Rae Bates

How Long Can I Keep …

We’ve all done it. We buy something expecting to use it right away, but we don’t. Now you’ve got that [whatever] sitting there, and you wonder if it’s still good.

First, know your numbers. Few foods have an actual expiration date—a date after which a food is unsafe to eat. More common are “sell by” and “best if used by” dates. Sell by dates are for stores. Generally speaking, they are not legally allowed to sell a product after this date. It doesn’t mean it’s not safe, but it may be nearing the end of the time when it will taste its best.

This is also true of the best if used by date. After that date the flavor and/or texture may deteriorate. Of course, you should always discard any food that has an off scent or color.

Here are some general guidelines for how soon you should use up certain foods to make sure they are still good:

Eggs should be eaten within five weeks of purchase. Once they’re boiled, they will last another week in the fridge.

Beef, pork, or chicken can be kept 3-5 days refrigerated if they are in large pieces. Ground meat and poultry should be used within 1-2 days. Once cooked, meat and poultry will be fine Rae of Sunshine logofor 3-4 days.

Your dairy foods (milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc.) will keep well for a week or two. Hard and semi-hard cheeses (cheddar, parmesan, Colby, etc.) can be kept for about a month. Wrap your cheeses in wax paper and then foil to keep them at their best.

Foods from the baking aisle such as flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and such, will last for months, but they can go bad. Check them every so often to make sure they still look and smell fresh.

Condiments are tricky. Some, like hot sauce, can last seemingly forever. Mayonnaise, on the other hand, will go icky after just a couple of weeks. The best thing to do is make a habit of checking on your condiments regularly. I try to make a sweep of the condiment area of my fridge every couple of months. Anything that looks like it’s changed at all gets pitched.

May your week ahead be filled with sunshine.


Rea Bates is an independent Consultant with the Pampered Chef. You can see her Facebook Page by clicking HERE. Her column appears each Sunday in Peru Indiana Today.