How Long to Refrigerate Leftovers
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Here's How Long 53 Leftovers Will Last in the Fridge

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How Long to Refrigerate Leftovers
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PERISH THE THOUGHT

What's the use of putting perishable food in the refrigerator if you're just going to let it perish? Even the best of us have turned the far corners of our refrigerators into food graveyards by losing track of food or ignoring its expiration date. While leftovers have a finite shelf life as it is, even refrigeration only delays the inevitable. With help from the Food and Drug Administration's food-contaminant guidelines and FoodKeeper app, here are 30 leftover you should keep an eye on once you've placed the in the fridge.

Soups and Stews
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SOUPS AND STEWS


Time: 3 to 4 days
It doesn't matter if there's a meat or vegetable involved: Leftover soup won't last all that long in a refrigerator. However, making soup or stew with leftovers and then freezing it for 2 to 3 months is a great way to preserve them.

Red Wine
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RED WINE


Time: 1 to 3 days
No, you don't typically chill red wines, but refrigerating an opened bottle isn't "chilling" it. You're slowing down the oxidation and preserving the flavor of the wine that remains, and Wine Enthusiast thinks that's a fine approach.

White Wine
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WHITE WINE


Time: 1 to 3 days
Hey, if you're chilling your white wine anyway, you may as well keep it in the refrigerator once you've opened it.

Hot Sauce
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HOT SAUCE


Time: More than 6 months
As the folks at Heat Hot Sauce Shop note, if you don't think you're going to finish hot sauce in a couple of weeks, stick it in the fridge. It'll slow oxidation and preserve color and flavor.

Barbecue Sauce
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BARBECUE SAUCE


Time: 4 months if opened
Barbecue folks argue that the amount of vinegar in some sauces should help it keep without refrigeration. However, the folks behind Sweet Baby Ray's don't want you keeping their sauce at all after 4 months. The FDA agrees.

Ketchup, Cocktail or Chili Sauce
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KETCHUP, COCKTAIL OR CHILI SAUCE


Time: 6 months if opened
Yep, we're going into your condiment shelf. All of the above are acidic enough to last if they're left out on your table for a month, but if you don't think you're going to go through it in that time, stick it in the fridge.

Mustard
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MUSTARD


Time: 1 year if opened
Mustard holds up better than almost any condiment and doesn't really contain ingredients that will spoil. However, even French's warns that mustard eventually loses its tang if it just sits around.

Soy or Teriyaki Sauce
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SOY OR TERIYAKI SAUCE


Time: 1 month if opened
You'd think that salt bombs like these wouldn't need refrigeration, and there are plenty of folks who agree with you. This writer keeps his in the pantry and notices no change, but those with attuned palates note that refrigeration preserves the flavor of a freshly opened bottle.

Pickles
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PICKLES


Time: 1 to 3 months if opened
Unless you're actually buying pickles out of pickle barrels, you're eating commercially made pickles without all that much brine to them. The vinegar and salt that makes pickling so adept at food preservation shouldn't be relied upon with store-bought products.

Mayonnaise
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MAYONNAISE


Time: 2 months if opened
Mayonnaise isn't the sun-stricken egg-and-oil disaster that it once was, but that doesn't mean it won't degrade if you just leave it out on the table. The data-tracking NPD Group noted its emergence on restaurant table tops, but keep it cool if you aren't going to go through it quickly.

Salsa
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SALSA


Time: 1 month if opened
We're talking about jars of salsa packed with preservatives. If it's your homemade salsa or a plastic-packaged salsa from the local market, expect to cut that life expectancy in half or less as your salsa gets fuzzy and acidic.

Guacamole
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GUACAMOLE


Time: 3 to 4 days
Guacamole is another item that will let you know its time in the fridge is up. It gets brown on the surface or forms pools of brown liquid that seep beneath the surface. Epicurious has some suggestions for keeping it fresh, but the FDA says your best bet is to keep it frozen for up to 3 to 4 months.

Spaghetti Sauce
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SPAGHETTI SAUCE


Time: 4 days if opened
Once you've opened spaghetti sauce, you've started the clock ticking on one of the most fragile leftovers in the fridge. Despite the jars and slick labeling, pasta sauces have just about no preservatives in them. Instead of letting it grow a mold hairdo, Barilla suggests moving leftover sauce to a freezer-safe container and freezing it for 3 months.

Cooked Pasta
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COOKED PASTA


Time: 3 to 5 days
Sometimes, you aren't going to finish a whole pot of linguine or have the stomach to work on it for the rest of the week. The FDA says you're good if you throw it in the freezer for 1 to 2 months, but Better Homes and Gardens suggests limiting freezing to 2 weeks for best results.

Cooked Rice, Vegetables or Potatoes
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COOKED RICE, VEGETABLES OR POTATOES


Time: 3 to 4 days
This is the FDA's blanket advice for cooked items without meat. They won't last a week in the fridge, but they can last 1 to 2 months if frozen.

Pizza
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PIZZA


Time: 3 to 4 days
We put this in here just to assure you that the cold pizza from Friday night is a perfectly acceptable Sunday brunch in the FDA's view. It'll last 1 to 2 months if frozen, though.

Lemon Juice
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LEMON OR LIME JUICE


Time: 2 months
Lemon juice will live forever in any corner of your house because of its high acidity. However, once you open a bottle of it, it can spoil and go south within hours unless you refrigerate it. The same rules apply to lime juice.

Orange Juice in Cartons
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ORANGE JUICE IN CARTONS


Time: 7 to 10 days; 8 to 12 months frozen
Tropicana wants to sell you a whole lot of orange juice. That said, it also wants you to enjoy the orange juice you buy, and therefore suggests refrigerating its carton products and further suggests not leaving it unrefrigerated for more than 3 hours.

Fruit Punch/Juice in Cartons
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FRUIT PUNCH/JUICE IN CARTONS


Time: 8 to 12 days
Not every fruit punch or juice needs refrigeration, according to the FDA app. Some can be kept in the pantry for 3 weeks before opening and even 7 to 12 days after opening, and 8 to 12 days if refrigerated. Consumers should check the container labels for "Refrigerate After Opening" or "Keep Refrigerated" to know which products need to be refrigerated.

Butter
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BUTTER


Time: 1 to 2 months
Foodies say don't refrigerate butter because it hardens it, deadens the flavor, and because the Europeans don't do it that way. Plus, it's mostly fat, pasteurized milk and, in most cases, salt. That said, if you leave out more butter than you can reasonably use in a week, it still runs the risk of contamination. Leave out what you'll use, but know that it can freeze for 6 to 9 months.

Hard Cheeses
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HARD CHEESES


Time: 6 months sealed, 3 to 4 weeks opened
Does it need to be refrigerated? No, they'll actually travel well without refrigeration and will freeze for 6 to 9 months. But they'll last longer if refrigerated, so your timetable for devouring the cheese will determine just how long it requires refrigeration.

Shredded Cheese
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SHREDDED CHEESE


Time: 1 month; freeze for 3 to 4 months
Pasteurization and salt again come into play here and provide for a lengthy life in the fridge. This FDA guideline applies to mozzarella, cheddar, and other shredded cheeses.

Soft Cheese
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SOFT CHEESE


Time: 1 to 2 weeks
Folks who love brie and camembert know that they'll get maybe a week in the fridge before they start to grey and get a distinct whiff of ammonia. Cream cheese, meanwhile, will sprout all sorts of lovely mold if it isn't used within a week or so. If you won't get to use either for a while, the FDA says they'll freeze for 6 months.

Yogurt
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YOGURT


Time: 1 to 2 weeks
Unless you're using a tub of it, yogurt is typically kept in small servings that you shouldn't have to keep as leftovers. Once you open a small yogurt, though, Stonyfield Farm notes you have about 1 day to eat it even if refrigerated. That jumps to about a week if it's a large tub. If you need to keep yogurt longer, don't open it. Instead freeze it for 1 to 2 months.

Fresh Eggs
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FRESH EGGS


Time: 3 to 5 weeks
Some NPR listener will tell you that the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that refrigerate eggs. Then again, most countries vaccinate their chickens against salmonella and don't wash a protective cuticle that would otherwise ward off bacteria. Meanwhile, this is one of the few foods that will keep in your fridge for more than a month.

Egg Yolks or Whites
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EGG YOLKS OR WHITES


Time: 2 to 4 days
The Canadians suggest placing both in an airtight container for later use. However, the FDA notes that the best solution for long-term storage is either to beat yolks and whites together to freeze them or ditching the yolks, which don't freeze well, and freezing the whites.

Cooked Eggs
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COOKED EGGS


Time: 3 to 4 days
We aren't talking about hard-cooked eggs, which get about a week in the fridge and don't freeze. Here, we mean egg dishes like casseroles or quiches. Those same dishes will last up to 3 months frozen.

Opened Liquid Eggs/Egg Substitute
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OPENED LIQUID EGGS/EGG SUBSTITUTE


Time: 3 days
Unopened, egg substitute can last 10 days, or freeze for up to a year. Once opened, however, that clock ticks down quickly and the carton can't be refrozen.

Egg, Chicken, Tuna, Ham, or Macaroni Salads
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EGG, CHICKEN, TUNA, HAM, OR MACARONI SALADS


Time: 3 to 5 days
Leaving any of the above out for more than 2 hours in hot weather is courting food poisoning. However, if you handle any of the above well and refrigerate right after serving, you should be fine.

Milk
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MILK


Time: 7 to 10 days
While there are several techniques used in other countries and still in development here that can extend the life of milk, common pasteurized milk is good for about a week. That extends to 3 months if that same milk is frozen.

Pre-Stuffed Pork & Lamb Chops, Chicken Breasts
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PRE-STUFFED PORK & LAMB CHOPS, CHICKEN BREASTS


Time: 1 day
If you have a meal of pre-stuffed meat that was prepared at the store, you'd best eat the rest for lunch the next day. The FDA says it's about the least-stable refrigerated leftover you can have.

Store-Cooked Meals
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STORE-COOKED MEALS


Time: 3 to 4 days
Just about any take-home meal you buy from a supermarket deli counter falls into this category. Approach those sandwiches with caution.

Raw Hamburger
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RAW HAMBURGER


Time: 1 to 2 days
If you're using raw hamburger to make a meal and have some left over, don't stick it in the fridge unless you plan to use it the next day. As the FDA notes, you're better off putting it in the freezer, where it will last for 3 to 4 months.

Ground Turkey, Veal, Pork, or Lamb
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GROUND TURKEY, VEAL, PORK, OR LAMB


Time: 1 to 2 days
The type of animal doesn't matter: Ground meat keeps best when you freeze it. These get the same 3 to 4 months as raw hamburger.

Fruit-Glazed Ham
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COOKED HAM


Time: 7 days whole, 3 to 5 days half or sliced
You could turn that into nearly a week of ham sandwiches, or the FDA notes that you can freeze any of the above for 1 to 2 months and take it out as you make ham omelets, pea soup with ham, etc.

Hot Dogs
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HOT DOGS


Time: 1 week open, 2 weeks unopened
Around summer, the mostly used pack of hot dogs is ubiquitous. If you've kept it out at room temperature for a few hours during a barbecue, that life expectancy should be far less. Keep a cooler by the grill and freeze what you don't use for 1 to 2 months.

Lunch Meats
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LUNCH MEATS


Time: 3 to 5 days open, 2 weeks unopened
The more pedantic eaters will point out that cured or smoked meats will last much longer, but typically fresh deli meats and packaged lunch meats have a week at most, according to the FDA. However, they can be frozen for 1 to 2 months.

Bacon
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BACON


Time: 7 days
We applaud the Department of Agriculture for its in-depth rundown on bacon and for going into just about every possible bacon-storage scenario. Bacon in the package will last a week in the fridge and up to a month in the freezer, but leftover cooked bacon has about 4 to 5 days and can be frozen for a month.

Sausage
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SAUSAGE


Time: 1 to 2 days raw, 7 days smoked
Much like the hot dog, the half-used pack of sausages makes regular appearances during the summer. Given its meager life expectancy in the fridge, however, the FDA suggests keeping in the freezer (where it can remain for 1 to 2 months) until it is eventually used.

Fresh Steak
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FRESH STEAK


Time: 3 to 5 days
Steak has remarkable staying power if you have to put off a steak night for a while. If you see it on sale, meanwhile, pick up a bunch of it: Whatever you don't use immediately can freeze for 6 to 12 months.

Roasts
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ROASTS


Time: 3 to 5 days
There is a reason why Depression-era grandparents alway bought a roast when they could get a deal on one. It keeps for the better part of a week and can freeze for 4 to 12 months.

Fresh Chicken or Turkey
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FRESH CHICKEN OR TURKEY


Time: 1 to 2 days
Don't make fun of the people at the supermarket who save receipts and collect their bonus turkeys each year. They may only last a day or two in the fridge, but they can freeze for a year whole or 9 to 12 months in parts. Just remember to toss the giblets, which will only freeze for 3 to 4 months.

Cooked Meat Dishes
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COOKED MEAT DISHES


Time: 3 to 4 days
Once again, this is just the FDA offering a rule of thumb. If you've cooked more of any meat product than you can eat, either make sure the remaining portion is something you can eat in less than a week or freeze the rest for up to 2 to 3 months.

Gravy and Meat Broth
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GRAVY AND MEAT BROTH


Time: 1 to 2 days
Just a reminder to all of you holiday chefs that leftover gravy or broth really shouldn't make it to the next holiday. If there's too much to finish within the next day or so, freezing it will buy you only 2 to 3 months of peak flavor and consistency.

Fried Chicken
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FRIED CHICKEN


Time: 3 to 5 days
It's possible to reheat fried chicken to its former glory, so don't think twice about leaving it in the fridge for a few days. In fact, the FDA says you can freeze it for 4 months if you feel like cooking up a batch in advance.

Chicken Nuggets
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CHICKEN NUGGETS


Time: 3 to 5 days
Most chicken dishes will keep in the fridge for this amount of time, according to the FDA. However, anyone who's bought a bag of pre-cooked frozen nuggets knows that they have no problem keeping in the fridge for 1 to 3 months.

Plain Cooked Chicken Pieces
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PLAIN COOKED CHICKEN PIECES


Time: 3 to 4 days
The lack of breading cuts roughy a day's worth of fridge life off of chicken, according to the FDA, but you can still freeze it for 4 months.

Cooked Chicken Pieces in Broth or Sauce
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COOKED CHICKEN PIECES IN BROTH OR SAUCE


Time: 3 to 4 days
The broth and sauce won't get your leftovers into next week, but they'll help them freeze for up to 6 months.

Cooked Fish
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COOKED FISH


Time: 3 to 4 days
Fish isn't something the FDA wants you to take chances with, so stick with that 3 to 4 day window. However, if there's too much left over for you to handle, even cooked fish can freeze for 4 to 6 months.

Smoked Fish
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SMOKED FISH


Time: 14 days
Did that smoked salmon, sturgeon, sable, and lox platter from Barney Greengrass not go over as well at the company meeting as you thought it would? Forget it: You can pack it up and put it in your fridge for 2 weeks. Smoked fish was made to keep, and it'll last up to a year if you freeze it, says the FDA.

Fresh Shrimp, Scallops, Crawfish, Squid
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FRESH SHRIMP, SCALLOPS, CRAWFISH, SQUID


Time: 1 to 2 days
Now we're getting into the fish and seafood that you don't want to have sitting around for too long. Any of the above probably should be finished up by lunch the next day (hey, it won't stink up the office like microwaved fish), but you could freeze larger quantities for 4 to 6 months.

Lean Fish
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LEAN FISH


Time: 1 to 2 days
Pike, snapper, cod, porgy ... they aren't as fatty as salmon, trout, or herring, but they have their own endearing qualities. Chief among them is the ability to keep after freezing for 6 to 8 months.

Fatty Fish
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FATTY FISH


Time: 1 to 2 days; freeze for 2 to 3 months
The upside is that these are the delicious fish filed with the good fats and oils that health professionals love. The downside? They'll only maintain flavor after freezing for about 2 to 3 months, so try not to leave too many leftovers.