Most people look at the expiration on packaged food and if it’s one day past the expiration date, in the trash it goes. We waste tons of food, especially here in the States, tossing out food that is still good because of the date that is printed on the package.
Printing any sort of expiration or sell by date on a food package in the United States is completely voluntary outside of baby formula and some baby foods.First, let’s understand all the different terms used in the food industry.
This refers to the last date that the food should be consumed. Eat the food after that date at your own risk. You will usually only find this on baby formula and some baby foods.
Sell By Date:
This is a recommendation to the grocery store as to when the item should be sold. The food is still good to eat after this date, but it isn’t at its peak quality anymore.
Best If Used By Date / Use By Date:
This refers to quality and not to safety. This is the date you should use the item by for best quality: taste, texture, etc.
Born On Date:
This is usually printed on beer now days. Beer can go bad after about three months as the microorganism in the beer can be deactivated by sunlight.
Guaranteed Fresh Date:
This is usually on baked good. The item is edible after the date, just not at it’s peak freshness.
Almost all foods are safe to eat past the date printed on the package, which ever format it may be. For foods with any form of ‘Use By’ date that are not canned, they will generally be safe to eat for months and sometimes a year after the Use By date. There is a website called StillTasty.com that lists the maximum shelf life of almost any food. It gives you the amount of time if stored in a cupboard versus stored in a refrigerator and sometimes the life span when it’s frozen.
Canned goods will usually have a Use By or Best By date that is two or three years from the time it is on the store shelf. That is only the date the manufacturer can guarantee the product is at its maximum quality. Canned food will usually be safe to eat for years, even decades after the Best By date.
Always rotate your stock, and if you plan on keeping it past the manufacturers printed date, make sure you relabel the package with the date you have determined to be the last date you are willing to eat it. That way there is no math or guesswork to any of your food stocks on your shelves. If it is on the shelf, it has a clear date on it that you have put on there. Being organized is the best way to save product, money, time and possible illness. I personally use an inexpensive label maker. I purchased one years ago and have gotten more than my money’s worth out of it. Check Amazon for great deals on label makers.
So stock up, stay organized and stop wasting food just because the manufacturer told you to throw it away.