These days, many of us are trying to limit trips to the grocery store whenever possible. Sure enough, this will eventually lead to a good number of people engaged in a long, thoughtful stare down with that can of soup in the cupboard marked several months past expiration. Is it safe to eat?
Here’s seven tips to help guide you through what you can and cannot eat.
Tip 1: Expiration Dates Are Not Safety Warnings
Expiration dates on food are based on quality and taste, not when you’ll start to get food poisoning. They’re the manufacturer’s best guess at when something will start to taste less fresh, have less flavor, or smell a little off.
That date is also assuming that the food may not be stored by the consumer in the most ideal conditions- something that you yourself can mitigate.
With that in mind, what you have on-hand will need a different rule to guide you on its edibility.
Tip 2: Foods High in Acid and Sugar Keep Seemingly Forever
Your vinegar, ketchup, salt, mustard, and mayonnaise will keep going almost indefinitely- or at least as long as you’re stuck in the house. High amounts of acid and sugar keep bacteria at bay.
Tip 3: White Grains Have a Longer Shelf Life Than Whole Grains
White grains have the fats of the grain stripped away from them during processing, leading to a longer shelf life. The same applies for flours and rices.
Processed white bread will remain soft and good to eat in your refrigerator for up to several weeks. White grain flour will almost never go bad. Cereals and other grains last about a year, and if it’s gone stale, try using them in a recipe such as for breadcrumbs or stuffing!
Tip 4: Spices Won’t Go Bad, They’ll Go Tasteless
Your dried spices are not likely to fall victim to spoilage before you’re through with them, but their taste will become blander over time.
Another cooking additive, oils, will keep for nearly as long. Keeping them stored away from the heat of your stove will extend that time.
Tip 5: The Type of Container the Food Is in Is Important
The general rule of thumb is that metal is better than glass which is better than plastic at storing food over time.
For your canned goods, metal and glass containers frequently have the ever-useful pop-up button on their lids. This button will raise if the can expands from the gas caused by bacteria eating the food inside, which will mark the end of your can of soup.
Tip 6: Eggs Last Longer Than You Think
You can expect to have good, safely consumable eggs for at least a couple of weeks past the sell-by date!
If your eggs are getting on the older side, carefully place one in a full glass of water. If it doesn’t float, then you’re good to go! If it does, that’s a rotten egg.
Tip 7: Ultrahigh Temperature (UHT) Milk Lasts Longer
Milk pasteurized at higher than average temperatures has a lower amount of bacteria in it to start, and that means a lot less bacteria to eventually colonize and spoil your dairy, making it last longer. Organic milk brands are frequently labeled UHT.
When will your milk go bad though? Keep in mind that your nose is the most useful tool for making that final determination.
For standard milk, expect to have about two weeks. Keeping your refrigerator set closer to 34 degrees Fahrenheit over the standard 40 degrees can add another week on top of this, and UHT milk of course will hold out for even longer.
Remember that your senses are important in determining whether something is still good to eat. Food will begin to change in smell, texture, and color as it spoils.
You can find even more specifics on some of these foods by checking out these articles on expiration dates:
The Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow | New York Times
32 Long Shelf Life Foods to Keep in Your Pantry | Taste of Home
And a handy chart:
Shelf Life of Pantry Foods | The Spruce Eats
Be on the lookout for our next article as Last Third Best Third researches more tips to help guide you through your best third.
Donna Saliter says
What great advice! Thanks RO, You’re the best! Oh and if anyone DOES find an outdated can of veggies, please don’t donate it to your local food pantry. My local pantry can’t offer outdated foods to their clients, and I’m sure others can’t either.