Skip Navigation
Child Nutrition
Main Content
Office of Child Nutrition logo

Safe Food Storage

Storing food correctly is important to ensure optimal taste and nutritional quality and avoid contamination or spoilage. When storing food, keep in mind the "use-by," "sell-by" and "best-by" dates (discussed previously in this section). Use this table as a guide for the length of time breads, dairy products, meats, fruits and vegetables can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Stay organized by labeling food items with the date they go into storage, whether on the pantry shelf, in the refrigerator or the freezer. By sticking to these guidelines, you can be sure that the food you serve is both safe and delicious.

Product Refrigerator
(35 - 40° F)
Freezer
(0° F)
Comments
BREADS, FLOURS
Breads, baked 2 - 3 weeks 2 - 3 months Store in refrigerator to prevent mold growth
Flour, white or whole wheat 6 - 8 months 12 months Keep in airtight container
DAIRY PRODUCTS
Cheese:
cottage, ricotta 5 - 7 days 1 month Freezing changes texture of soft cheeses.
cream cheese 2 weeks 1 month Becomes crumbly when frozen.
Natural aged cheese (cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, etc.) 2 - 3 months 6 - 8 months Natural cheeses can be frozen. Defrost in refigerator, cheese will be less likely to crumble. Use soon after thawing.
Margarine 3 months 12 months Overwrap in plastic freezer bag for frozen storage.
Milk, opened 3 - 5 days 1 -3 months Freezing effects milk's flavor and appearance. Best used for cooking after frozen.
Yogurt 1 month NR Yogurt will separate if frozen.
EGGS
Eggs, fresh yolks or whites 4 days 12 months To freeze, break eggs out of shell; stir until yould is well blended with white or other yolks.
Eggs in shell, fresh 3 weeks NR
FRUITS
Apples 1 - 3 weeks 8 - 12 months*
Apricots, cranberries 1 week 8 - 12 months*
Avacados 3 - 5 days 4 -6 months*
Bananas 1 -2 days, unpeeled 4 - 6 months* Peel, dip in lemon juice, and freeze; store in freezer bag.
Berries, cherries 1 - 2 days 8 - 12 months*
Grapes, peaches, pears, plums 3 - 5 days 8 - 12 months*
Canned fruits, opened 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months Texture will be softer after freezing. Refrigerate in glass or plastic to avoid metallic taste.
Citrus fruits 3 weeks 4 -6 months* Wrap cut surfaces to prevent loss of vitamin C.
Dried fruit 3 - 5 days 4 -6 months*
Juices: canned, bottled, frozen 1 week 12 months Transfer canned juice to glass or plastic container after opening.
Melons 1 week 8 - 12 months* Wrap cut surfaces to prevent vitamin C loss, control odors.
MEATS & POULTRY
Ground beef, pork, turkey, lamb 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months Keep packaged meats in original package. For best quality, use within one week of "sell-by" date.
Sausage: pork, beef, turkey 1 - 2 days 1 - 2 months
Chicken and turkey, whole 1 - 2 days 12 months
Chicken, pieces 1 - 2 days 9 months
Turkey, pieces 1 - 2 days 6 months
Bacon 5 -7 days 1 month
Deli meats 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months Storage time after vacuum-sealed package is opened. Unopened package may be kept two weeks or according to date on package.
VEGETABLES
Asparagus 2 - 3 days 8 - 12 months†
Beans, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers 1 week 8 - 12 months†
Corn, in husk 1 - 2 days 8 - 12 months†
Corn, without husk 1 - 2 days NR
Lettuce, salad greens 1 week NR Store in bag or lettuce keeper.
Mushrooms 1 -2 days 8 - 12 months† Do not wash before storage.
Onions 3 - 5 days NR
Tomatoes:
Open, canned 1 - 4 days 8 - 12 months†
fresh, ripe 5 - 6 days 8 - 12 months†
NR = Not recommended
*Freeze all fruits in moisture and vapor proof containers.
†Blanch fresh vegetables and freeze in moisture and vapor proof materials.