How Long Does Food Last? Your Ultimate Guide to the Shelf Life of Food

Let's be real: understanding the shelf life of food is confusing. There are so many expiration dates (seriously, do we really need best-by, sell-by, and use-by dates?). I'm all about food safety, but with so much conflicting information how are we really expected to understand how long our food lasts?

Items from your pantry, like rice, baking powder, and cornstarch, seem self-explanatory (probably good forever, right?). Other common foods like peanut butter or canned food make it easy to understand by stamping on their expiration date (and we can probably extend that package date by a few weeks). Fresh fruit and vegetables let us know when they're bad by looking or smelling less-than-fresh.

But what about the harder to identify products, like fruit juice, salad dressing, sour cream, or pickles: they have a printed date, but once we open them, what's their food shelf life?

Lucky for us, our friends at made it easy to understand! They boiled down all the information from USDA and FDA resources and gave us a quick and easy reference guide. With this guide, you no longer need to question the shelf life of food at room temperature (on the counter or pantry) or how long it lasts in the refrigerator. They also demystify freezer shelf life (because sometimes I think that stuff in the freezer will last forever!) and break down the life of your leftovers.

The Shelf Life of Food

The Shelf Life of Food

by LindsaySnowOsborn. From Visually.

Our friends at covered just about all of my favorite foods, and armed with this guide I'm ready to confidently tackle a deep freezer clean (oh boy, doesn't that sound like fun?).

If you still have questions about the shelf life of food, the tool at the Ultimate Shelf Life Guide breaks down how long you have to cook or freeze any ingredient.

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