The average family of four throws out 132 pounds of food a month, wasting close to $2,000 a year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. While some of that food’s spoiled and should get discarded, we’re tossing far too many fresh items out, partly due to confusion over expiration and “use buy” dates.
Neither the FDA nor USDA requires or regulates expiration dates on groceries, with the exception of baby food and infant formula. Instead, manufacturers determine ‘Best by,’ ‘Use By,’ and ‘Sell By’ dates and all it means is that it’s the last day the food maker will guarantee flavor, quality or freshness. Food date labels can lead to confusion and waste, according to a report from the NRDC and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.
Here’s a rundown of foods that, if stored properly, are fine to consumer days or even months after the printed date.
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After the ‘best before’ date, an opened jar of processed peanut butter will last six to eight months stored in the refrigerator or three to four months in the pantry. Natural peanut butter is good an extra five to six months kept in the fridge.
Next, dairy items are probably the most commonly tossed foods that can actually remain fresh longer. Eggs can usually be consumed for three to four weeks past the carton’s ‘sell by’ date, and hard-boiling extends their life another seven days.
Milk stays fresh up to a week after the “sell by” date. And, best to store it on a middle shelf – instead of by the door - where it’s cooler.
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Butter, meantime, lasts up to two weeks after its been opened, and it can be frozen for an extra six to nine months. And, yogurt doesn’t need to be eaten before the ‘sell by’ date either. An opened package will last up to a week, and unopened containers of yogurt stay fresh two to three weeks after the printed date. Greek yogurt is usually fresh for another one to two weeks.
Meat & Poultry
When refrigerated properly, no need to toss meat and poultry as soon as the date’s up.
Raw chicken, beef and turkey are usually safe to prepare for one to two days after the printed date. After cooking, these will keep up to seven days in an airtight container to lock out moisture and contaminants. Raw or cooked, these can be frozen for six to eight months, too.
You’re generally safe to eat fresh deli meat five to six days after the printed date. Processed, packaged lunchmeat lasts up to 10 days, and bologna can stick around for one to two weeks after the printed date.
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Condiments & Canned Items
Finally, condiments and canned goods have the longest shelf lives. Unopened canned items including vegetables, soup and fruit can last up to two years beyond the printed date. Opened ketchup and mustard remain good for a year after the “best before” date, but opened mayonnaise is only fresh for an extra month.
What does your family eat after the printed date?