We’ve all been there. Eyes squinting, trying to read that tiny date on what's hopefully about to be dinner, realizing that the “best before” date was two days ago, and doing what most people do — throw it in the garbage. What if we told you that you could be throwing out perfectly good food?
Well, no more! We’re debunking the myths of “Best Before” and “Expiration” dates to help you understand when and if you need to chuck the food out, or if you can still use it to make your next meal.
“Best Before” Date
What many people don’t know is that the best before date has nothing to do with a food’s safety. This date tells us how long the food will maintain its flavor and nutritional value. So realistically, you can still eat the food after the best before date, although some foods may lose their taste more than others. For example, cookies will likely taste stale but pasta and pasta sauces should still taste fine. An important thing to consider is that food will still be okay to consume after its best before date as long as it has been stored correctly.
Canned goods, dry foods, and grains are safe to eat well past their best before date. On the other hand, fresh foods like meat, dairy, and eggs should be consumed before or immediately after the best before date. If the food has reached its best before date, trust your sense of smell to inspect the item. If something doesn’t smell, or look right, it’s probably time to throw it out.
Have you noticed that not all foods have an expiration date stamped on them? Most of the foods we buy have a best before date, but an expiration date is very uncommon. That’s because the only foods that need to have an expiration date are those that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications that might not be maintained after a certain date. These are foods like infant formula and meal replacements. Unlike foods with best before dates, foods with expiration dates should not be consumed after the date has passed. After the date indicated, the food loses its nutritional value and should be tossed.
Tips to Ensure the Freshness of Your Food
1. Store canned products in a cool, dry place.
Once canned goods become dented, rusted, or just look a little worse for wear, consider discarding them. Even a small crack in the can could jeopardize the safety of the food.
2. Organize your fridge.
Ever heard of the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” This is exactly what happens with the food in our fridges, especially when it comes to produce. Avoid letting your food go bad by organizing your fridge in a way where you know what’s inside and how long it’s been there. For example, you could organize your food by expiration date or use containers with labels that say “eat me by X date.”
3. Eat leftovers in a timely manner.
Leftovers are a great way to get the most out of your food. You can safely consume leftovers 3-4 days after being stored in the fridge, and 3-4 months after being stored in the freezer. Just be sure to thoroughly reheat all leftovers.
Follow these simple tips to extend the shelf life of your groceries and avoid food waste. For more tips on making your fruits and vegetables last longer, check out our blog post here.