The Complete Guide to Food Expiration Dates

Do you need to learn more about food safety at home? If you’ve ever stared at a Tupperware container full of leftovers and wondered “Can I still eat this?” then the answer is definitely yes. The truth is, you just can’t trust your sixth sense (or even your other five senses) to tell you when a food has gone over to the dark side. Each food is different. Each has a different set of guidelines that you should follow to prevent food spoilage and save yourself from an expired item that could potentially make you sick. So put down that takeout box and spend a minute reading this guide. Then check your fridge to see which foods need to be evicted fast.

Food Safety at Home: Dairy and Eggs


Dairy products often expire quickly, but it’s not always easy to tell the good from the bad. You’re always better safe than sorry, so follow these rules of thumb if you’re unsure about dairy products and eggs.

milk cheese yoghurt dairy productsMilk. In the fridge, milk stays fresh for a week after the sell-by date. Milk can also be frozen for up to three months.

Butter. Butter is safe to eat up to one month after the sell-by date when stored in the refrigerator. Freeze butter and it’ll stay fresh for around eight months.

Yogurt. Eat yogurt no longer than a week after its sell-by date. In the freezer, yogurt stays fresh for up to two months.

Buttermilk. A container of buttermilk will remain safe for two weeks in a fridge and three months in a freezer.

Eggs. Raw, shelled eggs are safe to eat for up to five weeks in a refrigerator. You can freeze cracked raw eggs for up to one year.

Block Cheese. Chunks of cheddar and Swiss can be stored in refrigerators for six months and in freezers for seven. Fontina and Colby are only good for up to two months in the fridge and three in the freezer.

Crumbled Blue Cheese. You shouldn’t freeze this type of cheese, and you shouldn’t eat it after it’s been stored in the fridge for more than a week.

Cream Cheese. Freeze this kind of cheese and it’s good for two months. Refrigerate it and it’ll stay safe for one month.

Sour Cream. This dairy product is good for two weeks after its sell-by date, or for two weeks after it’s been opened.

Cottage Cheese. Don’t eat cottage cheese if it’s still in the fridge a week after the sell-by date, or if it’s been in the freezer for more than three months.

Dairy products, especially things like milk and cream cheese, do better in colder temperatures. To protect them from refrigerator mold and to prevent spoilage, place them on a middle shelf and not inside the fridge door. Keep in mind also that the freezer times we mentioned are mostly for quality purposes – any of these items will remain safe if thoroughly frozen, but they might not be very tasty once they’ve been frozen for too long.

Food Safety at Home: Meat and Fish


Both uncooked and cooked meats can be very dangerous if they’re not properly stored and prepared. These food items may harbor salmonella, E.coli and other bacteria and viruses. They can also act like magnets for refrigerator mold when they begin to spoil. To make sure you don’t ingest meats that have passed the point of no return, follow these guidelines.

Bacon. Unopened packages of bacon are safe to eat up to one week after their use-by dates. Otherwise, bacon is safe for about a week after the package is opened.

kielbasa bologna sausage processed meatChicken. Raw chicken is only safe for two days in a fridge. Cooked chicken is good for three to four days.

Pork. Whether it’s cooked or uncooked, you shouldn’t eat pork that’s been in the fridge for more than four days.

Beef. Brisket, ribs, steak and other types of beef will stay safe for three to five days, whether they’re cooked or raw.

Lunch Meat. Most types of lunch meat remain fresh for up to five days.

Fish. Raw fish isn’t safe to use if it’s been in the refrigerator for more than two days. If cooked, it remains fresh for four.

Shellfish. Raw shrimp, crab and lobster will be safe to eat for two days when kept in your fridge. They’re safe for four days when they’re cooked.

 Did you know you can keep a live lobster in your fridge for up to two days? It’s true – just put him in a pot and cover him with a damp cloth. Don’t try storing live versions of any of these other meats in your fridge, though. It doesn’t work nearly as well.

Food Safety at Home: Produce           


When their time is up, apples turn brown, bananas bruise, lettuce wilts and oranges develop a thick coat of fuzzy refrigerator mold. Generally, we rely on our senses to observe these things and tell us when a piece of produce has turned toxic. But don’t be so quick to judge a fruit or veggie by its appearance. Follow these rules just to be safe.

refrigerator full of fruits and vaggiesFruit Salad. A bowl of chopped melons, strawberries and pineapple looks pretty tempting, but if your fruit salad has been chilling in the fridge for more than a week, it’s time to toss it.

Lettuce. Lettuce will begin to wilt and look wet after three or four days. When this happens, it’s no longer safe to eat.

Apple: In the pantry or on the kitchen table, an apple will stay fresh for one to three days. In the refrigerator, it’ll remain fresh for three to four weeks.

Banana. Bananas are safe to eat for five days when placed on the kitchen table. When stored in the fridge, they’ll be good for up to a week.

Pickles. Pickles and other pickled produce fare far better than raw fruits and veggies. An opened jar of pickles stays good for a year in the fridge. An unopened jar stays good for up to two years in the pantry.

Carrots: To store carrots longer, keep them unskinned and in the fridge. They’ll last for three to four weeks

Onions: Onions are hardy little bulbs. They can spend up to three months in your fridge or pantry and still be safe to eat.

To give your produce a better chance, only wash it when you’re ready to eat it, because that added moisture will attract refrigerator mold much faster. Keep lettuce and fruit salad in sealed fridge containers, but let other fruits and vegetables breathe. To make sure the air they’re breathing isn’t full of nasty bacteria or mold spores, place The Ozonator in your fridge. Our fridge air purifier will neutralize harmful bacteria and refrigerator mold, making it much easier for you to prevent food spoilage.

Did this guide teach you something about food safety at home? If so, feel free to print it out and hang it on your refrigerator – chances are there are more people in your household who could use a quick tutorial on how to be sure the food they’re eating is fresh and safe. And if you think some other people in your life might be just as mystified by expiration dates and food spoilage as you were before reading this guide, post the link on your Facebook wall or Twitter account to spread the word. Remember, friends don’t let friend chow down on refrigerator mold!