Margaret Minnicks is a health-conscious person who researches the health benefits of foods and drinks.
People often throw away foods because the expiration date printed on the label has passed. Interestingly, there are many types of food that can be safely consumed long after they "expire." The expiration date, or the "use by" date, is there to let the consumer know how fresh the product is. However, there is no danger in eating certain foods past that date. It is a widely held misconception that the date printed on foods is the absolute deadline by which they must be eaten. It is not true that they must be thrown out on that exact date. The date refers more to food quality than food safety.
Foods that are unsafe to eat usually look different and smell different from the way they did when you first bought them. Never eat foods that you are unsure about.
Dried beans last indefinitely if they are kept stored in a cool, dry place.
Other pantry Items such as lentils, oats, etc. also last indefinitely. Those items are still safe to eat even though they have lost their freshness.
Berries usually keep for only about two days after you buy them. They might last longer if you give them some room to breathe. Put them in a single layer. If you wash berries in hot water for about 30 seconds, they will last longer.
Bread can be eaten after the expiration date on the package. Don't eat it if you see mold on it. If you want to extend the life of bread, feel free to freeze it. You can also toast bread and make croutons. White bread will last from five to seven days when stored at room temperature. If refrigerated, it will stay fresh for three to four days additional days before getting stale. Packaged bread will stay fresh for at least three months if you freeze it.
Butter lasts a long time. Keep it in the refrigerator if you intend to use it within a reasonable amount of time. If not, you can freeze it.
Fresh candies taste good, but candies kept for over a year won't taste as good. Hard candies, dark chocolate, jellied candies, and caramel can last up to one year. Candy corn, chewing gum, and milk and white chocolate should be tossed after six to nine months.
6. Canned Foods
People often throw away canned food on the expiration date printed on the can. That date is usually three years from when it was placed on the shelf in the grocery store. You can use the food in those cans from two to five years past the date provided they are kept in a cool dry place. Do not use if you see bulges, dents, popped seals, rust, or leaks.
Canned foods last longer than most other foods. Even so, they will not last forever. Canned vegetables, fruits, and some soups can be eaten one to five years past their expiration date. That is not the case with acidic foods like tomatoes and pineapples. Meats in the cans like tuna, corned beef hash and SPAM can be eaten between two to five years after their expiration dates.
Don't be so quick to toss those boxes of cereal when they reach their expiration date. If boxes have been kept in your pantry or cupboard unopened, cereal will stay fresh from six to eight months past the date on the box. If the box has been opened, it will last between four and six months. It is a different story if the cereal has been cooked like oatmeal. Cooked cereal should be kept only four to five days in the refrigerator.
Cheese can usually be eaten a month past its expiration date. Even if you see mold on cheese, you can still eat it. Just cut off the mold first.
9. Chips, Cookies, and Crackers
Chips, cookies, and crackers will stay fresh long after you first open the sealed bags. Make sure you keep the bags closed when not in use. Throw them away if they smell bad, taste stale, or crumble in your hands.
Some condiments, such as ketchup and mustard, are good for a year or two beyond their printed dates if the bottles are unopened.
11. Corn on the Cob
Five-day-old corn can still be eaten. It won’t make you sick, but it won’t taste very good. In just three days, the corn will be only half as sweet and delicious as it was when harvested. If you purchase corn on the cob without the husks, the kernels will dry out very fast. If you want your corn to last longer, cook it in boiling water and cut it off the cob. Then store it in your freezer inside a zip-top bag. When you eat it, it will be just corn and not corn on the cob.
Try not to buy more eggs than your family consumes in a set period of time.
You can use eggs within three to five weeks after purchasing them. The way to keep eggs fresh longer is to keep them in their carton. Refrigerator manufacturers didn't think this through when they put egg holders on the refrigerator door. The eggs are exposed to air every time the door is opened. Besides, if they are not kept in the carton, you might forget when you bought them because they won't be in the carton with an expiration date.
If you think your eggs might not be good to eat, here is an easy way to test them: place an egg in a bowl of water. If it sinks to the bottom, then the egg is safe to eat. If the egg floats on the top of the water, then it is not safe to eat.
Fresh fish only lasts for two days in the refrigerator. Cook clams, oysters, or mussels as soon as possible. Raw fish can last between six and nine months if you freeze it. Smoked fish can last for three to six months in the freezer. Commercially frozen fish will keep for ten to twelve months. Unopened canned fish such as tuna can keep for between two and five years past its printed date.
14. Frozen Foods
Raw meat and poultry will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. However, they can be kept past their sell-by date if you freeze them. Frozen ground meat will last three to four months. Whole chickens and turkeys can be kept frozen up to one year.
Many people buy meats and other foods in bulk. They place them in the freezer and forget about them. It is better to mark them with the date you put them in the freezer. Meats, vegetables, bread, and pastries can be eaten up to two months past their expiration dates when they are frozen. The cold temperature keeps them safe past the date on the package. Unopened packages of frozen fruit and frozen vegetables are good for eight to ten months beyond their printed date.
Honey is known to be one of the only foods that can last forever. That's because it is made of sugar which makes it hard for bacteria or microorganisms to affect it. Because the product doesn't contain much water. It will spoil only if there is moisture. If kept for a long time, honey does crystallize. That doesn't mean it has gone bad. It does mean it is hard to get out of the jar because it doesn't pour.
You can tell if milk is bad just by smelling it. If it smells sour, looks discolored, and has lumps in it, don't use it. Dairy milk can last five or more days past its printed date. Non-fat milk can last between seven and ten days past the date on the carton. Whole milk can last between five and seven days past the expiration date.
If unopened, powdered milk can keep up to a month past the sell-by date. Regular powdered milk often has a "best by" date of 18 months, but according to the USDA, since powdered milk is a shelf-stable food, it may be able to last indefinitely. Spruce Eats reported that some survivalist stores that sell non-fat powdered milk claim it can last more than 25 years.
Nuts will go rancid if they are kept too long. They won't make you sick if you eat them, but they won't taste good. It is best to throw them away. Some people freeze them to keep them fresh. Others say they toast old nuts in a pan in the oven to revive them.
Dry pasta will last long past the expiration date. Because it doesn't contain water or any other liquid, it will stay fresh if it is kept in a dry place in an airtight container. You can keep boxed pasta two years past its printed date.
If you purchase freshly cooked pasta from the deli or if you make it yourself, do not keep it longer than four to five days in the refrigerator. It will be safe if you keep it in the freezer for six to eight months.
19. Peanut Butter
Unopened jars of peanut butter with preservatives can keep up to a year past the printed date. Keep the jars in the refrigerator. Even so, they last only three to six months past the expiration date. Because it has no moisture and plenty of oil, regular peanut butter can keep for at least three to five years. It could become rancid after nine to twelve years. It won't hurt you; it just won't taste good. Nutella lasts only one to two months past its printed date.
Uncooked rice can last 30 years if kept in an oxygen-free container. Regular white rice will last up to five years if left in the box, according to the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration.
21. Salad Mixes
Don't be too quick to throw away packages of salad mixes. If you see any wilted leaves, just pinch them off and throw them away. The rest of the lettuce can still be eaten. You can revive lettuce with ice water if it begins to wilt. Bring the leaves back to life by submerging them in ice water for five to ten minutes.
When unopened, yogurt will last two to three weeks in the refrigerator past the date on the container. It will be good up to two months in the freezer.
23. Alcoholic Beverages
Liquor: Unopened bottles of alcohol such as vodka, whiskey, and rum will stay fresh forever as long as they are sealed and stored in a cool, dry place.
Beer: Beer does not keep its flavor indefinitely. It won’t spoil, but the flavors change over time. Try to drink your beer within six months of the bottling date.
There are other foods that can be used long after their expiration dates. The foods listed above are just some popular ones with interesting details about them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 04, 2019:
Good for you, Charles! I am glad you were able to still use the leafy green spinach.
Charles Chuck Berry from YARMOUTH on March 04, 2019:
Just recently, I reorganized our refrigerator and found leafy green spinach and I tasted it and it still tasted the same after it's the expiration date. Like the blogs mentioned, keep the packages and containers closed
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 03, 2019:
Rochelle, that's a wonderful idea about donating the food instead of throwing it away. Thanks for sharing.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on March 03, 2019:
Near the end of the year, usually before Thanksgiving I like to cleanout and organize my pantry. I put the packages and cans that are soon-to expire in a box to donate to the local food bank. I know they are perfectly fine and I mention to the people that they are close to "expiration". They are happy to get donations and they know too how to sort them out. If you are planning to donate any food, this is a good way to do it I think
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 03, 2019:
Charles, thanks for your comment about food pantries. You are absolutely right. I know about several of them in my neighborhood that give good food especially canned items.
Charles Chuck Berry from YARMOUTH on March 03, 2019:
This very interesting and very informative if you visit food pantries. They will be close to expiration date but stil=ll be good. I have a lot of can food and use them all the time. They don't taste any different than the fresh canned goods that had been previously bought. When you have little to spend, food parries are the way to go. I still spend some cash on things the pantry does not stock.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 03, 2019:
Umesh Chandra Bhatt, Michel Royalty, Louise Powles, and Dora Weithers: Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my article.
I wrote it because so much food is wasted unnecessarily because people don't understand the sell-by date or use-by date. Many of the foods are safe to eat long after those dates. The dates are there for "freshness" not necessarily for "safety."
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 03, 2019:
Very useful information. This is something I've often wondered about. Thanks to you, I know now.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 02, 2019:
It's surprising the amount of food you can eat that's expired. I don't worry about expiry dates or anything like that. I've eaten food like this before now and never got ill yet.
Michel Royalty from Mammoth Lakes, Ca on March 02, 2019:
I grew up before food was dated. My mom kept many foods like jam, peanut butter, mustard anf ketchup in the pnatry, no problem. She made jam and stored it under the house for as long as a year. I think we have taken food safety to an extreme and throw away way too much. As long as food smells good, there is no evidence of mold or bacteria, I am not so picky.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 02, 2019:
Excellent article. So much useful information.