 40°F)

Freezer (0°F)

Bread and Cereal Products

Baked quick breads

4-5 days

1-2 weeks

2-3 months

Bread

5-7 days

1-2 weeks

3 months

Bread crumbs and croutons

6 months

Bread rolls, unbaked

2-3 weeks

1 month

Cereals, ready-to-eat

1 year
2-3 months*

Cereals, ready-to-cook

6 months

Corn meal

1 year

18 months

2 years

Doughnuts

4-5 days

3 months

Flour, cake, all-purpose

1 year

1-2 years

Flour, whole wheat

6-8 months

1-2 years

Pasta

2 years

Pies and pastries

3 days

4-6 months

Pies and pastries, baked

1-2 months

Pies and pastries, cream filled

2-3 days

3 months

Pizza

3-4 days

1-2 months

Rice, brown

6 months

Rice, white

1 year

6-7 days+

6 months+

Tacos, enchiladas, and burritos (frozen)

2 weeks

1 year

Waffles

4-5 days

1 month

Packaged Foods and Mixes

Biscuit, brownie, and muffin mixes

9 months

Cakes, prepared

2-4 days

2-3 months

Cake mixes

6-9 months

Casserole mix

9-12 months

Chili powder

6 months

Cookies, packaged

2 months

8-12 months

Crackers, pretzels

3 months

Frosting, canned

3 months

Frosting, mix

8 months

Fruit cake

2-3 months

1 year

Hot roll mix

18 months

Instant breakfast products

6 months

Pancake and piecrust mix

6 months

Pancake waffle batter

1-2 days

3 months

Toaster pastries

3 months

Sauce and gravy mixes

6 months

Soup mixes

1 year

Spices, Herbs, Condiments, Extracts

Catsup, chili, and cocktail sauce

1 year
1 month*


6 months

Herbs

6 months

1-2 years

Herb/spice blends

2 years
1 year *

1-2 years

Mustard

2 years

6-8 months*

8-12 months

Spices, ground

6 months

1-2 years

Spices, whole

1-2 years

2-3 years

Vanilla extract

2 years
1 year*

Other extracts

1 year

Other Food Staples

Bacon bits

4 months

Baking powder

18 months

Baking soda

2 years

Bouillon products

1 year

Carbonated soft drinks (12 oz. cans)

6-9 months

Carbonated soft drinks, diet (12 oz. cans)

3-4 months

Chocolate, premelted

1 year

Chocolate syrup

2 years

6 months*

Chocolate, semisweet

2 years

Chocolate, unsweetened

18 months

Cocoa mixes

8 months

Coconut, shredded

1 year
6 months*

8 months

1 year

Coffee cans

2 years
2 weeks*

2 months

6 months

Coffee, instant

6 months
2 weeks*

Coffee, vacuum-packed

1 year ^

Coffee lighteners (dry)

9 months
6 months*

1 year

Cornstarch

18 months

2 years

Gelatin

18 months

Honey, jams, jellies, and syrup

1 year

6-8 months*

Marshmallows

2-3 months

Marshmallow cream

3-4 months

Mayonnaise

2-3 months

12 months
2 months*

Molasses

2 years

Nuts, shelled

4 months

6 months

Nuts, unshelled

6 months

Nuts, salted

6-8 months

Nuts, unsalted

9-12 months

Oil, salad

3 months^
2 months*

Parmesan grated cheese

10 months
2 months*

Pasteurized process cheese spread

3 months

3-4 weeks*

4 months

Peanut butter

6 months
2-3 months*

Popcorn

1-2 years

2 years

2-3 years

Pectin

1 year

Salad dressings, bottled

1 year^

3 months*

Soft drinks

3 months

Artificial sweetener

2 years

Sugar, brown

4 months

Sugar, confectioners

18 months

Sugar, granulated

2 years

Tea bags

18 months

Tea, instant

2 years

Vegetable oils

6 months
1-3 months*

Vegetable shortening

3 months

6-9 months

Vinegar

2 years
1 year*

Water, bottled

1-2 years

Whipped topping (dry)

1 year

Yeast, dry

Pkg. exp. date

Vegetables

Asparagus

2-3 days

8 months

Beets

2 weeks

Broccoli

3-5 days

Brussels sprouts

3-5 days

Cabbage

1 week

Carrots

2 weeks

Cauliflower

1 week

Celery

1 week

Corn (husks)

1-2 days

8 months

Cucumbers

1 week

Eggplant

1 week

Green beans

1-2 days

8 months

Green peas

3-5 days

8 months

Lettuce

1 week

Lima beans

3-5 days

8 months

Mushrooms

2 days

Onions

1 week

3-5 days

Onion rings (precooked, frozen)

1 year#

Peppers

1 week

Pickles, canned

1 year

1 month*

Frozen potatoes

8 month

Sweet potatoes

2-3 weeks

White potatoes

2-3 months

Potato chips

1 month

Radishes

2 weeks

Rhubarb

3-5 days

Rutabagas

1 week

Snap beans

1 week

Spinach

5-7 days

8 months

Squash, Summer

3-5 days

Squash, Winter

1 week

Tomatoes

1 week

Turnips

2 weeks

Commercial baby food, jars

1-2 years^

2-3 days

Canned vegetables

1 year^

1-4 days*

Canned vegetables, pickled

1 year^

1-2 months*

Dried vegetables

6 months

Frozen vegetables

8 months

Vegetable soup

3-4 days

3 months

Fruits

Apples

Until ripe

1 month

Apricots

Until ripe

5 days

Avocados

Until ripe

5 days

Bananas

Until ripe

5 days (fully ripe)

Berries

Until ripe

3 days

1 year

Canned fruit

1 year

2-4 days*

Canned fruit juices

1 year

3-4 days*

Cherries

Until ripe

3 days

Citrus fruit

Until ripe

2 weeks

Dried fruit

6 months

2-4 days+

Frozen fruit

1 year

Fruit juice concentrate

6 days

1 year

Fruit pies, baked

2-3 days

8 months

Grapes

Until ripe

5 days

Melons

Until ripe

5 days

Nectarines

Until ripe

5 days

Peaches

Until ripe

5 days

1 year

Pears

Until ripe

5 days

1 year

Pineapple

Until ripe

5-7 days

1 year

Plums

Until ripe

5 days

Dairy Products

Butter

1-2 months

9 months

Buttermilk

2 weeks

Cottage cheese

1 week

3 months

Cream cheese

2 weeks

Cream-light, heavy, half- and-half

3-4 days

1-4 months

Eggnog commercial

3-5 days

6 months

Margarine

4-5 months

12 months

Condensed, evaporated and dry milk

12-23 months^

8-20 days*

Milk

8-20 days

Ice cream and sherbet

2 months

Hard natural cheese (e.g. cheddar, swiss)

3-6 months
4 weeks*

6 months

Hard natural cheese, sliced

2 weeks

Processed cheese

1 month

6 months

Soft cheese (e.g. brie)

1 week

6 months

Pudding

1-2 days*

Snack dips

1 week*

Sour cream

2 weeks

Non-dairy whipped cream, canned

3 months

Real whipped cream, canned

3-4 weeks

Yogurt

2 weeks

1-2 months

Meats, Poultry, Eggs and Fish

Meats

Fresh beef and bison steaks

3-5 days

6-9 months

Fresh beef and bison roasts

3-5 days

9-12 months

Fresh pork chops

2-3 days

4-6 months

Fresh lamb chops

3-5 days

6-8 months

Fresh veal

1-2 days

4-6 months

Fresh ground meat (e.g. beef, bison, veal, lamb)

1 day

3-4 months

Cooked meat

2-3 days

2-3 months

Canned meat

1 year

3-4 days*

3-4 months

Ham, whole

1 week

1-2 months

Ham, canned

1 year

1 week*

3-4 months

Ham, canned "keep refrigerated"

6-9 months
1 week*


3-4 months

Shelf-stable unopened canned meat (e.g. chili, deviled ham, corn beef)

1 year

1week*

Ham, cook before eating

1 week

Ham, fully cooked

2 weeks
1 week*

Ham, dry-cured

1 year

1 month

Ham salad, store prepared or homemade

3-5 days

Bacon

2 weeks
1 week*

1 month

Corned beef, uncooked

5-7 days

1-2 months

Restructured (flaked) meat products

9-12 months

Sausage, fresh

1-2 days

1-2 months

Smoked breakfast sausage links, patties

1 week

2 months

Sausage, smoked (e.g. Mettwurst)

1 week

1-2 months

Sausage, semi-dry (e.g. Summer sausage)

2-3 weeks*

6 months

Sausage, dry smoked (e.g. Pepperoni, jerky, dry Salami)

1 year

1 month*

6 months

Frankfurters, bologna

2 weeks
3-5 days*

1-2 months

Luncheon meat

2 weeks
3-5 days*

1 month

Meat gravies

1-2 days

2-3 months

TV beef and pork dinners

18 months#

Meat based casseroles

3-4 days

4 months

Variety meats (giblets, tongue, liver, heart, etc.)

1-2 days

3-4 months

Vinegar pickled meats (e.g. pickled pigs feet)

1 year^

2 weeks*

Fish

Breaded fish

4-6 months

Canned fish

1 year

1-2 days*

Cooked fish or seafood

3-4 days

3 months

Lean fish (e.g. cod, flounder, haddock)

1-2 days

6 months

Fatty fish (e.g. bluefish, salmon, mackeral)

1-2 days

2-3 months

Dry pickled fish

3-4 weeks

Smoked fish

2 weeks

4-5 weeks

Seafood-clams, crab, lobster in shell

2 days

3 months

Seafood-oysters and scallops

1-2 days

3-4 months

Seafood-shrimp

1-2 days

1 year

Seafood-shucked clams

1-2 days

3-6 months

Tuna salad, store prepared or homemade

3-5 days

Poultry and Eggs

Chicken nuggets or patties

1-2 days

Chicken livers

1-2 days

3 months

Chicken and poultry TV dinners

6 months

Canned poultry^

1 year

1 day*

Cooked poultry

2-3 days

4-6 months

Fresh poultry

1 day

1 year

Frozen poultry parts

6-9 months

Canned poultry

1 day

3 months

Poultry pies, stews, and gravies

1-2 days

6 months

Poultry salads, store prepared or homemade

3-5 days

Poultry stuffing, cooked

3-4 days

1 month

Eggs, in shell

3-5 weeks

Eggs, hard-boiled

1 week

Eggs, pasteurized

10 days
3 days*

1 year

Egg substitute

10 days
3 days*

1 year

Egg yolks (covered in water)

2-4 days

1 year

Egg whites (For each cup of egg yolk add 1 Tbs. of sugar or salt)

2-4 days

1 year

Wild Game

Frog legs

1 day

6-9 months

Game birds

2 days

9 months

Small game (rabbit, squirrel, etc.)

2 days

9-12 months

Venison ground meat

1-2 days

2-3 months

Venison steaks and roasts

3-5 days

9-12 months


* Opened     + Cooked     ^ Refrigerate after opening     # After manufacture date

Food Storage Guidelines

How long can you safely store food?  The guidelines which are reproduced above will provide some paramaters for that safe food storage.  Be aware, however, that these are indeed "guidelines."  Foods will often remain edible, and safely edible, beyond the timelines shown.  Commercially prepared canned and packaged foods often have "Best Before" dates imprinted.  Use of foods after these expiry dates means you may find that the quality of these foods in the form of color or texture has been affected, and possibly but not necessarily the nutrition.  In the case of the fresh foods that have been placed into your food storage, there is, of course, definitely a need to be wary.  Spoilage is much more likely to accompany that decrease in quality.  Note, too, that the signs of spoilage are not always obvious.  A slight slimy feel to meat, for instance, is easily missed but often means that bacterial action has begun, even without the presence of telltale odors. 

In any case, err on the side of caution.  Rotate your foods.  Use the oldest first.  Be aware of the guidelines, even if you don't follow them exactly.  When in doubt, throw it out.  Be safe, not sorry.


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Shelf Life

n. The length of time a product may be stored without becoming unsuitable for use or consumption.

Remember, Guidelines are Guidelines

Remember, Guidelines are Guidelines

I Disagree!

It seems this shelf life chart as prepared by Virgina State University and the Virginaia Polytechinic Institure and State University and last updated in May of 2009 lacks credibility to some.  Such is the case with one of our readers, who comments:

Come on, folks, you're so far off on so many items, it's just silly.

Honey lasts FOR EVER, you put it at one year.

Sugar?  Forever.  You put it at 2 years.

Popcorn?  10-20 years.  You say 1-2 years.
White rice? 10 years.  You say 1 year.

Update all your numbers using some kind of sense, please.

- Scott

Charts such as these are provided as a handy reference tool to the visitors to Store-It Foods.  Should you take exception to some of the findings provided, or wish to share the results of other researchers, such input would be most welcome.

 

Looking for Ways to Extend That Shelf Life?

Consider the following options:

It is important to note that not all food storage bags are alike.  You may pay a little more for them, but some are designed and manufactured with extended storage life in mind.
Yes, storage containers can also make a difference.  Some really do lengthen safe storage times, and consequently extend that product's shelf life.

100 Year Old Canned Goods

A portion of a report from the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture

"Canned food has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of processing.  Canned food retains its saftey and nutritional level well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality....  Canning is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile.  Food safety is not an issue in products kept on the shelf or in the pantry for long periods of time.  In fact, canned food has an almost indefintite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75 degrees and below).  Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe!  We don't recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, not dented or bulging, it is edible."

A Food Storage Thought

Maintaining a food’s quality depends on a number of different factors including the quality of the raw product, the way the food was processed, storage methods, and the length of storage. The recommended storage time, in the form of "shelf life", is determined using these considerations.

 

The vacuum packaging of foods to be frozen can prevent or delay freezer burn, and that, of course, can have a positive impact upon the shelf life of frozen foods.
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