How Long You Can Keep Unopened Lunch Meat In The Fridge

Lunch meats (also known as luncheon meats, deli meats, sandwich meats, and cold cuts) are incredibly handy to have around, perfect for a quick sandwich for lunch or a snack. Chances are, you probably have a package or two in your fridge right now. They're typically vacuum sealed and include preservatives that extend their shelf life and slow the growth of microorganisms that can cause food poisoning, which means you can enjoy them for a while after purchasing. But just how much time do you have?

According to the USDA, unopened packages of lunch meat are good for up to two weeks in the fridge. To maximize that timeframe, store the package of lunch meat in the coldest part of your fridge as soon as possible after purchasing, and make sure your fridge is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Once you open that package, be sure to consume the lunch meat within three to five days. It's also important to recognize the signs that your lunch meat has gone bad: if you see any signs of mold, or there are significant changes in appearance, smell, or feel, do not eat the lunch meat and throw it out immediately.

How to extend the life of your lunch meat

You can also freeze your lunch meat to extend its shelf life if you can't finish it all before it goes bad. Unopened packages of lunch meat can be stored in the freezer as is, though wrapping it or placing it in a freezer bag can provide an extra layer of protection against freezer burn. If you've already opened the package, wrap the remaining slices in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and place them in a freezer bag or an airtight container. You may want to portion out slices into individual servings, using wax paper in between slices to prevent them from sticking to each other.

While lunch meat will remain safe to eat indefinitely if stored in the freezer under 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the USDA recommends using them within one to two months for the best quality — don't forget to add a date so you know how much time you have. It's best to defrost frozen lunch meat overnight in the fridge, though you can also place the sealed bag in a bowl of cold water. Once defrosted, be sure to consume your lunch meat within three to five days.