One of life’s most important questions.

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Wasting good bacon is against the law in certain parts of the South—according to some people. So if you are reading this while sniffing or inspecting a package of bacon that's been in the back of your refrigerator for an indefinite amount of time, I'll get right to the point.

Whether you have opened the package or not, uncooked bacon will last for seven days in the fridge, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That rule applies whether the bacon is thick-cut or thin, hickory or maple-smoked, the fancy stuff or the cheap stuff. You've got seven days.

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Store it right. If you have leftover uncooked bacon, don't just put the opened package back in the refrigerator. Keep it from drying out (and making the other contents of your fridge smell like bacon) by storing it in a sealed container or resealable plastic ziplock bag, or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

Freeze it properly. If you can't eat enough BLT Salads and Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon to finish a package of bacon in a week, your best bet is to freeze it. Although foods that are properly stored in a freezer are safe to eat indefinitely, the USDA recommends using frozen bacon within one month. Prevent freezer burn by wrapping the unopened package in a layer of aluminum foil (and label it with the date). If you tend to cook bacon in smaller amounts, flash-freeze individual strips so that they don't harden into a single slab and you can easily defrost as much as you need.

Once you're sure that the bacon is safe to eat, brush up on your bacon cooking basics. And if you're in need of some recipe inspiration, I recommend these Bacon Pancakes.

This story originally appeared on southernliving.com