When to Toss Food out of Your Fridge

We’ve all been there. You go to grab something from the fridge, but then a questionable smell drifts up at you, and you start to wonder if you should risk eating it. Every food has different “rules” and different timelines on when you should toss them, but how do you keep track? There are general guidelines for different foods and how long you should keep certain foods before eating or freezing.


It’s tricky trying to determine if cheese has gone bad because mold is sometimes added to cheese and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s spoiled. If you have a hard cheese like cheddar or Parmesan, you can try to cut the mold off and salvage the rest of it. If you have soft cheeses like ricotta or cream cheese, those should be thrown out if you spot any mold. They are soft and it’s more likely that the mold has seeped through to the inside. Some cheese changes colors when it goes bad or the texture changes. Always check the coloration and watch for any “oily” appearances.

Cheese also gives off a sour smell when it has gone bad, so you can always give it a sniff and see if that gives it away. Some cheeses are already especially stinky, so it’s a good idea to smell your cheese when it’s fresh. If all else fails, just try a little bite of the cheese and you’ll know. Cheese that has gone bad will taste sour or have a bad aftertaste. If you notice either of these, toss it.

Your best bet is to check the label for an expiration date. The general rule of thumb is that hard cheese will stay good up to six months after opening, and soft cheeses only stay good for about a week.


This one can be kind of tricky as well. To me, milk always has an “off” smell, so it’s kind of hard for me to rely on smelling the milk to see if it’s still good. Sometimes checking the consistency can be a dead giveaway. If you notice any thickness or chunks, toss it. Normally milk is white and has a thin consistency. If your milk has changed colors and looks somewhat yellow, that’s another hint that it needs to be thrown out.

Milk should always be kept in the refrigerator, and if it’s left out too long it could spoil. Make sure to keep it around 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and check the date on the jug or carton. The rule for milk is that it should be used three days before the “best by” date.

Fruits and Vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables can last for quite a while in the fridge with a few exceptions. It’s pretty easy to tell when they have gone bad, but it might be different for each kind of fruit and veggie. As always, smell and sight can be one of the first hints that your food has gone bad. For both fruits and veggies, if they are squishy or bruised, they are probably bad. When they go bad they usually give off a foul smell.

Leafy greens, broccoli, celery and many other vegetables will go limp when they have gone bad. At this point, you should throw them out. If they are discolored at all, that’s another sign that they are spoiled and should be tossed.


Meat is an important one to watch because you could get very sick if you eat spoiled meat. The shelf life for meat is much shorter. Raw meat is generally supposed to be left in the fridge for only one or two days. Steaks, roasts and cooked meat can be stored in the fridge for three to four days.

The first thing you should do is smell the meat. Most of the time spoiled meat gives off a very distinct, rotten smell. When meat goes bad it will also change color. If your meat has turned green or a brown color, it should be tossed immediately. If you aren’t going to eat meat within a day or two of buying it, you should stick it in the freezer.

You should always check the expiration date on food before eating it because that’s a good indicator of when it will go bad. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s safe to just throw it out.

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