The Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods

Child reading back of jar
  Peter Dazeley/Getty Images 

You probably know that butter will last one to three months when you store it in the refrigerator, while you need to use up refrigerated buttermilk in two weeks. But do you know how long fish and shellfish last in the fridge? How about ground meats, coffee cream, or egg substitutes?

Know Expiration Dates

It's important to know the expected expiration date of various foods you might have stored in your fridge.

Without this knowledge, you might end up throwing out perfectly good refrigerated food or failing to use foods before they go bad. Read on to learn how long foods stay fresh in the fridge, so you don't eat something you shouldn't or toss things out before you should. The following chart lists the shelf life of everything from ketchup to leftovers.

The first column lists the food, followed by the shelf life in the second column, and links to related articles—where available—to give you more information on these foods in the third column. It's worth taking the time to click the links because the articles explain how to freeze large portions of food (such as a  ham), safely use up other foods before they expire (such as sour cream), and tell if foods are still good (such as eggs). 

The Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods

FoodShelf Life
Meat and Seafood 
Bacon7 days
Chicken or turkey1-2 days
Chops (pork, veal, lamb)3-5 days
Fish and shellfish1-2 days uncooked, 3-5 days cooked
Ground meats1-2 days
Ham, canned6-9 months unopened, 3-5 days opened
, fully cooked, half3-5 days
Ham, fully cooked, slices3-4 days
Ham, fully cooked, whole7 days
Hot dogs2 weeks unopened, 1 week opened
Lunch Meat2 weeks unopened, 3-5 days opened
Organ meats1-2 days
Roast3-5 days
Sausage, hard (ex: pepperoni)2-3 weeks
Sausage, smoked7 days
Sausage, summer3 months unopened, 3 weeks opened
Sausage, uncooked1-2 days
Steak3-5 days
Butter1-3 months
2 weeks
Cheese, hard6 months unopened, 3-4 weeks opened
Cheese, processed slices1-2 months
Cheese, soft1 week
Coffee cream10 days
Egg Substitute10 days unopened, 3 days opened
3-5 weeks in the shell, 2-4 days out of shell
10 days
Milk1 week
1-3 weeks
Whipped cream (can)3 months
Yogurt1-2 weeks
Chili sauce6 months
Chutney1-2 months
Cocktail sauce6 months
Horseradish3-4 months
Jams, Jellies6 months after opening
Ketchup6 months
Mayonnaise2 months
MustardI year
Olives2 weeks
Pickles2 weeks
Salad dressing2 months
Meat or poultry3-4 days
Broth2 days
Casseroles3-4 days
Egg dishes3-4 days
Fish3-4 days
Gravy3-4 days
Hard-boiled eggs1 week
4-5 days
4-5 days
Pasta1-2 days
Pizza3-4 days
Salads (egg, chicken, macaroni, etc.3-5 days
Soups and stews3-4 days
Spaghetti sauce4 days
Coffee, can or bag2 weeks
Lemonade6 days
Orange juice6 days
Soda2-3 days
6-8 months
1 week
 ©Erin Huffstetler

Sources: USDA, Food Marketing Institute

Other Resources

Of course, you don't store all your foods in the fridge. Learn about the  and the . Once you learn how long foods stored the fridge, freezer, and pantry will last, you'll be in good shape to save money by consuming or preserving foods before they expire—rather than having to throw them out.