Like many of you, I’ve started some spring cleaning projects around the house. I’m currently working on culling a stack of magazines, but there’s another area that my dad thinks I really need to address. That’s the freezer, where I’ve got some frozen foods that have been there for quite a while. (The other reason to address this situation is because Dad likes to have room available in the freezer for when he finds good deals on meat, chicken and fish in the weekly grocery ads.)
So in preparation for that task, I thought I’d learn about – and share with you – the recommendations for how long different foods will last in the refrigerator and the freezer. These recommendations, which come from FoodSafety.org (which provides food safety information that has been developed by governmental agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), are based on refrigeration of foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below or freezing foods at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
The recommendations are:
- Salads – Food Safety.gov recommends that egg, chicken, ham, tuna and macaroni salads be stored no more than 3-5 days in the refrigerator; these salads do not freeze well.
- Hot dogs – Opened packages of hot dogs can last one week in the refrigerator and 1-2 months in the freezer. Unopened packages can last two weeks in the refrigerator and up to two months in the freezer.
- Luncheon meats – Opened packages or deli sliced can last up to five days in the refrigerator and 1-2 months in the freezer. An unopened package can last two weeks in the refrigerator and up to two months in the freezer.
- Bacon - This cured meat can last seven days in a freezer and one month in a freezer.
- Sausage made from chicken, turkey, pork and beef – Raw sausage can last 1-2 days in a refrigerator and up to two months in a freezer.
- Ground meats (hamburger as well as meats that have been ground, including beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb or a mixture) – These meats are good for up to two days in a refrigerator and up to four months in a freezer.
- Steaks (beef, veal, lamb and pork) – These can last up to five days in the refrigerator and between 6-12 months in the freezer.
- Chops (beef, veal, lamb and pork) – These meats also can last up to five days in the refrigerator and from 4-6 months in the freezer.
- Roasts (beef, veal, lamb and pork) – Roasts also can last up to five days in the refrigerator and between 4-12 months in the freezer.
- Poultry – Whole chickens or turkeys can be refrigerated for 1-2 days; they’ll also last for a whole year if frozen. But if you’re like me and often buy pieces, know that they’ll last two days in the refrigerator and up to nine months in the freezer.
- Soups and stews – These concoctions of vegetables and or meats can keep between 3-4 days in the refrigerator. If you want to freeze them, know that you need to eat them within 2-3 months.
- Leftovers – Cooked meats or poultry are good for up to four days in the refrigerator, but will last between 2-6 months in the freezer. Chicken nuggets or patties also are good for 3-4 days in the refrigerator; however, their freezer life is only between 1-3 months. And leftover pizza will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to two months in the freezer.
- Eggs – First, let’s talk about refrigeration. Raw eggs in a shell can be refrigerated for 3-5 weeks. Raw egg whites and raw egg yolks will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Hard-cooked eggs will last in the refrigerator for one week. Unopened egg substitutes will keep for 10 days in the refrigerator; however, once opened, the shelf life of these substitutes drops to three days. Previously frozen egg substitutes will last for seven days (or until the “use by” date) in the refrigerator after thawing if unopened; if opened, reduce that timeframe to three days (or the “use-by” date). Casseroles that have eggs in them will last up to four days in the refrigerator. Eggnog’s longevity depends on the source; commercial eggnog will last up to five days whereas homemade eggnog should be consumed within four days. Pies – including pumpkin, pecan, custard, chiffon and quiche with filling) can last up to four days in the refrigerator. Now, let’s look at freezing options for eggs. FoodSafety.gov recommends that hard-cooked eggs, opened egg substitutes, opened egg substitutes that have previously been frozen, homemade eggnog and custard and chiffon pies should not be frozen. Raw egg whites can be frozen for a year; if you want to freeze yolks and eggs, you need to beat them together and then freeze. Yolks alone, however, do not freeze well. Raw eggs that have accidentally been frozen in the shell should be kept in the freezer and then refrigerated to allow them to thaw. Unopened egg substitutes – whether liquid or frozen – can keep in the freezer for 12 months. Baked casseroles with eggs will last between 2-3 months in the freezer. Commercial eggnog will last six months in the freezer while baked pumpkin or pecan pies or quiches with filling will keep two months if frozen.
Based on learning this information, my plan -- after cleaning out the freezer -- of is to start a system in which I identify the date of freezing and the date when I ultimately need to use it. That way, we will know that we can safely enjoy the foods that are in the freezer at a later date.