Do expiration dates make us wasteful?

Before I dig into this topic, let me just put this out there: Expiration dates are important and you should always consider them so you don’t get food poisoning and end up in the hospital or whatever. Please don’t interpret this post as my arguing that expiration dates are total bull.

That being said, expiration dates are total bull. Just kidding! Well, kind of. I recently came across an alarming study from Harvard, which found that Americans waste 160 billion tons [Editor’s Note: Kristin pointed out that she should have written 160 billion pounds] of food annually. A similar 2012 study from the NRDC calculated that waste in terms of dollars: We throw out about $165 billion worth of food and beverages each year. On average, that’s between $275 and $400 per household.

The Dating Game

The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic titled their study “The Dating Game,” and they came to the conclusion that many “sell by” dates don’t really have anything to do with safety. Companies mostly determine those dates based on taste tests.

Emily Broad Leib, who authored the study, told CBS, “The dates are undefined in law and have nothing to do with safety. They are just a manufacturer suggestion of peak quality.”

But of course, food does go bad. Despite the liberal expiration date on that cup of Dannon in the back of your fridge, you probably shouldn’t eat it if it’s been there since the ’90s. Okay, you definitely shouldn’t eat it if it’s been there since the ’90s.

But Leib urges consumers to be aware that when manufacturers determine expiration dates, they’re mostly thinking about protecting their brand rather than public safety. The purpose of the Harvard study was to push for a more reliable labeling system for food.

“Make an Assessment”

Until the system changes, what’s the solution? Are we supposed to simply turn a blind eye to expiration dates and pray against food poisoning?

Well, of course not. Here’s Leib’s suggestion:

“Consumers need to take that extra minute to actually look at their food and smell their food and make an assessment. When we just rely on these dates and throw everything away after the date, we’re leading to really high rates of food waste.”

Sounds like good ol’ common sense, but her study found that 90 percent of households throw out food that’s still perfectly good, thanks to inaccurate expiration dates.

Growing up, we always “made an assessment.” We were poor (I think I may have mentioned that once or twice?), so my mom didn’t just toss out food willy-nilly. She was very discerning; but if it didn’t emanate any strange odors and hadn’t changed color, we usually ate it. When she did have to throw something out — when it was, say, taken over by mold — she would still shake her head and mumble, “What a waste.”

On the other hand, I’d argue that my extended family goes a little overboard. My aunt, for example, once fed us cooked rice that she neglected to tell us had been sitting out for a few days. The aftermath was not pretty.

I use the “sell by” (or, the more charming “enjoy by”) date as an approximation. If the expiration date is really, really old, I’ll toss it, even if the item still looks and smells edible. If you’ve ever had crippling food poisoning that’s left you vomiting next to your boss in the middle of a work meeting, you know it’s just not worth the risk. However, if it’s at least somewhat close to the expiration date, I make an assessment, and, if it still looks and smells edible, I usually go for it. Although, I tend to be stricter when it comes to meat, milk or eggs.

How Long Does Food Really Last?

When it comes to assessing “expired” food, it’s probably better to rely on data rather than instinct. Ever heard of I hadn’t, until I started researching this story. It’s a pretty cool website that seeks to answer the question, “How long does food really last?” It’s pretty extensive, and you can check it out yourself, but here are a few items I found interesting:

When properly stored,

  • Fresh whole mushrooms last 7-10 days.
  • An opened pack of cream cheese lasts 1-2 weeks (stored at or below 40° F)
  • Opened shredded cheese lasts 3-4 weeks (stored at or below 40° F)

The site also gives tips on how to tell if certain foods are spoiled. Their content is based on research from resources including the Department of Agriculture and the FDA.

Earlier this year, Get Rich Slowly staff writer Lisa Aberle wrote an article on food waste in general, and she pointed out some helpful ways that she avoids waste. In addition to the whole expiration date conversation, there are a couple of practical tactics I’d like to add:

Extend the Shelf Life of Your Food

I know how I make the most out of my food’s shelf life, but I’m no expert, so I thought I’d check with one. Jill Houk is a food consultant and cookbook author who was kind enough to offer a few tips:

  • “Don’t wash fruits or vegetables before storing them,” Houk says. “Even small amounts of water can start the molding/decomposition process.”
  • She adds that keeping your refrigerator temperature between 34ºF and 38ºF will help slow the bacteria growth that leads to food spoilage.
  • Most of us know to store our canned goods and jarred food in a cool, dry place. But Houk warns: “Even avoid storing food too closely to your dishwasher, toaster, or coffee maker. If food experiences wild temperature fluctuations, it’s more likely to spoil faster, even if it’s shelf-stable.”

Meal Planning

It’s easy for me, because I only live with one other person, but I try to plan out my meals and groceries for the week. I cook about four or five times a week, and, as we near the end of the week, I take an inventory of what’s left over, and I try to make the most of whatever that is. If I have half an onion or a few potatoes left, I see if I can make a stew or something. Online meal planners like $5 Meal Plan are especially helpful. You type in whatever ingredients you have in your pantry, and they’ll pull up recipes that include those ingredients. I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but ever since I’ve started using their app, I find I throw out very little food.

Anyway, I’d like to know — how closely do you follow your expiration dates, and what do you think of them? Do they contribute to waste, or should we follow them strictly?

More about...Frugality, Food

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There are 68 comments to "Do expiration dates make us wasteful?".

  1. FI Pilgrim says 18 December 2013 at 04:45

    This is a great question, but I have to say that I began feeling queasy just thinking about the smell of sour milk. I’ve had too many experiences pouring the milk into a cup when I hear a “plop plop” and think “well that expiration date ain’t right!”


    • Suzy says 18 December 2013 at 09:35

      Well I tried making cheese – never done it before but i was really pleased with the result.

    • Suzy says 18 December 2013 at 09:41

      Try making cheese – I was very pleasantly surprised when I had a go.

    • Kristin Wong says 18 December 2013 at 10:46

      Haha blech! Yes–if you hear plops when you pour your milk you shouldn’t try to stretch your dollar. 🙂

      • Suzy says 19 December 2013 at 09:13

        Not true!

    • El Nerdo says 18 December 2013 at 12:18

      Before the milk goes funky, if you have a lot of it, you can boil it and pour a bit of lemon or vinegar in the milk and make a kind of homemade cheese by straining it… don’t know how to call that in english (requesón). It looks kinda like ricotta. Great to eat with sweet or salty. Just don’t wait till it goes rancid–rancid fats are the worst.

      • Tarun Sikri says 19 December 2013 at 04:23

        Dear EL Nerdo,

        It’s called ‘Paneer’ in Hindi (National Language of India). It’s fresh cottage cheese. It is used in inumerable dishes in India. Those interested can search any Indian Cooking site for ‘Paneer Dishes’ and they will be surprised by mouth-watering dishes and will be spoilt for choice.
        In India, we don’t wait for the milk to go bad, when we want ‘Paneer’ for any dish, we boil the milk and put some drops of Lemon Juice in the boiling milk. It separates the fat , then we strain it through a thin pure cotton cloth and tie the knot on the top of the cloth tightly, after it cools down, your super creamy and soft block of ‘Paneer’ is ready. Since its fresh cottage cheese, its shelf life is limited to around 2-3 days if stored in a refrigerator.
        Hope you try some ‘Paneer’ dishes.

        • El Nerdo says 19 December 2013 at 08:09

          Ah yeah! I love Palak Paneer! I hadn’t realized it was made with what I know as requesón. Best news ever– I should try to make my own now. Thanks Tarun!

  2. Beth says 18 December 2013 at 04:50

    All good tips. One I’d like to add is that when I’m shopping, I look for the farthest away expiration date on product that I can find. (Hint: it’s often towards the back of the shelf.)

    • Ramblin' Ma'am says 18 December 2013 at 08:11

      At my supermarket, there will often be two loaves of bread sitting next to each other, one with a sell-by date five days away, the other with a sell-by date ten days away. I always take a minute to poke around.

  3. Dee @ Color Me Frugal says 18 December 2013 at 05:07

    Great post! I also look for the farthest expiration date I can find when I am shopping. I do have to confess in the past to throwing out food solely based on expiration date- although I think after reading this I am going to be a little more discerning!

    • Matt YLBody says 19 December 2013 at 08:22

      This post reminds me of my wife! lol She’s eager to throw away anything after the expiration date – or even by the “sell by” date!

      With things such as meat I’m a little more picky, however, certain things such as eggs can last well past the sell by date and even milk.

  4. Brian @ Debt Discipline says 18 December 2013 at 05:17

    This was one of the things that really cost us a lot of money in our budget each month. We were always wasting food. We simply would over shop. Since we go to the store at least once a week we have scaled back on the amount we purchase. We try and buy enough until the next trip so we don’t let food go past it expiration date and end up throwing money away.

    We try and cook just the right amount of food for the 5 of use when making a meal, because typically left overs will not be eaten and again get thrown out.

    As far as pushing the boundaries of the expiration dates, depends on the item and always do the visual, smell check first. 🙂

  5. SAHMama says 18 December 2013 at 05:24

    I follow the date on dairy products. Eggs are good for a few weeks after the stamped date. I freeze meat if I’m not going to use it right away. As far as canned food, I’ll still use it if it’s like 1-2 months past the stamped date but I’m trying to get better about not buying too much.

  6. AZ Joe says 18 December 2013 at 05:25

    We are empty nesters and often don’t use fresh food quickly, like milk and eggs. I read that eggs will keep much longer if coated with a THIN layer of petroleum jelly. I tried it and my eggs are still good a month or two past their expiration date. Of course, mostly I’m just baking with them. Milk – we toss periodically, but when there is a small difference between the cost of a quart and a gallon throwing a little away doesn’t hurt so much and even not-too-bad milk makes good pancakes. Good post. Thanks.

    • Jules says 18 December 2013 at 11:06

      I don’t know if others know that you can freeze milk. Our local Kwik-Trip convenience stores (Wisconsin) sell milk in 1/2-gallon bags and many people buy it on sale and then freeze it.

      • Beth says 18 December 2013 at 16:00

        My mom used to do this too 🙂 We used to love drinking half-thawed milk with the ice crystals it.

        I can’t have dairy now, but I freeze dairy alternatives like rice milk when I can’t use it up fast enough.

      • Diane C says 19 December 2013 at 17:31

        Don’t forget to pour some off before freezing or your container will split and then you’ll really have spilt milk to cry over.

  7. Snarkfinance says 18 December 2013 at 05:42

    I am sending this article to my mother promptly, assuming she can figure out how to use the internet and draw forth the willingness to read an article pointing out how she wastes an enormous amount of food annually.

  8. Jon @MoneySmartGuides says 18 December 2013 at 06:13

    I use “sell by” dates as a guide. For instance, I’ve had many times where I still drink milk days after the sell by date. I just smell it and see if it is still good. For canned products, I pretty much ignore the expiration dates. I never notice a difference in quality and haven’t had a sick experience afterwards. I n the end, I think you just have to use common sense. Don’t throw things away just because there is a date on them. As you pointed out, many times the date is just for the retailer, not the consumer.

  9. Mrs PoP says 18 December 2013 at 06:32

    We try to avoid food waste, but it does happen from time to time. I think the stats on food waste are skewed by restaurants because they are required to dispose of a LOT of food if unused by specific dates – they’re not allowed to do the “well it smells good and it’s only 1 day past…” the way most households do.
    I like the idea of the new grocery store that’s supposed to open next year in Boston that will sell semi-prepared food that was made out of expired foods. The idea being that it will bring more nutrition at a lower cost to an area that needs that.

    • Kristin Wong says 18 December 2013 at 11:02

      Nice! I like the idea of that–eliminating waste and offering a little break to those who need it in the process. Thanks for the share/comment!

  10. Cath says 18 December 2013 at 06:37

    I play pretty fast and loose with expiration dates. Except milk. But even yogurt and buttermilk are fine past date. I did once make a box of mac and cheese that was over a year past date. It was inedible, but how do you know unless you mix it up and see?

    • Susan says 18 December 2013 at 10:34

      That’s fascinating! And it makes me wonder how pasta and cheese powder can go bad.

  11. Tracey H says 18 December 2013 at 06:57

    Timely article! I just finished off some yogurt that was 5 days past its expiry date (it wasn’t even slightly watery so I’m sure it was fine). Canned goods puzzle me when they have dates stamped on them. Other than tomatoes (which are so acidic that they leach through the soldering), I figure canned goods are good forever. My theory with food is if it didn’t have expiry dates when I was a child (in the 60s), then they don’t count!

  12. Money Saving says 18 December 2013 at 06:59

    Yes – in terms of food. My wife attempts to throw away all kinds of stuff based on the expiration date! It’s crazy. How can baking mix for a cake expire?

    My rule – if it smells OK, eat it! It hasn’t failed me yet 🙂

    • SLCCOM says 18 December 2013 at 12:12

      If it is several years old, be sure to add a bit of baking powder, such as a teaspoon or so.

  13. Doug says 18 December 2013 at 08:06

    For an entertaining perspective on expiry dates, I recommend watching the highly acclaimed movie Norford Sola “North of the Sun”. It is a stunningly beautiful movie of how two young men in Norway live for nine months on expired food. During their time they collect several tones of flotsam from a small uninhabitat bay.

    “Inge Wegge (25) and Jørn Ranum (22) spent nine months of cold, Norwegian winter in the isolated and uninhabited bay of a remote, arctic island by the coast of Northern-Norway, facing nothing but the vast Atlantic Ocean. There they built a cabin out of driftwood and other cast-off materials that washed up on shore, and ate expired food the stores would otherwise have thrown away.”

  14. Jon says 18 December 2013 at 08:25

    My parents are so obsessive about expiration dates that they dumped out cases of Costco bottled water that had “expired.”

  15. Honey Smith says 18 December 2013 at 08:36

    Since I don’t eat meat, milk, or eggs, I don’t have much problem with this. Soy- and almond milks do go bad eventually, but not nearly as fast as dairy milk. Most of the mock-meats are sold in the frozen section or can be frozen. Freezing and then thawing tofu actually gives it a more pleasing texture, according to a lot of people.

    I read somewhere that cheese (which I do eat) is the only food that you can just cut mold off of and eat. For most other foods, the entire item is considered spoiled if there is mold anywhere on it.

    • El Nerdo says 18 December 2013 at 12:15

      Soy [goes] bad eventually

      Not really–soy is vile from the outset! 😛

      • Honey Smith says 18 December 2013 at 12:21

        I love soy (although I know it’s not great to eat too much of it). I don’t like rice, almond, or coconut milk very much.

  16. a says 18 December 2013 at 09:06

    Flour can go rancid, there are oils in the flour that can go bad eventually. Also, cake mixes have the levening agent already mixed in whether its baking soda/powder/yeast, all of which lose potency with time. So using an extremely out of date can result in a funny tasting/flat cake.

    • Anne says 18 December 2013 at 09:18

      Yes, pancake mix does go bad. I assume it is the oil mixed in that goes.

      For some reason I have not noticed this problem with cake mixes.

    • El Nerdo says 18 December 2013 at 12:21

      Yes, and whole wheat flour goes faster. Same with brown rice vs. white rice– brown goes rank quick.

      • stellamarina says 18 December 2013 at 17:55

        Living in the tropics, some foods go off quickly. To help my rice stay fresh smelling and no bugs I freeze the whole bag when I buy it for a few days. Stops things growing in it when it is in the storage jar. I also store my reserve bag of flour in the freezer as it will go off if just sitting around in the cupboard. The flour will smell rancid. A lady from India taught me many years ago to store my herbs and spices in the freezer too to stop them going bad.

  17. Suzy says 18 December 2013 at 09:40

    At the risk of self promotion my recently published book “The Leftovers Handbook: A-Z of Every Ingredient In Your Kitchen with Inspirational Ideas For Using Them” can be a real help with actually enjoying using up leftovers, excesses and

  18. Donna Freedman says 18 December 2013 at 10:12

    So much this! I’ve written on this topic for MSN Money and also my own site, and the comments/tales I hear are depressing. For example, one reader had a roommate who routinely poured out the milk on its expiration date — without even checking to see if it were still good. (One reader suggested that slightly sour milk “makes great pancakes.”)
    Others talk of throwing out leftovers after two days, or of spouses who tossed canned food because it was a week past the “best by” (NOT “sell by”) date.
    So the diced tomatoes are okay right up through Dec. 31, but on Jan. 1 they become poisonous???
    If it’s kosher to post URLs, here’s how I feel on the subject:

  19. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says 18 December 2013 at 10:13

    Expiration dates have the opposite effect on me. Rather than throwing expired, or near expired items away, I take a quick look and a whiff (to ensure safety), and concoct whatever I can out of my “decaying” food. It’s like an iron chef of whatever’s going bad in my fridge.

    • Kristin Wong says 18 December 2013 at 11:23

      I love doing this! My challenge this week: whipping cream and 5 potatoes that don’t have much longer. I have no idea what to do with the cream, but I’m planning to make some gnocchi with the potatoes!

      • SLCCOM says 18 December 2013 at 12:15

        Whip it up, and add a a banana, then use it as a dressing for fruit salad.

      • Hoping to Adopt says 18 December 2013 at 12:55

        You could make potato soup with both ingredients, or a cream sauce to go with the gnocchi.

      • El Nerdo says 18 December 2013 at 12:56

        Slice the potatoes and bake them in the cream with some egg sort of like a savory flan and serve it topped with chives?

    • El Nerdo says 18 December 2013 at 12:29

      I do as Stefanie does but with a longer view– I line up my foods by expiration date and cook them in that order. So I never have to play russian roulette.

      The question of “what’s for dinner (or lunch or breakfast)” in my house is usually answered by “what’s going to rot first?” and that gets cooked. (today it’s mushrooms).

      I suppose one of these days I might have to deal with a can or two that never made it to the front of the queue, but usually in the spring or so we have a time when everything gets eaten– you’ll be surprised how long the stores can last you.

      • Hoping to Adopt says 18 December 2013 at 13:00

        I do the same thing as El Nerdo as far as meal planning. I also plan to use fruit and vegetables with a shorter life span earlier in the week and keep the longer lifespan ones for later. So, grapes and strawberries get used first, apples and oranges can wait.

  20. Tyler Karaszewski says 18 December 2013 at 10:29

    One thing that makes us wasteful is an internet full of people telling us to “Eat more Kale” and such. We go to the store, buy our super-healthy leafy vegetables, and then neglect to ever eat them because we don’t actually *like* them, we just thought they’d be good for us. So they rot, we throw them out, and buy more.

    I finally broke out of the cycle. I stopped buying “healthy food” that I don’t actually eat. That isn’t to say I don’t buy any healthy food at all, but I’m done with the keeping-up-with-the-organic-free-range-joneses, and it saves me money and keeps my fridge organized.

    • Kristin Wong says 18 December 2013 at 11:11

      So, so true. I’m embarrassed by the amount of chard I’ve thrown out. I eventually gave up on it. Chard tastes like dirt to me. I still eat healthy, but yeah. A lot of these superfood kicks make us wasteful once we realize it’s just not our bag.

      • El Nerdo says 18 December 2013 at 12:36

        wuttt! chard makes a delicious frittata! it usually has sandy/muddy residues that will make it taste like dirt (because it’s dirt), but well washed and sauteed it’s more like an awesome spinach. i wouldn’t eat it raw. fry some bacon, add a bit of shallot or onion, then chard, then beaten/salted eggs, then fry it spanish style or bake like italian. actually if you wanna make it spanish style you gotta stir the ingredients into the egg first and re-pour into the hot pan. you could also make a spinach pie with chard. chard!

        though i agree w/ tyler about shopping by taste and not moral virtue. which is why i should never ever buy broccoli again. eugh! yes, i know, someone has a great recipe for broccoli. i really only like broccoli rabe, but the price, ugh!

        • Ely says 18 December 2013 at 17:11

          I love chard!! If I could have only one leafy green forever and ever, it would be chard. Our produce box, however, seems to supply mostly kale in its infinite varieties. I can live with it, but it’s not my favorite. 😉

    • Winterlady says 18 December 2013 at 16:02

      I agree. All impulse buying or keeping up with the “latest” ends up as waste. Buy and eat what you like in reasonable amounts. I stock pile napkins, toilet paper etc., which we always use and never goes bad.

  21. Done by Forty says 18 December 2013 at 11:28

    There is a store that one of our friends shops at that sells, primarily, stuff that is past the expiration date. I went there once and, for whatever reason, I didn’t have the guts to buy much of anything. But I’m so glad the store exists (I believe it’s the arm of a charity) as it helps people buy safe-but-inexpensive food when budgets are tight.

    Thanks for this post, Kristin.

  22. Kristen says 18 December 2013 at 11:34

    My husband and I do not have children. So WHY, oh WHY must I buy EIGHT hamburger buns when I need two, or at most, four? I keep them in fridge so they last longer, but neither of us likes to eat previously-frozen bread products. There are many items in the stores that are packaged for families, in portions wasteful for one or two people. I think this is a bigger factor for us. (I know, I’m sure I could plan meals better, but I’m not going to plan three meals around hamburger buns in a week, I’m sorry!)

    • Tracey H says 18 December 2013 at 12:48

      One way to freeze bread products is to add a paper towel in the package before freezing (I put it around the bread or buns). When you take the package out to thaw, remove the paper towel and shake out any ice crystals that might have formed.

  23. sue says 18 December 2013 at 12:08

    Having worked for a food company for years I can tell you that most dates truly are “enjoy by” dates. Once a package of anything has been opened it will usually need to be used up within a few days.If you are not going to get around to using all the lunch meat, for example, then just wrap it up and freeze it. This holds true for many foods. I agree about using common sense, if it smells bad or is discolored, toss it. Also, if there is milk that won’t get used up I freeze it in ice cube trays and use it for cooking /baking.

    My husband recently tossed both my breakfast & lunch that I had planned for a Sat. The chickens ate better than I did that day!

  24. Laura says 18 December 2013 at 12:24

    I’m with those who largely ignore expiration dates and go instead by the look and smell of the food/drink in question. We tend to finish perishables like milk before they perish and I tend to ignore the dates on things like cake mix; I do try to use older dates before newer dates though.

    My one food waste is deli meat for sandwiches; I’ve discovered that if I can make up all the sandwiches possible with the meat and freeze them, I can grab and go for lunch and there’s no wastage (I don’t like condiments like lettuce/tomato/mayo, so this works for me). Otherwise the deli meat expires and winds up in the trash. 🙁

    • Beth says 18 December 2013 at 15:54

      When I worked in a deli, some of our customers used to freeze meat in individual servings and make sandwiches as needed. Your idea to freeze sandwiches sounds much easier to me!

  25. Glenda says 18 December 2013 at 14:53

    I used my iPhone to go to and get the app, and it sends me to a publisher’ clearing house site where it needs me to sign up for their sweepstakes to let me continue. Looking for supercook in the App Store doesn’t give results. What gives?

    • Kristin Wong says 18 December 2013 at 16:53

      Hi Glenda!

      Yikes, sorry you got spammed. I should’ve mentioned that the Supercook I use is a website, not an app. Hope that helps!

  26. Juli says 18 December 2013 at 15:16

    My mom is the total oppposite end of this spectrum. We went for an early Christmas visit a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to make some red jello for our family get-together. I looked in her cupboard, and she had some that expired in 2002. And I think jello has a fairly long expiration date to start with, so I hate to think how long that had been in her cupboard. It was hard as a brick, and it immediately went in the trash. My husband is always joking about how long stuff sits in her cupboards and closets.

  27. Micro says 18 December 2013 at 17:43

    I think it’s crazy how some folks will have strict adherence to the sell by date and toss anything that hits it. The food is still good for a while afterwards. Even if the food does start to spoil, it can still be salvaged. Simply cut off the part that is ruined and use the rest. If you are worried parts being ruined that you can’t see, cook it. That will eliminate any nasty bugs and you can save some cash by using up your food.

  28. Tom says 18 December 2013 at 18:35

    Great article, Kristin. Do you have a link to that Harvard study? 160 billion tons per year means 500 tons per person per year (assuming a U.S. Population of 320 million.) That means each and every American is wasting well over 3,000 pounds of food everyday on average!

    • Kristin Wong says 18 December 2013 at 19:22

      Thanks, Tom! My mistake–it’s pounds, not tons. That would be insane. I’ll ask the editors to correct this. Here’s a link to the study, though:

      Thanks for pointing this out, and apologies for the error!

      • Tom says 18 December 2013 at 20:18

        Thanks for that link, Kristin. I hope it didn’t come across as nitpicking. Have a great day!

  29. Casey says 18 December 2013 at 19:10

    Kristin, thanks for pointing out the fact that a lot of expiration dates are based on “brand management” rather than actual science. I used to think that those dates were based on real reasons, and wasted a lot of food as a result.

    (I once asked my doctor if it was safe to take recently expired OTC painkillers. Her response? “What, you think the Expiration Fairy shows up and ruins them in the night?” I love my doc!)

    My kids eat most of our food before we even approach the expiration date, but when food starts to look and smell dodgy, we send it out to the “circle of life” in the backyard. Our dogs get leftover poultry and meat, the rabbits get any wilted greens and other produce, the barn cat gets old seafood, and the chickens get everything else. We throw away bones and avocado pits, but everything else gets eaten by someone or something here.

  30. Trace @ Independence Investor says 18 December 2013 at 19:49

    I can’t stand to waste food. It seems to happen occasionally when we buy perishable items at Costco. We really had to start being more careful when buying items in bulk. I try to focus on buying the non-perishables in the larger quantities.

  31. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance says 19 December 2013 at 11:29

    A bad experience with yogurt has made me leery, but I know we waste too much food by throwing it out based on the printed date and not actually whether it is still good or not… I try to avoid it all I can, but unforuntately I know we still do it sometimes.

  32. Diane C says 19 December 2013 at 17:51

    This article strikes home for three reasons:

    Yesterday I discovered that my husband’s favorite Costco Kirkland Mandarin Oranges (in the lovely re-usable glass jars) are discontinued. I immediately checked to find out which stores had stock left. Today I drove 20 miles and bought 84 jars (that’s 28 3-packs if you’re a fan). Wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the expiration date on every single jar is December 24, 2013. Am I worried? Not a bit! I will store them in my very cold garage. When it warms up, they will go into my back-up refrigerator. They will all be enjoyed long before they go “bad”.

    Next, my local food bank accepts food up to one year past the expiration date. If it’s good enough for the food bank, it’s good enough for me. As long as the packaging doesn’t look wonky.

    I have often wondered if the “expiration date” thing isn’t just a ploy on the part of manufacturers to sell more product. What a shame that in a world where so many people go hungry, in our country they seem to be trying to get us to throw away perfectly good food so we will have to buy more.

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