questionshow far past a "best before" date will you use…


most of the time they are not "expiration dates", they're "best by" and "freshest by" dates. Dry goods like pasta are good for years and years past the date, eggs for up to a few weeks, milk/dairy at least a few days past the date, sometimes up to a week. Canned goods and such can be good for decades. I can't believe you toss milk out a few days BEFORE the date!

I found a box of pasta-roni that had a 2010 date on the box last month, and it tasted perfectly fine, and I didn't get sick.

OTC meds are usually good for a few months if kept in a dark, dry, and cool place, but with prescription meds I don't mess around, I'll only use them a week or two past the date.

We store coffee in it's original packaging in a freezer to keep it fresh as well.


I'm paranoid. I'll throw things out the day after the printed date. Bread, however, usually gets thrown out a few days before then because it gets a particular funky smell that I find unappetizing.


I threw out a pack of cheese right after I bought it because it had mold on it. Only later did I realize that it was blue cheese. :/

Usually I give it about a weekend, depending on the product. Milk is usually the most likely to get chucked close to it's date...


So long as it doesn't smell or taste funky and the can isn't bulging, I ignore the date entirely for food; it can have an expiration ten years gone. Medication is a different matter; I'm pretty careful with that.


Kind of interesting hearing about how diligent people are with their meds. I worked with a pharm tech, nurse in the army, etc and she said that meds don't actually expire. By law they have to put an expiration date and the potency/effectiveness may decline but they're still okay. Now I'm not condoning using 10 year old Vicodin nor can I authenticate what she said, just thought it was interesting.

For food products they usually get the sniff test, if they smell okay, they get the nibble/sip test, if they pass both, then they're good to go! I have had milk expire before the expiration date so I'm always sniffing milk. For eggs a trick I learned is if you're unsure, to put them in a pot of water. If they totally float, they're bad. Of course you could crack one open and give it the sniff test as well!

I guess she wasn't lying about the meds...


I'm in the group who has no problem consuming food past the expiration date, provided it still smells, looks and tastes like it should. If it's started to get fuzzy or smell funky or just seem off, I'll toss it. But it takes a lot for most things to get to that point if they're properly stored.

For meds, I will use OTC meds a few months past the expiration date. With prescription stuff, I don't ever have that issue. I take the meds for as long as the doc tells me to and dispose of anything left (either toss them in the trash, not in the bottle but with the used kitty litter, or turn them in when the city has the "turn in your old or expired meds" day).


If it still smells good and isn't chunky, it's fair game. Although I never mess around with dairy products. It must be noted that milk with higher milkfat content will last longer than say skim milk.


Milk stays in the fridge til it curdles and bread stays in the house until stuff starts visibly growing on it.


I base it more on color change and oder than date.


Umm... yeah... I'll be honest here. Milk... until it actually tastes bad... usually a week. Bread... not sure... hubby eats a sandwich every day for lunch so we go through it quickly. Canned goods... well, just used something from 2009 a couple of weeks ago and I'm still here. Salad/Spinach/whatever in a bag... until it starts to smell weird/get slimy/turn that weird shade of green. Medicine... a year maybe... I know I'm horrible! It really depends though... if it's OTC... umm... could be 3-4 years before I'll realize that it expired and I'll take one without looking at the date. Then again, I just took a tylenol from who knows when and I know without a doubt that it was at a minimum 4 years old. Maybe I should go take a look at my prescription meds and see how old they are. I guess I should be glad I'm pretty healthy.


I finished a pint of EggBeaters dated Nov 15, 2011 last week, though they had only been opened about ten days prior to when I finished them.

Dairy products like yogurt and sour cream are generally good for two or three weeks after the expiration date. Milk gets the sniff or taste test (it rarely lasts more than two days past the expiry date).

I try to use frozen goods within a year or so and canned goods within three years. Dry goods last much longer. We've used nine year old cake mixes without problem.

As for OTC meds (eg. Aspirin, acetominophen, etc.) they are fine as long as they are properly stored. The vicodin and other pain killers I keep around in case I have the joy of another kidney stone are about three years old and perfectly fine as per my doctor.


If I find something past the expiration date in the fridge, I always ask my wife to taste it first - you know, just in case.....


Good til it's walking and talking and inventing the wheel


@baqui63: I've eaten yogurt that was 5 months expired. My refrigerator is extra cold but I still find it disturbing that my strawberry yogurt tasted fine after that long.


Except milk, i don't check expiration dates. The only reason i do with milk is because of a bad experience as a teenager. Poured a nice heaping helping of hersheys chocolate, followed by the milk. Didn't smell anything (but also just assumed it was okay). Now - you know when you take that first swig of a nice cold chocolate milk - it's a big one. A nice big gulp. Tasted a little off, so you go back for another nice big gulp... only then did i find the curdles (even the memory puts a hair trigger on my gag reflex lol)

Anyways - i keep juices until they start to feel greasy. Meat coldcuts until they feel slimy. Cooked meat until it's too dry to eat. Meds with an expiration worth caring about, i freeze. everything else, i don't worry too much about... just go by look, feel, and first-bite taste.


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I'm paranoid about the stuff in the fridge. Milk, yogurt, cheese, etc are tossed at the end of the day printed on them. Produce is based on how it looks and smells (meaning sometimes it is tossed before the date if it looks too wilted). Freezer stuff can last forever as long as it stays cold. Cans normally get tossed if they are past their date (after all if it has been in the pantry that long, what are the chances I am going to eat it now?). Dry goods I'll keep for a month or so after if they aren't stale. I am not a fan of stale food. And bread is based on if there is mold growing on it and if it is stale. Meds I toss when I realize they are expired as I can tell the difference in strength.


What a waste, throwing out milk before the date even though it's good for at least a week after, even more if unopened. At least my eggs come from my neighbor! When ever I need a few I walk across the street, grab a few, then go home! Expire fresh eggs!


I took a nutrition class a few years ago. Part of the class was on expiration dates. Since then, I have been consistently adamant about tossing anything past it's package date. I hate to waste anything, either, but I don't want to take a chance on make myself or anyone else sick over an item that costs a few dollars.


Maybe it's just my fridge, but my milk tends to smell/taste funny a day or two before its expiration date, so I don't mess with it. Everything else is fair game until it grows mold.


@wlknlight: the date printed on a lot of milk and yogurt containers is a "sell by" date - not a freshness date. (depends on state, but i can't recall the last time i saw anything but a sell-by date on milk, anywhere i travelled)

tip for yogurt - it's already "gone bad" - that's how it exists :) you don't have to worry about it spoiling, until the next phase of bacterial digestion happens. When it does start that next phase, you'll know because it releases gas, and the foil cover of the yogurt will start to puff out. No puff/ internal pressure? you're good. you're even good with a slight puff, but not for long.

Milk - if you're getting rid of it by the end of the day printed on it - that's just silly and wasteful. Moreso if it's a sell-by date, and not a freshness date lol. At least test it first.

Also you're wrong about freezer stuff staying forever... that's a common fallacy, actually. Some nasty stuff if not frozen properly. Particularly moist-stored meats and botulism.


It all depends upon the smell. Can we all agree on this?


@dleffert: Just find a stray animal instead, oh wait... nevermind.


In short I use the smell/taste test.

Here's what the USDA has to say:

Also refrigerated eggs can last for over half a year:


I gave up caring about some " best by" dates when they started to use them on cans of soda. Like some can of Diet Lime Coke is gonna explode in my fridge because I was a tad slow? Surrrre.


@wlknlight: cheese? really? you do realizez that aging cheese makes it BETTER right? the difference between regular and sharp cheddar is 6 months of aging.

@gertiestn: DIET soda goes bad in about a year. The artificial sweetener does some nasty crap when it ages... Diet coke, diet pepsi, diet mt dew all taste like crap about 6-12 months after their "best by" date.

edit: you can make eggs last for years by rubbing them with a little mineral oil. It's totally inert, and since you don't eat the shell anyway... It blocks oxygen from getting through the shell to spoil the eggs.


Expiration date is how long the contents are guaranteed to be safe/good under the worst-case recommended storage conditions. "Best by" dates are how long flavor/texture/odor are guaranteed, and don't indicate when spoilage occurs. Dry goods stored in a dry, dark, and cool location should taste good for many months past that date, and be edible many years later. In an airtight box with one of those "handwarmer" pouches thrown in to scavenge oxygen (the main cause of food spoilage after bacteria and mold) dry goods can last for decades. Something to remember when you put together that "emergency" food stash.

Most of us will never know enough about chemistry to second-guess expiration dates for medicine, but 20% past an expiration date should be safe if you store your meds in a cool, dry place. Some medicines become toxic as they age (the chemicals decompose to poisonous substances) and some can lose enough potency that they don't do their job.


It depends on the food. Dairy/ juice I'll do a week or two beyond. Always smell/ look before though. If it's gone bad, it will smell or be an off color. But if it looks/ smells good, I'll still consume.

Boxed stuff I barely notice. I've eaten something boxed a good couple of years after its expiration date and it was still good. I'm pretty sure there's still oatmeal from when I was a kid in my parents' pantry. If I see something expired a couple years plus, then I'm a little too grossed out by that to eat it, even though its probably still perfectly good. I threw out some Trader Joe's Indian food a couple weeks ago because I saw it had expired in early 2010. Definitely did not realize it had been sitting so long.


Yesterday I drank a diet coke that "expired" last November. The office was cleaning out the refrigerator and I was thirsty. Aged diet coke actually tastes better...


@magiclela: My brother and I almost died when we were younger because we were given some of my grandparents' expired cold medicine (or something...I was too young to remember). I'm not saying all meds expire, but those sure did.


I recommend checking out and using

and always stick with "when in doubt, throw it out."



Distrubing or not, I'm of the opinion that dates on food and the like are (mostly) a marketing ploy, the primary goal of which is to cause people to dump perfectly good stuff and (hopefully) buy more. This thread would appear to support my opinion for the most part.

If the real goal where public safety and health, the dates would not be expiration dates but rather manufacture dates. We would then know when a given item was picked, packed, or produced and be able to decide for ourselves when said item is no longer fit for consumption.

Of course, all of this requires that items be stored "properly" (whatever that means) prior to getting to us, so all of it is mostly meaningless anyway.