Your Go-to Guide for Food Shelf Life

By Alicia Geigel on September 11, 2017

As a college student, there are certain things that I greatly prioritize: a good night’s sleep, time for Netflix, and food (besides my studies, of course). I think I can speak for all of us when I say that food is not only a mere staple of human survival, but a downright obsession of college students.

Food is such a large part of the college experience that there is even a universal term for the weight you gain by eating what you want freshman year: “the freshman 15.” A permeating problem with college students is what exactly to eat and how to go about doing it. Many of us are busy with schoolwork, extracurricular, jobs, etc. that when it comes time to eat, we just about take what we can get, whether that be a wrap at the dining hall or a slice of pizza on the go.

However, money is not always constantly flowing and as the year progresses, grocery-bought food and leftovers may become your new mantra. When it comes time to do this, you may have questions like “How long is (name of food) good for?” or “Do I need to refrigerate this?”

If these questions sound similar to you and perhaps you may be asking yourself the same, check out my guide on smart food safety below!

Image via Pexels

Use your good judgment

When it comes to food, I know things can get funky. You do not want to mess around with meats and fish due to the chance of food poisoning. Likewise, you always want to keep a close eye on dairy and baked goods due to the risk of mold and all sorts of grossness.

My first piece of advice is to use your best judgment when treating a food and determining whether a food is safe to devour or if you should just toss it in the trash. If you have had raw chicken sitting on the counter for a few hours, toss that. notes that raw chicken, like other meats, if left for more than two hours at room temperature, is vulnerable to growing bacteria at 40ºF-140ºF.

Likewise, if you have bread that has been sitting in your pantry for months and has mold spores on it, figure that it’s safe to throw it away. Your sense of sight and smell are great tools in determining whether to keep or toss a food item.

Read labels

On just about every packaged food there is a “sell by” date or expiration date. For items like meats, fish, dairy, and baked goods, make note of those dates in order to evaluate how long to hold onto your food.

Now do not get me wrong, do not go reading every label and panicking that you’re going to get sick from eating an expired pack of peanut butter crackers. This tip, along with the one above it, go hand in hand. Read your labels and use your good judgment; if you are really unsure, Google is an excellent tool to use (after mom of course!).

Plastic wrap and Ziploc bags

When it comes to preserving food, Ziploc bags and plastic wrap are your best friends! Both help to not only keep your food fresh and safe from unnecessary air/bacteria but also to be more organized in your food storage!

Image via Pexels

Looking for a quick, simple visual on the shelf life of food? My chart will walk you through what you want to know, step by step.






Apples (fresh)

*(whole) 5-7 days unrefrigerated


*2-7 days unrefrigerated (until ripe)

Oranges (fresh)

*(whole) 5-7 days unrefrigerated

Pears (fresh)

*(whole) 1-4 days unrefrigerated


Broccoli (raw)

*3-5 days refrigerated

Baby Carrots

*2-3 weeks


Celery Sticks

*1-2 weeks refrigerated

Bell Peppers

*(sliced) 2-3 days refrigerated

Dairy + Eggs

Pasteurized Milk

*5-7 days past “sell by” date refrigerated


*4-5 weeks



*(Individually wrapped slices) -1 month refrigerated


*1-2 weeks past “sell by date”

Meat + Poultry

Raw Chicken (including breasts, thighs, etc.)

*1-2 days refrigerated

Raw Ground Beef

*1-2 days refrigerated

Deli Meats

*(sliced at grocery counter) including ham, turkey, chicken, etc.

3-5 days refrigerated

Raw Ground Turkey

*1-2 days refrigerated

Snacks + Baked Goods

White Bread

*5-7 days unrefrigerated

English Muffins

*2 weeks unrefrigerated


*(freshly baked) 1-3 days unrefrigerated


*1-2 days unrefrigerated

*1 week refrigerated



*3-4 days refrigerated

Chinese Food

*3-4 days refrigerated

Mexican Food

*3-4 days refrigerated

Italian Food

*3-4 days refrigerated

 **All information listed in this chart was obtained from**

Part of what is hard about being a college student perhaps is the added responsibility of maintaining your own goods. Relying on yourself and being dependent is not always easy; sometimes life stresses us out and we forget about the soggy, gross bowl of fruit on our table for weeks on end.

However, if you follow my advice, you’ll have no problem “adulting.” As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
Temple alum | columnist at Uloop News | photographer | food blogger if you want to learn more about me, visit my profile and check out my articles!

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