It’s difficult to imagine a time when food safety wasn’t a huge concern among the public, but the truth is that health codes weren’t always as strict as they are today. We’re lucky to live in a time where food manufacturers are required to implement high standards to ensure the products we consume don’t harm us.
Paying mind to any product’s expiration date is always important. However, the expiration date isn’t always a hard and fast rule. Depending on the type of food, there is some wiggle room—and you might be surprised at which items can be consumed past their printed sell-by dates!
1. Milk: No one wants to take a huge gulp of milk only to discover it’s gone rancid, so always refrigerate it properly. Milk is generally good up to a week after its expiration date, but give it a whiff if you’re unsure.
2. Eggs: Expired eggs can harbor salmonella, so you never want to take your chances. If you’re unsure about an egg’s quality, place it in water. If it sinks, it’s still safe to eat. If it floats, toss it out!
3. Meat (unfrozen): Everyone loves outdoor grilling, but you need to take precautions when preparing meat. You should consume any type of raw meat within two days of purchase to be on the safe side.
4. Meat (frozen): Meat can last for months in a freezer. Ground meat lasts about three months; pork lasts for six; and red meat like beef, lamb, veal, and venison can hold for up to 12 months.
5. Yogurt: You can safely enjoy this product for up to 10 days after the sell-by date. After 10 days, the live bacterial cultures that help preserve it begin to die, so keep an eye on it!
6. Baby food: Baby food should never be consumed after the sell-by date. That’s because it loses its nutritional value and it can do far more damage than good. It’s never worth the risk when your child is involved!
7. Ketchup: Once a bottle of ketchup is opened, it will last about a month in your pantry and up to eight months if refrigerated at the proper temperature. Burgers and fries, anyone?
8. Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese actually grows mold as it ages, so keep an eye out for that if it looks like it’s past the expiration date. The product usually holds for 10 to 14 days beyond the date.
9. Peanut butter: Everyone loves classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Just make sure the peanut butter you’re using isn’t more than three months older than the expiration date on its label.
10. Jelly: Morning toast just isn’t complete without a tasty fruit spread. Luckily, jellies and jams can last up to an entire year in the fridge without spoiling. If it has been an entire year, however, check it before using.
11. Butter: Some people choose to keep butter in their fridge while others leave it out so it stays soft. If left out, it can last for several days, but if refrigerated, it can last up to three months past its sell-by date.
12. Sour cream: Don’t let the name fool you—this product isn’t spoiled when you purchase it. It can last up to two weeks after the expiration date, but because it’s dairy, give it the ol’ sniff test first.
13. Mustard: If you’re a fan of this zesty condiment, then you’ll be glad to know that you can keep on enjoying it—unless your bottle is more than eight months past its sell-by date.
14. Canned goods: Food packaged in airtight cans can safely be consumed years after the expiration dates pass. However, if the can is dented, swollen, or rusted, you should toss it out immediately.
15. Packaged goods: Stale chips and crackers are a turnoff to anyone’s appetite, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unsafe to eat. Trust your sense of smell to see if the products have turned.
16. Salad dressing: Don’t dress your greens without checking the label! Salad dressing can last up to three months past its expiration date in the fridge, but definitely give the date a second look before you use it.
17. Pickles: Good news, pickle fans: the mere act of pickling food allows it to last a long time. Whether they’re dill, bread and butter, or sour, pickles will hold for one to two months past their sell-by date in a fridge.
18. Frozen food: Frozen food can last for months—even years!—in a freezer without its safety compromised. It may develop freezer burn, but it should still be safe to eat.
19. Mayonnaise: What’s a sandwich without a healthy slathering of mayo? If unopened in a pantry, this product is good for about a month after the sell-by date and four months if opened and refrigerated.
20. Fruits and vegetables: Produce really doesn’t come with any expiration date attached, but it’s generally advised to eat whatever you buy within a week of bringing it home. Also, always check for mold before you indulge your appetite.
These expiration date tips should help reduce a lot of the food waste in your home. Just because something is technically “expired” doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly safe! Just remember: when in doubt, throw it out.
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