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Save Money and Spend Less on Groceries by NOT Throwing Them Away!

Updated on December 12, 2009

As Good as it Gets Doesn't Always Mean It's Bad.

If you are like most people, including myself, you toss food out immediately once it hits the expiration date.  There have been many scientific studies proving that it isn't always necessary and that American families are throwing away about 120lbs of perfectly good food!  The sell-by dates on packages are just an estimate of when a product is at it's peak taste.  They are put there by manufacturer's and aren't even required by law.  Food scientists are saying that some foods, if properly sealed, are good from a couple of days, up to years after we think they would be bad.  The USDA backs this up and states that most food can last quite some time after the date on the package!  So the next time you find food at the back of the cupboard that you had forgotten about, think twice before just tossing it and throwing your money away!

MOST Dates are Voluntary

For the most part, the sell by dates or expiration dates are guidelines for consumers and the stores selling the product so that they can rotate their inventory appropriately. A lot of manufacturers are using these dates as a marketing tool to encourage buyers to throw out the product and buy more. Generally speaking, you will not get sick if you eat something past the sell-by date or expiration date. Again, for the most part, these dates are voluntarily put on packages by the manufacturer and not required by law. There are, however, some foods that are mandated by federal government, such as poultry and baby foods and formulas, to list an expiration date. The laws do vary a bit from state to state, as there are about 20 states that do currently require mandatory labeling for dairy products. But for the most part, the majority of foods are safe to eat after their labeled date.

This is important information, especially in today's economy. With the continuously rising cost of groceries this is fantastic information! In most American homes today the terms, budget, frugality, cost-cutting, and saving, have become our buzz words and catch phrases regarding almost any issue. Groceries are definitely at the top of the list as far as places Americans are making cut-backs and pinching pennies. Below you will find guidelines for keeping and consuming foods beyond the package dates. This list is assuming that foods are properly sealed and stored, kept out of direct sunlight, cans are not dented, rusty, bulging or split and fresh foods are refrigerated.

Safe Food Guidelines

High Acid Canned Goods - Such as tomatoes or those in a vinegar base and fruits such as pineapple are fine about 18 months after purchased, unopened. Generally speaking, a year after the expiration date. Once opened, 3-4 days.

Low Acid Canned Goods - Safe 2-5 years after purchase if unopened, 3-4 days opened.

Shelf Stable Canned Meats - 2-5 years after purchase date if unopened, 3-4 days opened.

Shelf Stable and Frozen Juices - 1-2 years after expiration date.

Refrigerated Juice - Up to 6 days past expiration date.

Milk and Yogurt - 5-7 days past expiration date. Use your nose! If it smells bad, it's bad!

Cream and Half & Half -3-4 days past date. Again, use your nose!

Hard Cheese - Up to 6 months past the date months unopened, 3-4 weeks unopened if stored airtight. If cheese molds, it IS ok to cut away the mold and eat the remaining cheese, it does NOT ruin the entire block of cheese.

Soft Cheese - Opened, use your nose to judge, if unopened 1 week past date for most, 2 weeks for cream cheese.

Eggs - 3-5 weeks past date on carton.

Butter - About 2 weeks opened, 2 months unopened.

Bottled Water & Soda - If stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight, it is good indefinitely.

Hot Dogs and Lunch Meat -7 days after date

Fish - Fish is very perishable, best if used by date, but if tightly wrapped and kept cold or iced up to 2 days after date unless it smells "fishy".

Beef - 3 - 5 days after you purchase it should be eaten or frozen.

Ground Meat - 2 days after purchase it should be eaten or frozen

Poultry - Should be eaten or frozen within 1-2 days of buying

Pork - Should be eaten or frozen 3 - 5 days of buying.

Baked Goods - 2-7 days after purchase, can freeze for longer storage.

Baking Powder - Replace every 6 months to a year. You can test it by mixing 1 teaspoon with 1/2 cup HOT water. If it is good, it will bubble immediately.

Baking Soda - Replace every 6 months to a year. You can test it by mixing 1/4 teaspoon soda with 2 teaspoons vinegar. If it is good, it will bubble immediately.

Powdered Seasonings - 6 months past date unopened. Opened, quality will degrade after a month.

Flour - Varies. All purpose flour will last indefinitely if stored properly. Other high fat content flours should be refrigerated and be good for about 2wks to a month past date.

Salt, Sugar, Powdered Sugar - These do not expire.


Remember the guidelines above are only guidelines. Use common sense. If it smells or tastes bad, it is bad. If it is discolored, it's most likely bad. Use the tests for Baking Powder and Baking Soda if in doubt. Never attempt to eat canned goods where the can is rusty, leaking, or bulging outward. And keep in mind that food needs to be stored properly, Refrigerated foods closed tightly and kept between 32 and 40 degrees. Boxed and packaged foods need to be sealed tightly. Always stored dry and canned goods and bottled water and soda in a cool dry place out of sunlight. Follow these rules and you should be able to literally save hundreds of dollars a year on your grocery bill!


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is good to know. I'm usually very anal about expiration dates on food and I always end up wasting milk. I never knew that milk could still be good after the date.

    • anglfire693 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Thats good information to know! Thanks Dahoglund!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Good information. Also some stores have close-out items that are dented or getting old. I found some good buys but one should be careful what they are buying. In most cases state laws determine what can be sold. One cann also check with their Agricultural extension office.

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 

      9 years ago from South Wales

      I agree with all of this. I regularly buy 'last day' products.

    • moonlake profile image


      9 years ago from America

      Good information. I use the yogurt and milk in my cakes if the dates are up on them and they haven't gone bad. Works fine.


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