What You Really Need to Know About Expiration Dates

Just in case you’re like us and always seem to end up with way too much food in your fridge this time of year, we found this article from FabFitFun super helpful to prevent any of it from going to needless waste! 

How many times have you thrown out uneaten food because it expired way too soon? We have … multiple times.

But next time, think twice before tossing your “expired” food. Just because the date stamped on the packaging has passed doesn’t actually mean the food has gone bad. Some food can actually be eaten even after certain expiration dates. We did some research and listed some tips for you to make sure you’re not throwing out perfectly edible food or eating expired snacks.

What Do the Dates Mean?

Labeling foods with dates of any kind is voluntary and not required by the FDA. However, most companies do label their foods, and instead use different phrasing — few of them are actually “expiration dates.” According to Time, here are what the most common labeling means:

-“Used by” or “Best by” — this date doesn’t usually mean the product has gone bad, but it’s more of an indication of when the freshness is at its best.
-“Sell by” — this is intended for the seller, not the consumer. It’s generally used to determine when to restock, etc., and many believe it should be concealed from the customer, so they don’t confuse it with an expiration date.

General Guidelines to Follow:

Some foods can be used well past the “sell by,” or in some cases “enjoy by” date on the packaging, but it can be tricky to figure out which ones! Here are some guidelines to remember:

– Eggs can be used 3-5 weeks after you buy them. To test freshness, place an egg in a bowl of water, and if it floats, don’t eat it.

– Canned food is a case by case basis. Some can last for years, and the date will be something like a year, but canned food will last about two years after you purchase it.

– Apples can last about three weeks if refrigerated. If you cook and then freeze them, they’ll last about eight months.

Cereals “don’t really go bad,” according to Emily Broad Leib, the director of Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic. She says there isn’t “much of a quality issue” and if you leave the box open, it’ll get stale but you wont “get sick from it.”

Meat is better off being frozen from the start. If you freeze it, meat can last for months. It may lose some flavor, but seasoning and cooking it can make up for that loss.

Image via NordWood Themes

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4 COMMENTS
  • Alyssa December 7, 2016

    Even after taking several food science courses within my Nutrition curriculum, I still forego the expiration dates and pay attention to smell and appearance of my food. Most of the time, premature expiration dates are added to cover the behinds of the manufacturer in cases of food borne illnesses, but that does end up causing a lot of food waste! So I just use my judgment and it’s always worked for me 🙂

    Alyssa at thewildcraftingwoman.weebly.com

  • Sarah December 3, 2016

    I also think expiration dates are overrated.

  • Charmaine Ng November 30, 2016

    I hardly ever pay attention to the used by and best before dates. Most foods are still good after. Discount products all the way woohoo.
    – Charmaine
    http://charmainenyw.com

  • Natalie November 30, 2016

    I kind of just ignore expiration dates on anything other than dairy and meat these days and just go by how it looks/smells/feels and use my best judgement

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

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