You know when the food in your fridge has turned: The lettuce is more brown than green. Milk has an unmistakably sour smell.
But what about other items you store at home?
You could just check the item's label.
But when was the last time your bananas, peaches, or avocados came with an expiration date?
And items that do come with a label, often seem to need a special decoder to understand the label's number stamps and date stamps.
Even if you can easily understand a label, what happens after you cook an item? Open the can? Take it out of the pantry or freezer? Are the safe-to-use-by guidelines still good?
Since it's hard to know based on
labels (if an item has one), this safety guideline for commonly used
items in our homes can help you decide what's safe - and what's not.
1. Pantry items.
- Condiments: Unopened (on shelf): 2 months to 1 year; opened (in fridge): 1 to 6 months.
- Flour, all purpose: Unopened (on shelf): 6 to 8 months.
- Jams, jellies, preserves: Unopened (on shelf): 1 year; opened (in fridge) 6 months.
- Pasta, dried: Unopened (on shelf): 2 years.
- Rice, white or wild: Unopened (on shelf): 18 months to 2 years; opened (in fridge): 1 year (uncooked).
- Soda and carbonated water: Unopened (on shelf): 3 to 9 months; opened (in fridge): 2 to 3 days.
- Tuna: Unopened (on shelf): 3 years; opened (in fridge): 2 to 4 days.
- Apples: On shelf: 1 to 2 days; in fridge: 3 weeks.
- Baking potatoes: On shelf: 2 to 3 months.
- Bananas: On shelf until ripe; in fridge: 2 days.
- Cheese (mozzarella or cheddar): 3 to 6 months (unopened).
- Onions: 3 weeks to 1 month on shelf; 2 months in fridge.
- Raisins: 9 months on shelf; 18 months in fridge.
- Breads: 2 months in freezer.
- Butter: 9 months in freezer; 1 week in fridge after thawing.
- Chicken: 6 months in freezer; 1 day in fridge after thawing.
- Fish and shellfish: 3 months in freezer; 1 to 2 days in fridge after thawing.
- French fries: 6 months in freezer; 1 day in fridge after thawing.
- Ground beef: 2 to 3 months in freezer; 1 to 2 days in fridge after thawing.
- Ice cream: 8 months in freezer.
- Vegetables: 8 months in freezer; 3 to 4 days in fridge after thawing.
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.