Expiration Dates: Are You Rigid About Them or Do You Fudge a Bit?

I cannot wait to clean out my pantry later this month (with a friend). It’s one of the chores that is on my to-do list. Seems like I’m constantly pulling out food, checking dates, and tossing if it’s old …

That’s one benefit of yearly (or bi-yearly) sorting through the pantry. You can check for old food items.

Which brings me to this question. What is the guideline to use when tossing old food? What if the date is right on the edge of being “old?”

And what about refrigerated items?

To be honest, sometimes I just can’t toss things. So I fudge a little and use them anyway …

Especially items like yogurt or sour cream or even whipping cream. I always use my “nose” and smell it first.

As Grace, over at A Southern Grace says, “… tossing food causes me great pain because in many cases, the food in question is perfectly fine and just as delicious and usable as the day it was made.” (You can join in on the conversation and read all of her comments, too.)

I also like what the Gourmet Sleuth has to say.

Can I Eat Food Past The Expiration Date?
You can certainly eat most foods beyond any “convenience date.” If the date is explicitly an “expiration date” then proceed with caution. For an example, a steak a few days past a sell by date is probably not going to hurt you. A box of crackers 2 months past a best by or use by date are typically just fine. Smell the food, does it smell OK? If it smells spoiled or rancid, toss it out.

Here are some other sites/guidelines to read:

USDA – US Food Labeling guidelines fact sheet

SFGate – The Dating Game, Freshness labels are a manufacturers’ free-for-all.

Do you fudge a little regarding dates on food, or are you rigid and you toss no matter what?

(My friend Barb feeds hers to the dogs and chickens, which, btw …. we are thinking about getting chickens. Do you have chickens?) Happy Weekend, friends!

36 comments on “Expiration Dates: Are You Rigid About Them or Do You Fudge a Bit?”

  1. I also read about the cake mix, browine mixes, to not use past the date, so since I read that, I always toss them out, now I am confused. how long are cake mixes or brownie mixes still ok? I would never want the kids to get sick, although I usually only scratch bake cakes because they are so much better.

  2. I’m late to comment here…but, I’m very lax about the expiration dates on canned goods. I honestly feel that those dates are most likely arbitary and on there just because the FDA said they had to be, I seem to recall a time when there were no dates.

    I’ve never opened a purchased canned product that was ruined, I feel that their process is pretty foolproof and given the amount of preservatives they throw in, I’m going to take a gamble and eat an expired can here and there!!

  3. I’m not rigid about dates and I will stretch if possible. It really depends on the food item in question. My husband on the other hand is very strict about dates and even if it has not reached the date… say by a week he will toss out unless I have direct plans within the next day or so. I find that to be a little silly but whatever.

  4. I always do the sniff test and I’m pretty cautious. When I put groceries away, I always rotate back to front in both the pantry, refrigerator, & freezer so the older items are right in front.

  5. I just got busted on this question from my Aunt. I was making an amazingly simply cocunut cake this past Christmas season. My condensed milk I picked out of the pantry was 5 years old. She was gracious enough to tell me NOT to use it! I couldn’t believe the date! This means I had to have packed and unpacked that silly can for 3 different moves!!!!
    I also would like to add that I would love to see YOUR pantry! I love your blog!!!

  6. I am not a stickler for expiration dates. Even for highly perishable items, like milk I buy the ones with the date farthest away, put into the fridge immediately and do not leave it sit on the counter. Other than that we have eaten even some home canned foods (mostly jams) 8+ years past the date of manufacture. It was all fine. There are clear signs of spoilage for home canned goods. You can see a list of them on my blog. Cleanliness, proper canning method & length of time and sterile containers go a long way to keep your home canned foods safe beyond a year.
    ~Mrs. R

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