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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
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Expiration Dates Explained

Expiration Dates Explained

Dates on products aren’t as important as you might think. By law, only infant formula and certain baby foods are required to have dates stamped on them. (How does a soft drink expire?) Most foods are still edible after the “expiration date” has come and gone. However, the flavor may be affected.

Before you toss out good food based on expiration dates, be sure to know what the codes mean:

Different Codes
– Sell by: Don’t buy the product after this date. This is the expiration date.

– Best if used by: Flavor or quality is best before this date, but the product is still edible thereafter.

– Use by: This is the last day that the manufacturer vouches for the product’s quality.

More Advisory Than Imperative
The dates listed on food products are basically guidelines, for both sellers and customers. Most of the dates are not actually expiration dates and don’t mean that you’ll get sick if you eat something that is past it’s best-by date.

Use Common Sense
You should, of course, use common sense. If a product has a bad smell or a bad look to it, don’t eat it. If it’s a box of crackers, you should be fine. Eggs are good for 3 to 5 weeks after their dates, and dairy may be, but use caution.

How you store your food products can also make a difference. Many peoplefreeze meats after the use-by/freeze-by dates and find them still good when used. However, if you don’t wrap meats well enough, then the quality and safety can be harmed.

Sell-by dates usually allow additional time for storage at home. Generally, perishable products can be kept safely in your refrigerator for seven days after you buy them, even if that’s past the given date. Fresh meat is the exception. Don’t keep beef or pork for longer than three to five days before you use it or freeze it. And use poultry, seafood, and ground or chopped meat within two days (or freeze it). Most meats are good for almost a year after you purchase them if you keep them well-wrapped in a freezer.

13 comments

1 Teri Campisi { 03.29.14 at 12:55 am }

I add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to my milk as soon as I open it and it always seems to last at least a week past the use by date and it does not change the taste at all.

2 Jaime McLeod { 01.30.13 at 1:53 pm }

Linda – Sounds legit to me. My almond milk never lasts a full week after opening, because I use it up, but I wouldn’t hesitate to keep it longer.

3 Linda { 01.24.13 at 10:18 am }

Once opened, I use my soy or rice milk long after the “7 days” recommended. No smell and still tastes good. What do you think?

4 Mary { 01.17.13 at 9:11 am }

As for milk if it is a day or two past the expiration date don’t smell it in the jug. Pour some in a glass and then smell. The plastic of the jug makes the milk smell ‘funny’.

5 Martha Albert { 01.15.13 at 4:09 pm }

Try WD40 on shower. I know of two people who swear by it. One being my daughter. She came home one day from work and noticed the shower door was clean.(her husband doesn’t work and takes care of the house work & cooking) She asked what he did. He replyed WD40.

6 Debi { 01.14.13 at 1:21 am }

To Rita about eggs…I know someone who had layers for one of the major egg suppliers. The truck picked them up once a week 270-300 dz (refrigerated holding room). They were documented with the dates on each case. At times the company would have them hold the eggs for 3-4 wks when the sales were slow or during factory shut down. I remember the salesman saying that the eggs were good for 4 months after laying as long as refrigerated. He said most eggs are around 30 days old when they get to the store shelf. I prefer fresh farmer eggs but I have to have older eggs to make deviled eggs.

7 Rita { 01.12.13 at 6:26 pm }

Soda pop CAN expire – it goes flat. Learned “the hard way” – They had a case-lot sale at a commissary, and WHO in their right mind can pass up a case (24 bottles) of soda for $2? Got them home and no “pffffffffft”.
And since I got food poisoning to the point where, if I hadn’t got in to the ER that night, I’d not have made it to the following morning, so I do and will continue, to throw anything out once it reaches expiration date.
Side-note on eggs: The egg factories have 30 days to get their fresh laid eggs to the store. The store has 60 days to get them on the shelves. Eggs store longer tip side down. If in doubt do the “float” test. Fill a large bowl/pot with cool water then place egg in. If it floats, it’s bad. If it still touches the bottom but “stands” up, it’s ok to use as boiled. If it’s laid down, it’s fresh. (I raise hens) **The color of the eggshell has nothing to do with the quality of the egg. The color is determined by the hens earlobes (took me forever to find those!) Good quality, fresh eggs will have a firm clear “white” part of the egg (not liquid like) and the more vivid the yolk, the more proof in the quality. My yolks are almost orange: no hormones and TOTALLY free range hens.

8 Lisa Patrick { 01.10.13 at 6:26 am }

As a former Pharmacy Technician, I feel obligated to add medications to this list and advise that any medications, whether prescription or over the counter should be discarded once the expiration date has been reached. Medications and even certain vitamins loose their efficacy once the date has been exceeded and at best wont work, at worst can be dangerous when consumed, even having a negative, opposite effect than what was intended. So, err on the side of caution and throw them out!

9 Linda Cully { 01.09.13 at 3:59 pm }

Hi …Laura-Jean Siggens {I have worked for a janitorial co.
We used a product called Wil-Flush….
Read how to use it first…It works well…Only place you can buy this product is at an outlet for janitorial supplies

Not sure were you live ..I.m in Ont. Canada

10 Billie Brock { 01.09.13 at 9:45 am }

For Laura-Jean Siggens: We have a boat, made of fiberglass. When it gets dirty, NOTHING takes the dirt off like a hull cleaner. If you have a marine store near you, try getting some there. You could also order online, or check some of the stores near you like Walmart that do carry SOME items for boaters, but not a lot. Hope this helps in getting your shower cleaned.

11 Laura-Jean Siggens { 01.09.13 at 9:34 am }

ok i moved into an apartment where someone rarely cleaned the shower. It is a fiberglass shower and has horrible rust stains. how is a safe and effiecient way to get rid of all of this rust. The people do have a water softener but I mean one half of the shower is orange and shouldn’t be. I tried CRL and the works. no real success without extreme scrubbing and hours and days later only have about 1/3 of it cleaned. HELP

12 Tammy Woodfield { 01.09.13 at 9:18 am }

I have ALWAYS gone by look/smell, not date. I don’t like throwing food out unless I know for sure that it is bad. I was brought up with ‘waste not, want not’. Some of my friends aren’t as ‘daring’. I’m glad to see you put this information up. Now, I just direct them here! :)

13 Patricia Lankford { 01.09.13 at 9:05 am }

I thought this article was very enlighting, it was fulled with information that I didn’t know I was always told if the date was expired throw it out. enjoyed read this

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