How Long Are Foods Good Past Their Expiration Date?
A few months ago, I had a carton of eggs sitting in the refrigerator for several weeks. Eggs are one of those strange things that I will love and gorge on for a while, then suddenly dislike and won’t touch for weeks or months at a time. Sometimes I’ll have gotten halfway through a carton of eggs and just can’t bring myself eat the other half. Do you ever feel that way about food?
When I finally wanted to eat those eggs again, the expiration date on them had already passed. I searched online to figure out if the eggs were still edible. It turns out that eggs are good for many days past their printed expiration date. Don’t worry, I also inspected the eggs by sight, smelled them, and did the float test before cooking them.
But knowing that I saved myself a few eggs, I wondered what other foods are still good past their printed expiration date. Had I been throwing out perfectly good food and throwing away money in the process?
After some research, I learned that those “sell by”, “best by”, “use by” dates are not strict expiration dates. In fact, federal regulations only require that infant formula be dated. Dates on other foods are only guidelines given by manufacturers. Often food will still be edible after the dates have passed, although the food may not be as fresh or tasty. So when a loaf of bread has a tag that says to sell by 11/4, it’s an indication to the store to sell it by that date, but the loaf may well last another few days for the consumer.
The website Eat By Date provides information on the actual expiration dates of many food items. This site has saved me many times over. Most recently, I looked up Dijon mustard and found it’s good for a year after its printed date. I made a delicious salad dressing that night!
What are some items that last beyond their printed date? Here are a few examples from the site.
- Cream cheese – Cream cheese in a plastic container will last 3-4 weeks past its printed date.
- Hard cheese – Hard cheeses such as Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano last for 2-4 months past their printed date.
- Soft cheese – Brie lasts 1 week past its printed date.
- Fresh eggs are good for 3-4 weeks past their printed date.
- Bakery bread – Bakery bread lasts for 2-3 days past its printed date.
- Packaged bagels – Soft packaged bagels last for 5-7 days past their printed date and 7-14 days in the refrigerator.
- Fresh chicken lasts for 1-2 days past its printed date.
- Salmon lasts for 1-2 days past its printed date when stored in the fridge and 6-9 months when stored in the freezer.
In addition to using the dates above, it’s good to use your eyes, nose, and common sense before you consume anything. If you’re uncertain about whether something is still good or not, it may be better to err on the side of caution and not eat it. If it looks funny (think green mold spots) or has a foul smell, then definitely throw it out. I DO NOT support consuming spoiled food that may jeopardize your health or the health of your family. I’m the first person to throw out anything questionable in my fridge.
Lately, I’ve been upset with myself for the amount of food waste that I produce. Not only is that throwing away money, I know it’s just plain wasteful when many people don’t have enough to eat. Last week I wrote about saving money by tracking your kitchen inventory. I’ve been using the tracker with good results recently. Now I’m trying to take it a step further by using foods until they actually aren’t good anymore.
So the next time you clear out your fridge, try looking up a few of the foods online to see how long they last past their printed dates. With a double check from your eyes and nose, you might find that they are still perfectly edible. It’s a good way to reduce your food waste, save yourself money, and even cut back on trips to the grocery store.
What foods have you found last beyond their printed expiration date? How do you store them to keep them edible?