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How Long Is Food Good For Once It Is Opened {Ask The Readers}

Today’s question comes from a reader.

I thought it would make a great Ask The Readers question since it  is probably something that many of you have also been curious about.

How long are canned foods good for once opened? I’ve tried several recipe’s that call for condensed milk and canned pumkin, but do not use the whole can. I hate to throw the remainder away. How long are they good for in the fridge? I put them in a plastic container, label and date them and do not store them in the metal can. My usual is throw items away after a week in the fridge, but some things are good for longer. Do you know or is there a web site that tells us?

I think this is a problem that we have all dealt with. All to often we end up with that half a can, or bowl of something, left in the fridge that we did not use and don’t know how long to save it for.

I agree and I don’t usually store things in the can once opened. I think they pick up the taste of the can and I don’t like it. I usually place whatever is left in a small container and store it in the refrigerator that way.

As far as canned pumpkin goes I usually freeze any that I have left over. I have found that it works fine after frozen in things like pumpkin bread, pumpkin baked oatmeal, and just about any other pumpkin recipe.

Now for the sweetened condensed milk. Here is where I admit that an open can of sweetened condensed milk is a dangerous thing in my house. You see my husband loves it and can eat it by the spoonful. I know, so unhealthy, but he claims it is just too good to leave alone. So, I really have never had much problem getting rid of any leftover sweetened condensed milk. It does not last more than a few days around my house. I am hoping one of you might have a solution for that. Does anyone know if it freezes well? Or have ideas for leftovers?

When it comes to using up food I do find that writing the date that I opened the package on it really helps.

I have also found several websites helpful for deciding how long something is good for. Good Housekeeping has a basic list of items and there is also quite a bit of information on the USDA website.

Another fun and informative website that I found is Eat By Date. There is all kind of things from basics, like milk and cheese to things like how long does any oreo last. I will admit I spent a little too much time looking around this site the other night, but it was fun to read about some of the odd food facts.

Now I would love to hear what tips and websites you have found for knowing how long food is good for?

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. instead of using canned sweetened condensed milk, make it yourself and scale down the recipe for the amt you need 🙂 that way you have little to no waste and you used common household ingredients 🙂
    Sweetened Condensed Milk
    1/2 cup hot water
    1 cup powdered milk
    1 cup sugar
    1tablespoon butter
    Mix well in a blender. Can also omit butter with the same results.

  2. Barb from Allendale says

    I found Not only does it give detailed info on how long foods are good for, it also tells you how to store fresh foods like apples, potatoes, etc.; there is a q&a section; and an iphone app.

  3. We hardly ever use sweetened condensed milk (scm) in its original form. All of ours gets made into Dulce de leche. You basically put as many cans of scm in your crock pot as can fit in a single layer. Fill the crock pot with hot water an inch over the top of the cans. Cook on high for 4 hours. Let cool in the pot then remove, dry off, and place on your shelf. When you want some you open the can and there you go, wonderful caramelly dulce de leche. If your husband likes scm so much he would probably love this stuff!

    • This is interesting. The recipes I found say to put in fridge while cooling and use immediately. Thanks for the tip.

      • The cans are unopened so they are stable to put back on the shelf for storage. If you take them out of the hot water before they have cooled, I have heard that the temp. difference can cause issues with cans exploding, but I have never dealt with that. You also need to make sure that the can is completely submerged for the entire cooking time for the same reason. We have had it sit unopened on our pantry shelf and had no problem except for some crystallization of the sugar that improved some after rewarming it. It also lasts in the fridge for quite awhile.
        Just this last week I swirled some dulce de leche on top of some brownies for a fabulous caramel twist. I used less than half a can for a full 9×13 pan and it was just right.

  4. Great article, I use too! I have found that site consistently more reliable than others, I am glad im not the only one! That is a good idea to write down the date you opened it, I will try it thanks.

  5. I’m quite sure we have used things passed the “expiration” date on more than one occasion and haven’t had any adverse reactions – but we have also thrown out things that “just didn’t taste right” but I guess I should be a bit more aware of those expiration dates.

  6. I love this site to know how long things can last. I love your site and appreciate all the helpful tips you have.

  7. Sweetened condensed milk is great when added to coffee. If I have any leftover, I just used it for a few mornings instead of my usual cream.

    • Yeah, that’s what we do. We always have a can of evaporated milk in the fridge as our usual creamer, and the sweetened condensed milk works great too, if we just omit adding sugar to our coffee.

  8. Sarah Cassill says

    Did she mean sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk? You can freeze the evaporated milk OR better yet use powdered milk (which stores forever) and stir up as needed. To substitute for 1 cup of evaporated milk it’s 2/3 c dry milk and 3/4 c water

  9. You can freeze sweetened condensed milk, but I like to make it into what I call Macaroon Toast – just toast a piece of bread, spread a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk on it, sprinkle it with coconut, and pop it under the broiler for 30 seconds or so until the coconut just starts to brown. It is so good!

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