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8 Foods You Can Safely Eat Past Their Use-By Date

Don't toss those eggs yet! Just because the use-by date has passed, they're still safe to eat. Here's the list.

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Young woman reading ingredients,declaration or expiration date on a dairy product before buying it.Curious woman reading nutritional values of the food.Shopping in the supermarket grocery storeShutterstock/eldar nurkovic

The yogurt container says it expired five days ago. The can of soup’s use-by date was last October. Oops! Just because the package says your food should have been eaten by now doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe. Before you toss that food, learn what “sell by,” “use by” and “best by” all mean for your pantry—and find out which foods you can hang on to after those days pass.

Psst…here are some that you should definitely toss after their expiration date passes.

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Concerned Woman Looking At Pre Packaged MeatShutterstock/SpeedKingz

What do the labels mean?

According to the USDA, the terms “sell by,” “use by” and “best by” mean different things:

Sell by:  Retailers need to sell or remove the product by this date.
Use by:  Consumers should probably eat the item by this date. If the date has passed, the product is often still safe, but the quality may be reduced.
Best by:  The product’s quality is guaranteed until this date.

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Different sauces on shelf in fridgePhoto: Shutterstock / Africa Studio

Which foods are still OK to eat?

Now that you know the difference between all those too-similar labels, check out this list of foods that are A-OK to enjoy after their dates have passed.

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Close-up view of raw chicken eggs in egg box on white wooden backgroundLightField Studios/Shutterstock

Eggs

In many cases, eggs reach the retailer just dates after the hen lays them. If the carton has a pack date with a USDA grade shield, it will have a three-digit code which represented the consecutive day of the year, starting with Jan. 1 as 001 and Dec. 31 as 365. The eggs should not exceed 30 days from the date of the pack.

Have some eggs to use up? We’ve got egg recipes by the dozens.

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Taste of Home

Bread

If you don’t see mold, bread is safe to eat. You can store it in the freezer to extend its life.

Need to revive stale bread? Here’s our guide.

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cansShutterstock/Anthony Berenyi

Canned goods

The life of your canned goods, such as soups and vegetables, can be extended if stored in a cool, dark area. If you’ve got canned beans about to reach their expiration date, try some of these recipes to use them up.

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Top close view of a portion of gluten free corn vegetable radiatore pasta in a white bowl on a wood table top illuminated with natural light.Shutterstock/BW Folsom

Pasta

Pasta does not spoil easily. Stored properly in a cupboard or pantry, it’s totally safe to use after its expiration date. Left too long, it may lose some flavor, but you can compensate with an amazing sauce.

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Woman shopping milk in grocery storeShutterstock / Sergey Ryzhov

Milk

If milk is pasteurized, it will keep 50 percent longer if stored at a lower temperature. For best quality, store milk on a shelf in the back of the refrigerator instead of in the door.

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Fresh market produce at an outdoor farmer's marketAlexandra Lande/Shutterstock

Fresh produce

When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, if it smells, is mushy or has visible signs of rot or mold, toss it or cut out the affected spots. If it doesn’t show any symptoms of spoilage, it should be safe to use—just get to using these tasty fresh finds quick!

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Frozen food in the refrigerator. Vegetables on the freezer shelves

Frozen foods

Many frozen foods, such as frozen pizzas and vegetables, are safe after the expiration date. If meat was purchased and frozen, its expiration period shouldn’t exceed more than 50 percent.

Here’s how long you can store food in the freezer.

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Chips and crackers scattered on the tableShutterstock/Photosiber

Packaged foods

Those bags of chips, boxes of crackers and packaged cookies should be tossed if they smell funky or are stale. However, if you come across a package of unopened chocolate chip cookies that are a few weeks past that best-by date, they’re still safe to enjoy!

Now that you know which dates are OK to fudge, you can go ahead and keep them just that little extra bit longer.

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.

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