When I buy food it's at least a few weeks worth, and I bought some ground beef the other day with the intention of using it over a couple weeks. I have a couple questions regarding storage:

  1. I use about a pound of it a time, so I took it out of its wrapping, cut it up, and put the pieces into sealable plastic bags, wrapped in foil, and then stuck them in the freezer. Is this an acceptable storage?

  2. The sell-by date will be coming up very soon. However I was looking at this website which states ground beef can be frozen for 3-4 months. Is it safe to store past the sell-by date?

  3. More generally, is sell-by meant to be different than "use by" dates I also see on certain items?


3 Answers 3


(1) Yes, that's fine. If you use freezer bags, you don't need foil even. For longer-term frozen storage, vacuum sealed bags work better.

(2) Frozen food stored at 0°F (or lower) is basically safe to eat forever. Eventually, the flavor will be affected and you won't want to eat it (but it won't make you sick). Three to four months is reasonable in tightly-sealed freezer bags. Longer in vacuum sealed bags. The storage time is entirely a flavor thing, so you can get away with a little longer for strongly-seasoned meat (e.g., tacos) vs. lightly seasoned (hamburger). The sell-by date assumes storage at around 30°F (normal for refrigerated meat)

(3) I believe so, stuff should still be good a few days after the sell by date.

  • 2
    As far as I'm aware the 'Sell by date' is the date the store has to have legally sold the item, unless the consumer is made aware of the situation. The 'Use by date' is the date by which the contents should be consumed. There's generally a difference between the two dates. There can also find a 'Best before date' which is the date by which the contents should be consumed to enjoy the full flavour.
    – Pulse
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 5:41

Sell by is effectively meaningless. Use your nose: if it smells off, it probably is.

Don't worry if it loses that pretty red color: the supermarket keeps it that color with a generous whack of CO2 CO. As soon as it hits oxygen, it'll start to oxidize and turn brown.

  • 1
    +1 Thanks for the color info, I always wondered if that meant it was bad. I knew they colored it, but thought it was CO, as there are many articles that advocate its ban for such use :)
    – Kryptic
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 20:01
  • Yes, it's Carbon Monoxide (CO), not CO₂
    – hobodave
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 20:30
  • Woops. Learn something every day. Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 21:28

Derobert has answered your first two questions, but on the third I have something to add.

More generally, is sell-by meant to be different than "use by" dates I also see on certain items?

As SatanicPuppy says Sellby is effectively meaningless to you as it is primarily for the shop to help them with stock control. It is usually a couple of days before the other dates. The two you need to look at are 'Best Before' and 'Use by'. They have distinct and differnt meanings.

Best Before is placed on items that will not make you ill if you eat them after their best but will for best flavour they are 'Best' consumed 'before' the date. It is LEGAL with consumer knowledge to sell products past their Best Before date. Best before will be found on cerials, chocolate bars, flour etc.

Use By is placed on items that may make you ill if you consume them after this date. It is ILLEGAL to sell items past their useby date. You will find useby on meat items, ready meals, etc.

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