A Guide To Shelf Life Of Foods In Your Fridge

Refrigerators help in preserving every foodstuff you have in your kitchen. From leftovers to fruits, vegetables, meat, etc., the fridge is the only powerful appliance that can help in keeping your food fresh up to a specific period. But every food type has its shelf life post which even if the food is stored in the fridge; it won't sustain, and if consumed, can be dangerous to your health.

To make the most out of the food consumed every day, every consumer needs to have proper knowledge about the shelf life of different food products. This article will help you better understand the shelf life of various common foodstuffs and how you can preserve them effectively for later consumption.

Difference between Expiry Date and Shelf Life of Food Products

Every packaged food product usually has a 'best before’ label listed by the manufacturer of the food. This date refers to how long the food will keep its flavor and its nutritional value as long as it is not opened. This ‘best before’ date is known as the expiry date of a packaged food product. Dairy and meat products typically have a 'use by date' since they are highly perishable.

The shelf life of every food depends upon its type, and the period it can be stored for without becoming unfit for consumption once it is unsealed. For example, the shelf life of a sealed packet of buttermilk is typically six months. However, once the buttermilk packet is opened even though you might store it in the refrigerator, it has to be consumed within two days or else it can become unfit for consumption.

Factors that Determine the Shelf Life of Food
  • Growth of Microorganisms

  • Loss or Gain of Food Moisture

  • Selection of Packaging Material

  • Biochemical Changes in Food Due to Exposure to Different Temperatures

Listed below is an in-depth insight into the shelf life of different food products so that you can consume them with all safety.

  • Milk: The shelf life of whole milk is about a week after the store expiration date. Skimmed milk or non-dairy milk, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf life.

  • Butter: If stored properly, it can last in your fridge for about one to three months. Margarine, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf life and can last only up to a week once opened.

  • Cheese: Cottage, Ricotta or Cream cheese needs to be wrapped up in a foil or re-sealable bag after opening it and should be consumed within one or two weeks.

    Hard cheese like Parmesan if unopened can be stored in your fridge for up to four months. However, once opened, it has to be consumed in three to six weeks before it is time to toss it out.

    Sealed semi-hard cheese like Cheddar can last in your fridge for up to two months. The shelf life shortens once it is opened and can last up to three or four weeks. It is best to wrap all cheese in foil or plastic wrap after opening. Depending on its variety, cheese lasts in the refrigerator for several weeks to months.

  • Ice cream or Frozen Yogurt: It is the go-to instant midnight dessert. Once you open it, it is better to consume the item within two weeks. You can freeze the unopened containers for up to two months.

    For plain yoghurt, it is advisable to follow the expiration date on the package.

  • Heavy cream, Light cream or Sour cream: Heavy or light cream should be used within a week of purchase. Like with all dairy products, buy sour cream product with the latest expiration date. Sour cream can last up to about two weeks in fridge.

Shelf Life of Poultry and Meat Products
  • Eggs: Fresh eggs can last in your fridge for up to one month. Hard-boiled eggs, on the other hand, if stored in your fridge can only last up to a week.

  • Meat Products: They are highly perishable food products, and therefore you need to be careful while storing them in any form. Depending upon the type of meat, you can save it in the


    section to make it last anywhere between one month to a year.

    The shelf life of raw meat like beef, lamb, steak and fresh poultry meat in the fridge is between 2-3 days if unwrapped. Wrapped fresh meat if stored in the freezer can last up to a maximum of six months. Pre-packaged ham, sausages and salami can last up to two weeks if unopened. However, once opened, it is best that you consume cold cuts within three-four days.

  • Fish Products: Fresh fish and shellfish if not stored correctly, are highly susceptible to microbial activity. Raw fish, prawns, crabs and oysters if stored in the freezer can last up to six months. However, the shelf life of them if stored in the refrigerator is between two to three days.

    It is always best to refrigerate cooked leftover meat within two hours of cooking and consume it within two days.

Shelf Life of Fruits and Vegetables
  • Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our daily diet. They should be stored separately to enhance their lifespan.

  • Pre-packaged frozen fruits and vegetables can easily last in your fridge for up to twelve months.

  • Apple releases gas that can turn other fruits and vegetable brown. It is therefore; best to store them in the fridge in separate containers.

  • Potatoes and onions should not be stored together as they too release gases which can lead to rapid decay.

  • Always store vegetables in well-ventilated plastic bags to promote air circulation.

  • Store all citrus fruits away from other fruits and vegetables and refrigerate them in separate plastic containers.

  • Wrapping up tomatoes in paper and then storing them in the fridge is the best way to keep them fresh for an extended period.

Shelf Life of Canned or Bottled Products
  • Most canned or bottled food products come with a minimum expiration date of six months, and some can even last up to two years if stored in the required conditions. Foods that are highly acidic and are not stored in a liquid have a shorter shelf life.

  • The shelf life of soft drinks or beverages inside or outside a refrigerator is a maximum of six months. Bottled fruit juice, on the other hand, has a shelf life of one or two weeks.

  • Bottled salad dressings or sauce can last in your fridge for up to four to five months. Freezing the sauces is not recommended. Homemade salad dressings or sauce if appropriately refrigerated can last up to a week.

Shelf Life of Grains/Staple Products
  • The shelf life of raw grains varies vastly as compared to the products made out of them. For example, uncooked rice can be stored for up to a year. However, cooked rice can last in the fridge for a maximum of six days.

  • Raw brown rice has natural oils in it and therefore has a shorter shelf life of six months as compared to raw white rice.

  • It is not recommended to store bread in the refrigerator. As much as possible, one must avoid refrigerating bread. However, if required it can last in the freezer for approximately three months.

  • The shelf life of cakes, cookies, and muffins in a fridge is up to a week. However, if they are stored in the freezer, they can last up to three months.

Shelf Life of Grains/Staple Products
  • As a common rule, oily and fatty products should not be frozen. Due to the absence of water in oily and fatty products, their shelf life is higher as compared to non-oily food products.

  • Vegetable oil, olive oil, or salad oil does not need to be refrigerated. If opened their shelf life is usually between one to three months.

  • Milk or dark chocolate should be refrigerated only if necessary. If opened, they can easily be stored at room temperature for up to a year.

  • An unsealed bottle of peanut butter can last in your fridge for up to six months. However, if stored at room temperature, it can last up to three months.

Consuming food past its expiry or shelf life can be dangerous to your health and may lead to food poisoning. We believe with the help of this guide to shelf life of different food products in your fridge, you can now consume and store your food products in a more effective way. You will remain healthy and won’t have to waste food anymore.