This is a huge issue in our house. I always try to keep foods longer, and my husband is adamant that if the food in the fridge has a date, and that expiration date has passed, then it is time to throw it out. No ifs, ands, or buts.
I know there is a line for some foods (just avoid these fat gaining foods), but which foods are fine to keep around for awhile, and which are not?
Don’t get confused by the labeling. Some dates are for the consumers, and some are for the retailer. Here is what they mean:
- “Use by” and “Best by”: These dates are intended for consumer use, but are typically the date the manufacturer deems the product reaches peak freshness. It’s not a date to indicate spoilage, nor does it necessarily signal that the food is no longer safe to eat.
- “Sell by”: This date is only intended to help manufacturers and retailers, not consumers. It’s a stocking and marketing tool provided by food makers to ensure proper turnover of the products in the store so they still have a long shelf life after consumers buy them. Consumers, however, are misinterpreting it as a date to guide their buying decisions. The report authors say that “sell by” dates should be made invisible to the consumer.
Here are some foods (avoid these if you care about your health) you can keep after that annoying expiration date:
Milk: Most milk will stay fresh up to a week after expiration date. But use your smell sense for this one and make sure it doesn’t smell sour before pouring. If it does, time to get rid of. Otherwise, get that cereal ready.
Hard Cheese: I am notorious for putting good, expensive delicious cheese in the cheese drawer, only to be lost under other items and to only be found weeks later when I am craving some sharp cheese. Hard cheese can last up to four weeks after expiration date, even after it has been opened.
Mayonaise: This was a surprise to me as I have thrown away many jars of the white stuff when I didn’t have to. Mayo will last up to 3 – 4 months after the expiration date as long as it was store bought and stored at the correct temperature after opening.
Meats: Fresh meat should not be eaten a day or two after its expiration date, but if you freeze your meats, they will last for up to a year or longer! So stock up on those meat or chicken sales and stick them in the freezer.
Pork: As long as your pork is fully cooked at the time of the expiration date, you can eat it up to three days after.
Potato Chips: Since chips are highly processed, they will last months after the expiration date as long as they are stored properly. Just throw them out if they smell or taste stale.
Canned goods: Have you ever wondered about people’s food storage and why it is full of canned goods? Because canned goods don’t expire for years after the expiration date. The cans don’t get oxygen in them, so bacteria does nor grow. For best results keep in cooler dryer, darker part of your house.
Eggs: Most eggs stay fresh one month after the expiration date, mostly because they are refrigerated. However, if you’re not sure there is a very simply way to tell if your egg is good: if it sinks to the bottom it is fine to eat, if it floats throw it out.
Bread: Freezing bread before the expiration date will make it last significantly longer than leaving it on the counter or even the fridge. So go ahead and go to those bakery thrift stores and stock up!
Processed cereal. Again, highly processed. They might not taste exactly the same, but they should last for up to 6 months past expiration date as long as it is stored correctly with an elastic seal.
Water: Does not expire, period. Many states regulate that everything consumed needs an expiration date, but water lasts indefinitely. Just be cautious of the water bottles it may be siting in.
Butter: This one surprised me. If your butter is going to expire, throw it in the fridge. Thaw and use for baking. Just make sure you use it quickly after thawing and don’t re-freeze. Make sure your butter was unopened before freezing.
Pasta: This is one you can keep for months after expiration dates. It is a dry good so it will last much, much longer than it says. If it has a funny smell or feels stale, throw it out. Just make sure to keep in pantry and not the refrigerator.
Soda: There are a lot of chemicals in those drinks, so the shelf life lasts a long time. Scientists believe that diet (avoid these 4 diet mistakes) soda is fine to drink 4 months after the stamped date, and regular soda can last 9 months.
Pickled Foods: Anything stored in salt and acidic liquid, such as vinegar and brine, will last well past its due date. Here is a delicious recipe for pickled green beans.
Lettuce: Greens and lettuce can look wilted and not appetizing once they have been left in the fridge too long, but with a quick ice bath, it will bring them back to life. However, if any lettuce or greens look visibly decayed, throw it out.