Skip Navigation
Photo: View into a filled refrigerator. Photo: Person takes vegetables and Fruits out of the refrigerator. Photo: Thermometer in a refrigerator which shows about 40 degree F.

Cooperative Extension Bulletin E340

Home Storage of Foods: Refrigerator and Freezer Storage

  • Daryl Minch, M.Ed., CFCS, Family and Community Health Sciences Educator, Somerset County

Foods that require refrigerator or freezer storage will taste and look better if you use them within the recommended storage time.

Quality vs. Safety

Good quality food tastes, smells and looks fresh. A safe food will not make you sick. Sometimes food contains microbes that can make people ill. These include bacteria, viruses, molds and parasites. Unfortunately, how a food looks is not always an indicator of safety. An unsafe food may look and smell fine but contain microbes that cause illness. For example, a huge pot of hot chili in the refrigerator will not cool quickly and may support bacterial growth that could make someone sick. However, chicken with freezer burn is safe, yet poor quality. The goal of proper food storage is to provide both safe and high quality foods. A food's quality depends on the condition of the raw food and how the food is made and stored.

Start with Good Quality

Figure 1.

Keep it Cold


Figure 2.


Keep It Clean

Since bacteria can get into food during handling, keep everything—hands, countertops, dishes, utensils, and the refrigerator and freezer—clean. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before putting away groceries, preparing food, or putting away leftovers. This will greatly reduce the risk of spreading bacteria and viruses and getting sick.

How Long Does Food Keep?

Download the easy to use Foodkeeper App for Food Storage Guidelines from USDA or go to for storage charts.

Foods That Do Not Freeze Well

Because flavor changes:
Garlic (raw)
Onion (raw), better cooked or as an ingredient
Salt substitutes (table salt-sodium chloride-is OK)
Spices—clove, sage (flavor is stronger or bitter)
Vanilla, artificial flavor (not real vanilla)

Because texture changes:
Cake icing—soft or boiled (butter cream freezes well)
Cream sauces
Custard or cream filling
Egg whites—cooked & meringue
Fried foods (homemade)
Mayonnaise or salad dressing
Pasta (cooked, un-sauced)

For More Information

April 2020