Something I learned from growing up in a middle class family was how to stretch a dollar when it comes to my monthly food budget. In the recent economic crash more and more American families have perfected their own methods for making less last longer. It’s a necessity for survival month-to-month in more homes than we probably care to admit. One of the keys to success with any grocery bill –no matter the size of the family– is to find the savings. The second key is to ignore those pesky dates printed on everything.
Most expiration dates are meant for quality, not safety. They’re also used to get consumers to spend more by throwing out good food in the never-ending pursuit of ‘freshness.’ When properly packaged, handled, and stored, you can consume food beyond its expiration date. In the end, it’s always best to use the two guides you were born with for food safety: your eyes and nose. Always remember my grandmother’s mantra: “If it looks or smells funny. It’s not good for the tummy.”
For example, did you know…
Use-By and Best Before dates:
Provided voluntarily by the manufacturer to show how long a particular product is at its “peak” quality. Surely, a biased opinion. A product can be consumed after this date.
Expires On dates:
Most likely found on fresh meat and dairy. This is a mandated guide for stores on how long they can “display” a certain product. It has nothing to do with quality or safety. A product that is properly stored (refrigerated/frozen/etc.) can be consumed beyond this date.
This is a government regulated date typically found on baby food, etc. DO NOT consume a product past this date.
Visually artist Lindsay Osborn has put together this great infographic outlining the proper shelf life of common foods. Print it out and stick it to the fridge as a handy guide.