The Expiration Dates You Should Never Ignore

The Expiration Dates You Should Never Ignore

Thanks to modern preservation techniques and the widespread availability of refrigerators, food can last for quite a while. Since it can be tricky to know just how long food is good for, many items come marked with an expiration date. In many cases, however, that expiration date is just a guideline and the food can still be consumed after the expiration date has passed. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in America goes to waste, and a large reason for that is because most people are throwing out food that is still good.

While there are some expiration dates you should stick to, others can be viewed as loose guidelines. So how can you tell the difference?

Here are some of the expiration dates you can totally disregard and some you should never ignore:

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It can be hard to tell whether or not an egg is still safe to use unless you crack it, but chances are, it’s still good for quite a while past its expiration date. You may have heard that old eggs immersed in water will float. This is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the egg isn’t safe to eat. Eggs are usually good for 3-5 weeks after you purchase them, but can last even longer if properly refrigerated.

The surest sign of a rotten egg is its smell. If you crack open an old egg and it gives off an unpleasant odor, then you should toss it (and the rest of the carton) into the trash.

Raw meat

Raw meat is one thing you should definitely follow the expiration date on. Most meat, fish, and poultry should only be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, though thicker cuts of meat (such as a roast or a steak) can last for up to five. If you’re not planning on cooking these foods within the first few days after purchasing them, store them in the freezer. Most meats can last for months when frozen.


Generally speaking, milk is good for up to a week after the sell-by date, although you should still give it a sniff test to be sure. If the milk smells funky, has changed color, or gotten thick and clumpy, pour it down the sink.

Keeping your milk properly refrigerated will help it last longer. This means that you should keep it on a shelf inside the fridge rather than storing it on the door, where it’s exposed to temperature fluctuations.


The shelf life of cheese depends on the type of cheese, but they all tend to last beyond the expiration dates. With cheese, the appearance of the product is more important than the date on the packaging. While sprouting mold might seem like a pretty good sign that food should be thrown in the garbage, some cheeses (like brie) naturally grow white mold that’s safe to eat. With the exception of blue cheeses, growths of orange, red, blue, or green mold are signs that your cheese has gone bad. In most cases, you can simply cut off the moldy part of the cheese and safely eat the rest.

Drier cheeses will usually last longer than moist cheeses. Be careful with pre-grated cheeses,as mold growing on grated cheese can’t simply be cut off and you’ll have to throw all of it away.

If the cheese looks and smells fine, it’s probably safe to eat. The flavor of cheese intensifies over time, but that doesn’t mean your cheese has gone bad. If, however, after taking a bite you begin to feel a tingling sensation in your mouth, spit it out because this means your cheese needs to be thrown out.