It's happened to everyone: you take out something in your fridge, only to discover it's out of date.

It's easy to tell when the food comes in a packet with a use-by date on the top - but what about when it doesn't?

A new chart reveals exactly how long you should be keeping certain fresh foods in the fridge - and when it comes to fish, it's only one day.

Raw joints of meat and poultry should only be in the fridge for two to three days before they're discarded, according to Good Housekeeping.


Fish and shellfish only last one day in the fridge until they go off and potentially become dangerous to your health, says the magazine, but smoked salmon will last for up to two weeks.

Meanwhile, sausages last three days but bacon keeps for much longer - a week.

Sliced meat such as sandwich ham only keeps for two days, however.

The guidance applies to non-packaged items only, as Good Housekeeping says you should otherwise follow the use-by date on the packet.

But the chart usefully indicates how long we should be chilling fresh items without a packet.

Soft fruit also has a short shelf life of just one to two days, but hard or stone fruits such as cherries or avocados can keep in the fridge for between three and seven days.

Salad leaves should be thrown away after a maximum of three days, while green vegetables will keep in the fridge for three to four days, according to the chart.

Meanwhile, milk will last for four to five days, but soft cheese should be used within two to three days after it's been opened.

Hard cheese and eggs will keep much longer - a week in the fridge.


Use by...

You will see "use by" dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads.

Don't use any food or drink after the end of the 'use by' date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk.

For the "use by" date to be a valid guide, you must follow storage instructions such as "keep in a refrigerator". If you don't follow these instructions, the food will spoil more quickly and you may risk food poisoning.

Once a food with a "use by" date on it has been opened, you also need to follow any instructions such as "eat within three days of opening".

But remember, if the "use by" is tomorrow, then you must use the food by the end of tomorrow, even if the label says "eat within a week of opening" and you have only opened the food today.

If a food can be frozen its life can be extended beyond the "use by" date. But make sure you follow any instructions on the pack, such as "cook from frozen" or "defrost thoroughly before use and use within 24 hours'.

Best before...

"Best before" dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.

"Best before" dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn't mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.

Eggs can be eaten after their "best before" date as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked such as a cake.

Cooking eggs until both the white and yolk are solid will kill any bacteria, such as salmonella. People who are in "at-risk" groups should only eat eggs, or food containing eggs, that have been thoroughly cooked. These groups include: babies and toddlers; elderly people; pregnant women; people who are already unwell.

Remember, the "best before" date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label, such as "store in a cool dry place" or "keep in the fridge once opened".

Display until/ sell by...

Date marks such as "display until" or "sell by" often appear near or next to the "best before" or "use by" date. These are instructions for shop staff, not for shoppers.

The important dates for you to look for are the "use by" and "best before" dates.

Information from the NHS website.