So how long can you store that leftover meatloaf anyway? Have you ever opened a container from your refrigerator and sniffed it to see if it was still edible? With the date codes printed on food items these days it’s easier to know how long an item can be shelved in your kitchen, but once the item is opened or cooked the expiration date and use by date may not be as important as when the item was first cooked or exposed to air.

The date codes on boxes, cans, and other packed foods are printed on the surface of the food packaging from high speed coding equipment such as the Matthews e-Mark C02 laser coding system, the e-Solarmark C02 system, and Leibinger’s Jet2Neo and Jet 3 inkjet systems are key elements to clear marking and coding solutions for food manufacturers and producers.

See the chart below for suggested storage times for refigerated and frozen foods:

40 °F (4.4 ºC)
0 °F (-17.7 ºC)
Fresh, in shell3 to 5 weeksDo not freeze
Raw yolks & whites2 to 4 days1 year
Hard cooked1 weekDoes not freeze well
Liquid pasteurized eggs, egg substitutes
Opened3 daysDoes not freeze well
Unopened10 days1 year
Mayonnaise, Commercial
Refrigerate after opening2 monthsDo not freeze
Frozen Dinners & Entrees
Keep frozen until ready to heat3 to 4 months
Deli & Vacuum-Packed Products
Store-prepared (or homemade) egg, chicken, ham, tuna, & macaroni salads3 to 5 daysDoes not freeze well
Hot dogs & Luncheon Meats
Hot dogs
Opened package1 week1 to 2 months
Unopened package2 weeks1 to 2 months
Luncheon meat
Opened package3 to 5 days1 to 2 months
Unopened package2 weeks1 to 2 months
Bacon & Sausage
Bacon7 days1 month
Sausage, raw — from chicken, turkey, pork, beef1 to 2 days1 to 2 months
Smoked breakfast links, patties7 days1 to 2 months
Hard sausage — pepperoni, jerky sticks2 to 3 weeks1 to 2 months
Summer sausagelabeled “Keep Refrigerated”
Opened3 weeks1 to 2 months
Unopened3 months1 to 2 months
Corned Beef
Corned beef, in pouch with pickling juices5 to 7 daysDrained, 1 month
Ham, cannedlabeled “Keep Refrigerated”
Opened3 to 5 days1 to 2 months
Unopened6 to 9 monthsDo not freeze
Ham, fully cooked
Vacuum sealed at plant, undated, unopened2 weeks1 to 2 months
Vacuum sealed at plant, dated, unopened“Use-By ” date on package1 to 2 months
Whole7 days1 to 2 months
Half3 to 5 days1 to 2 months
Slices3 to 4 days1 to 2 months
Hamburger, Ground & Stew Meat
Hamburger & stew meat1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb, & mixtures of them1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork
Steaks3 to 5 days6 to 12 months
Chops3 to 5 days4 to 6 months
Roasts3 to 5 days4 to 12 months
Variety meats — tongue, liver, heart, kidneys, chitterlings1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Pre-stuffed, uncooked pork chops, lamb chops, or chicken breasts stuffed with dressing1 dayDoes not freeze well
Soups & StewsVegetable or meat added3 to 4 days2 to 3 months
Fresh Poultry
Chicken or turkey, whole1 to 2 days1 year
Chicken or turkey, pieces1 to 2 days9 months
Giblets1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Cooked Meat and Poultry Leftovers
Cooked meat & meat casseroles3 to 4 days2 to 3 months
Gravy & meat broth3 to 4 days2 to 3 months
Fried chicken3 to 4 days4 months
Cooked poultry casseroles3 to 4 days4 to 6 months
Poultry pieces, plain3 to 4 days4 months
Poultry pieces in broth, gravy3 to 4 days6 months
Chicken nuggets, patties3 to 4 days1 to 3 months
Other Cooked Leftovers
Pizza, cooked3 to 4 days1 to 2 months
Stuffing, cooked3 to 4 days1 month
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