Sunday, November 30, 2014

Understanding Food FRESHNESS and Sell By Dates

Product with Expiration Date on the bottom

Its a Reference Date, not "will Spoil By date"

First of all, you need to realize that many of the foods you see in supermarkets with a "sell by date" (aka Expiration date, Best By date, etc.)on them don't actually go bad on that labeled date.

In fact, for the majority of foods, these dates are set as guidelines for the store itself and are often there just to provide a reference for the customer.

Even though the ”sell by date” is important and should be checked on all food purchases, there is still some room for you to take advantage of those sale items that have dates that expire soon.

And, some foods are not labeled with “sell by dates” at all. But there are some standards you can follow with these foods to assure you are still managing your older foods properly.

Actual Life Expectancy for different Foods

Here are some of the realities that you can use to your advantage when handling your stored foods or reading those Sell By dates on your food labels:

Cheeses – 

Cheeses can still be good for as long as three to four months after their “sell by date”. The hard varieties will last even longer because they contain less moisture for bacteria’s and fungi to grow on.

Good cheeses are expensive and when you have leftover portions seal them tightly in plastic wrap with a minimal amount of air in the package. Also, if you check and your cheese had some mold on it, cut away the portions with the mold and the cheese will still be useable.

Eggs – 

Eggs, when kept on a shelf in the fridge and in their original containers can easily remain useable for three or four weeks past their labeled “Sell By date”. And, of course, when you can, cook those older eggs first.

Herbs and Spices – 

Dried, ground or packaged Herbs and Spices that have been opened will still be OK for up to six months, but you should toss them if they “lose their zest”. Just take a sniff and take a small taste to make up your mind about them.
Whole Spices, if stored tightly in a container can still be good for use for up to two years.

Meats – 

Raw meats such as steaks, chops and roasts can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months if they are packaged properly. Ground meats should be used within 4 months and cooked meats can be kept frozen for up to 4 months before losing their favor.

Milk – 

Milk will still be good up to a week past its “sell by date” on its label. But remember, it must be stored at a 40F or lower temperature.
Store it in the back of your fridge to keep it away from those warmer temperatures when you open your fridge door. Be sure to keep your milk in the fridge and do not leave it on your counter any longer than necessary.


Oils used for cooking such as vegetable or olive oil are good for up to six months after they are opened. Many are still useable after such a period but should be checked for such things as the growth of molds or even discoloration.


Packaged Pasta is still useable for a year or longer when stored in the pantry, but after that you should consider tossing it.

Processed Meats – 

Processed Meats or lunch meats can last three to five days beyond their “sell by date”. If the lunchmeat is stored in a sealed plastic package this will help the meat store even longer.

They should be stored in the meat drawer of your fridge because this will keep the cold air in when the fridge is opened.
If the package is opened, and the meat has a slimy film or has an unpleasant odor, then you should toss it.

Rice – 

Packaged Rice, like pasta, is still useable for a year or longer when stored in the pantry and you should consider tossing it after that.

Sugar – 

Packaged Sugar, like pasta and rice, is still useable for a year or longer when stored in the pantry and you should consider tossing it after that.

Yogurt – 

Yogurt can be kept as long as two weeks past its “sell by date” if it is stored in a cold fridge. When you open your aged yogurt, check that it doesn’t have any mold or possibly a bad odor. If it does, then toss it.

But, if your yogurt has separated and has water on top, when you open it, this is normal and you just need to stir it well and blend it back to its original consistency.

Seal it Well!

The most important thing to do if you are storing foods, any foods, is to seal them properly and keep as much air as you can away from the sealed foods.