Food
Storage
Directory

This directory is filled with specific info about your favorite foods. You’ll learn how to store them, freeze them, and keep them at their best longer. You’ll also find helpful tips about safety and ways to revive food. As you read, please keep a few things in mind. First up, the time frames are only estimates (If you can’t use a food in that time frame, you can probably freeze it). Second, the best way to store food depends on how quickly you’ll use it. Finally, always trust your judgment. Knowing how long food lasts is an imperfect science, though we’ve pulled information from the best resources. Of course, buying less food more frequently is the best way to keep your food fresh and nutritious. Let’s do this.

Meat, Poultry & Seafood

bacon

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, 7 days; dry-cured, 4 to 6 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen, up to 3 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Original packaging or inside a zip-top plastic bag with air removed.

FREEZING: Unopened—Overwrap store package with heavy-duty foil. Opened—Layer slices between wax or parchment paper, and then wrap tightly a few times with the paper; store in a sealed zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Bacon s’mores, bacon cookies, bacon bits, bacon-wrapped vegetables, bacon cupcakes . . .

Store bacon grease in a covered container in the refrigerator and, when the mood strikes, use it in cooking. Try rubbing bacon fat onto cleaned russet potatoes before baking; meanwhile, sauté some red onions in bacon fat, then top the potatoes with the onions and crumble on some cooked bacon if you’ve got it.

canned fish

REFRIGERATE IT: Once opened

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 3 years; opened, 3 to 4 days; frozen, up to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Unopened—Cool, dry place. Opened—Covered in an airtight container (not the original can) in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Remove from the can and place in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Feed small amounts to your dog or cat.

Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted.

Make a tuna melt or a tuna casserole.

canned meat

REFRIGERATE IT: Once opened (unless label says to store refrigerated)

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 years; opened, 3 to 4 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Unopened—Cool, dry place.

Opened— Covered in an airtight container (not the original can) in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Remove from the can and place in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted.

Make a “Spamburger” with pineapple, add some Spam to your macaroni and cheese, make some Spam and kimchi fried rice . . .

deli meats

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 weeks; opened, 3 to 5 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store prepackaged meat in original packaging; for meat that is not prepackaged, keep in an airtight container in either the shallow meat drawer or the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Keep in original packaging or wrap tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap or freezer paper and then again in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Thaw in the refrigerator.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Deli meat can be eaten after the “sell by” date, but it’s not a good idea to eat it cold after the “use by” or “best by” date. If it is past that date and still smells and appears fine, cook it thoroughly before eating.

Cooked deli meat makes a great breakfast accompaniment for eggs. For some cuts, when a whole slice is cooked, it will form a cup shape that can then act as a “basket” for the eggs.

fresh fish

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh— Raw, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 3 to 4 days; frozen raw, 2 to 6 months (lean fish keeps longer); frozen cooked, 4 to 6 months Smoked—2 weeks; frozen, 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Remove from package, remove any guts, and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a cake rack set in a shallow pan for up to 24 hours; fill the pan with crushed ice if it will be stored more than 24 hours. Do not allow ice to come directly into contact with the fish. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil, seal tightly, and refrigerate. Each day, rinse the fish under cold water, clean the rack and pan, and change the ice. Smoked fish should be stored in an airtight container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Pat dry with paper towels. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing out all the air, then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Fish heads can be used to make fish soup or bouillabaisse. They’re also used in several Asian dishes, such as curries.

Fish tacos are a great way to use up leftover fish.

fresh meat

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Poultry, whole cuts—Raw, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 3 to 4 days; frozen raw, 9 to 12 months; frozen cooked, 3 to 4 months

Pork, whole cuts— Raw, 3 to 5 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen raw, 4 to 6 months; frozen cooked, 2 to 3 months

Beef, whole cuts— Raw, 3 to 5 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen raw, 6 to 12 months, depending on cut; frozen cooked, 2 to 3 months

Lamb, whole cuts— Raw, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen raw, 9 months; frozen cooked, 2 to 3 months

Ground meats— Fresh, 1 to 2 days; frozen, 3 to 4 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in airtight packaging (it’s best to leave it in the store packaging until first use). Place on a tray if there is a chance of dripping. The longer meat is left warmer than refrigerated temperatures, the more quickly it will spoil. Therefore, shop for it last and go directly home to put it away, if possible. Alternatively, keep a cooler in your car. Freeze unless you plan to use it within a couple of days. Poultry should not be rinsed before use. Cooked meat should be stored in airtight containers.

FREEZING: Divide meat into meal-size portions. If freezing for a short period, one layer of wrapping is sufficient. If freezing for longer than 2 months, wrap in a second layer to prevent freezer burn. The original packaging is often not moisture proof. It’s preferable to rewrap more tightly so that the meat is exposed to less air. If leaving in original packaging, overwrap tightly with heavy-duty foil or freezer paper, or place in a zip-top freezer bag and remove the air. If repackaging, separate portions with freezer paper, wrap again tightly in freezer paper, then place in an airtight container or a zip-top freezer bag with the air removed. An additional layer of heavy-duty foil before putting the wrapped meat in the container is optional and may help if it will be stored for a long period. Thaw in an ice-water bath, a microwave, or the refrigerator.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Portions with freezer burn are not harmful but may be dry and tasteless. If desired, cut out those areas and discard; the rest can be eaten.

Bones can be used to make stock or add flavor to beans.

hot dogs and precooked sausage

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 weeks; opened, 7 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in airtight packaging. (Even though they’re precooked, make sure to heat the sausages thoroughly before consuming.)

FREEZING: Unopened vacuum-packed packages can be stored directly in freezer; otherwise double-wrap tightly in freezer paper or plastic wrap.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Extra sausages are great in soups and chili.

sausage

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh—Uncooked, unopened, 1 to 2 days; open, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 3 to 4 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

Dry/cured— Unopened, 6 months in pantry or indefinitely in refrigerator; opened, 3 weeks in refrigerator; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in airtight packaging.

FREEZING: Wrap tightly in plastic, and then wrap in white freezer paper.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Combine cooked sausage with rice and spices to make a version of jambalaya, or make stuffed peppers with the mixture.

shellfish

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, 1 to 2 days; shucked, 2 days; cooked, 1 to 2 days; frozen, up to 4 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Live—Place in a bowl on the low shelf in the refrigerator and keep damp with a cloth, but do not allow to come into direct contact with ice or water (for live lobster and crab, store in moist packaging such as seaweed or damp paper towels). Do not store live shellfish in airtight containers or bags, since the animals can die from lack of oxygen. Do not store beneath raw meat, to avoid contamination.

Shrimp— Keep in their own containers or in a zip-top bag on a bed of ice in refrigerator. Do not allow ice to come in direct contact with the seafood. Eat as soon as possible.

FREEZING: Live oysters can be frozen live; just wash the shells and place in a plastic zip-top freezer bag. Alternatively, wash the oyster shells, and shuck into a strainer (save the liquor). Rinse to remove sand. Place oysters and liquor in a plastic container or zip-top freezer bag, leaving ½-in/12-mm headspace; seal; and freeze. Do not freeze dead oysters (with open shells). For shrimp, wash and drain, freeze raw with heads removed but shells still on. Package in zip-top freezer bags, leaving ¼-in/6-mm headspace; seal and freeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Do not eat shellfish such as oysters or mussels that have died before shucking (not even if you cook them).

Pulverize oyster shells with a hammer (best to boil the shells and let dry first), then sprinkle around the garden to deter slugs. Oyster shells can also be fed to chickens.

Crab pincers can double as little picks to get the leg meat out of the shell.