They lurk in the unknown depths of your fridge, waiting to unleash their putrid attacks upon innocent snackers. They’re the forgotten leftovers, and every year they gross out millions of guys around the globe. Unfortunately, we think of the fridge as a cryogenic chamber that's capable of keeping food in suspended animation indefinitely.

Pizza from last month? No problem, it’s been in the fridge. Leftover pasta from Valentine’s Day dinner? Sure! But even at a chilly 40 degrees, mold and bacteria can thrive. Leftovers and fresh food can be crawling with microscopic bugs that could make you sick.

So exactly how long can food be kept in your fridge before it goes bad? It depends, and if it doesn’t have an expiration date, it could be difficult to determine. Some foods have superior life spans, while others decay at an alarming rate. Keep reading to find out the life span of food that you're stashing in the back of your fridge right now.

Life span: Two days to a week
If you grabbed some ground beef at the market, make your burgers or pasta sauce right away. Fresh meat -- fish, beef, pork, and poultry -- won’t last longer than two days in your fridge.

Leftover cooked meat will kick around a bit longer, but as a general rule, try to eat it within a week.

Cooked pork chops should be gobbled up sooner, within three days. Your holiday ham and other smoked or cured meats can hang in there for one week. Make lots of ham sandwiches and hash if you don’t want it to go to waste. Bacon, unless frozen, has a similar shelf life.

Death rattle: A good general rule is that if it smells bad, it is bad. Meats, fresh or cured, will stink when they’re rotten or even beginning to turn. Red meat and pork chops will also turn grayish in color. Fish will smell, well, really fishy. Fresh fish should have virtually no odor, just like sushi. Poultry is probably the most difficult to pin down. Raw chicken will smell sour and could develop a slick film when it goes bad.

Life span: One week to two months ...

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