Don't Throw These Foods Away

Does the ‘best by’ date matter?

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Don’t Throw These Foods Away

Photo Modified: Flickr / Casey Fleser / CC BY 4.0

Unpacking the lingo is half the battle. Dates are slapped onto many cartons without much concern as to how to the consumer will interpret their meaning.  This misunderstanding leads to millions of pounds of food waste each year.


Canned Food

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Those doomsday preppers might be on to something. Canned foods last long past their expiration dates, sometimes by up to two to three years.


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The date stamped onto the side of your ketchup bottle isn’t so finite. If you store it in the refrigerator after opening it, ketchup is safe to use for up to a year. As long as it still smells and tastes fresh, there is no need to toss it in the trash.



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Like ketchup, this condiment’s shelf life is longer than you may think. Commercial mayonnaise brands pack in preservatives and use pasteurized eggs for the consumer’s safety. As long as it tastes like mayo and smells like mayo, you are safe to add it to your favorite chicken salad recipe.



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Taking a swig of over-the-hill milk is just the worst — so bad, in fact, it may make you leery of those “best by” dates. But really milk can last long after its expiration, so before you toss the bottle, take a sniff.


Olive Oil

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If stored properly, olive oil can last up to two years. Keep your oil in a cool, dark pantry for maximum freshness. Just give it a quick sniff before using to check for a rancid odor.



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The whole point of pickling is to preserve the product. Pickles, like canned goods, last up to one to two years past the printed date if left untampered.


Sour Cream

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Sour cream is essentially spoiled cream, so as long as there isn’t any visible mold, it is completely safe to use past its expiration date.


Photo Modified: Flickr / Casey Fleser / CC BY 4.0

Keep your spices in a cool, dry place and they will last long past the “use by” date. Whole spices remain flavorful up to four years and dried leafy spices, like bay leaves, will keep for one to three years.