Kitchen & Cooking

Here’s when these popular foods actually expire

Some foods may last longer than you think.

Expiration date guide—when do things actually expire? Credit: Getty Images / Andresr

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Many people may have the habit of throwing out foods that have passed their expiration dates, but these foods aren’t necessarily inedible or unsafe to eat. Food manufacturers label products with “best before” or “best if used by” dates to enforce quality control, but those dates don’t reflect a product’s safety or nutritional value—with baby formula being the exception.

So, when do foods actually “expire?” Knowing this can not only reduce food waste, but may also help you make wise decisions when grocery shopping and meal planning. In addition to using common sense such as sniffing to notice spoilage, you can follow general guidelines about when certain foods actually expire. Here’s a list of the most common grocery items and how long they’re safe to eat past the “best by” date.

Fridge
Credit: Getty Images / gilaxia

Some foods require refrigeration to ensure their quality.

Eggs

Eggs are generally good for three to five weeks after purchase if refrigerated at 40°F. To avoid temperature fluctuations, you may want to store eggs in the back of the fridge. You’ll know an egg is unsafe to cook or eat if it floats to the top in a bowl of cold water.

Milk, yogurt, and non-dairy milk

If stored properly at 40°F, whole milk is usually good for a week after opening, whereas skim milk can last up to 10 days. Yogurt can last up to two weeks after its “best by” date if unopened and refrigerated. If opened, yogurt is good to eat for a week after expiration date.

Dairy products will famously smell sour after a time, indicating they’re unsafe to eat. Non-dairy milk, like almond and oat milk, can last up to six months after opening.

Packaged greens

Bagged greens can generally last up to five days after purchase in the crisper drawer in the fridge, although some greens (like arugula) can last longer than a week. You’ll want to eat your greens before that green slime shows up. To help leafy greens stay fresh, line the bottom of the drawer with paper towels or washable fridge mats, which can absorb excess moisture and prevent wilting. Check every two days to see if the towels need to be replaced.

Bacon

Bacon is safe to eat one to two weeks after its “sell by” date on the packaging, if refrigerated properly. It can also be frozen for up to eight months for later use.

Dried spices

Dried spices normally have a much longer shelf life than foods that require refrigeration—but that doesn’t mean they don’t expire. Ground spices typically last two to three years stored in a spice drawer. If you’re not sure whether some old spice has expired, you can do a smell test to see if the spice is still fragrant. If not, it may be too old to use.

Storing spices by a heat source or in open sunlight will make them lose their flavor much faster.

Condiments

In general, condiments that have salt, sugar, vinegar, or any combination of the three as main ingredients have a long shelf life. Ketchup, mustard, and vinegar-based hot sauces can be stored in the fridge for up to six months after opening. Mayonnaise, which has eggs as its main ingredient, is safe to eat within three months after opening. To remind yourself, you can use some Scotch tape to label the opening date on the condiments.

Yeast

Though yeast is hard to come by these days, it doesn’t mean you should bulk buy packets or jars of it. Once the yeast is opened, it should be stored in the fridge. Yeast can last up to four months in the fridge or be frozen for up to two years.

Coffee

Technically coffee beans don’t expire—but they can taste rancid and ruin your mornings. In addition to properly storing the beans so they stay fresh longer, you may want to use them within five months after their roasting date.

From providing tips about keeping your fridge neat to guides on what not to store in the fridge, we can help you find the best ways to make the most of your favorite kitchen appliance.

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