You find a box of crackers in your pantry that’s past its best before date — do you still dig in? In many cases, expiration dates are important indicators of how safe the food is to consume, but with certain items, it can be used as more of a guideline. Here, we’ve rounded up 15 products that are fine to eat past the package date, so long as you take the proper precautions.
Cake mixes are an easy way to whip up a dessert when you don’t feel like baking something from scratch. If you happened to stock up on packaged cake mix during a sale and haven’t used it all before the date on the box, don’t throw it away. You can still safely use the mix for four to five months beyond the expiry date as long as it’s been stored in a cool, dry place.
Unopened jars of unrefrigerated applesauce can still be safely eaten up to 18 months following the best before date. The key is to store it in a cool, dark spot in your pantry. If you have an opened jar in your fridge and you’re worried you won’t use it in time, pop the applesauce into an ice cube tray, freeze and then store the frozen cubes in an airtight container to use for future baking projects.
Hard cheeses such as cheddar and Parmesan are still alright to eat even after mould has started to form. Just make sure to cut off any mouldy parts before shredding for your mac and cheese or topping your pasta. Generally, hard cheeses are okay to eat for a month past the expiration date.
Have you ever gone to make an omelette and noticed the date on your egg carton has already passed? Eggs are another staple that people don’t always use up before the expiry date. Here’s a trick to check if eggs have gone bad without cracking them open: place in a bowl of water to check the buoyancy. If it sinks, it’s still safe to eat; if it floats, throw it in the compost bin.
The best by date on fresh bread is assuming you’re keeping your loaf sitting on the counter. But so long as you don’t see mould growing on your grains, it should be okay to make that sandwich or French toast. If you want to extend the shelf life of your bread, store it in the fridge — it can last for up to two weeks — or keep it in the freezer.
If your butter is about to expire, pop it into the freezer to keep it fresh for longer. Keep in mind that it’s best to use it all once you’ve thawed it. Have quite a bit of butter left over? Use it for your next baking project.
Pasta won’t spoil easily because it’s a dry product. You can use it well past the expiration date, so long as it doesn’t smell funny (egg pasta can produce a rancid odour). Generally, dry pasta has a shelf life of two years, but you can typically push it to three. So go ahead and make that lasagna or carbonara using the noodles you found hidden at the back of your pantry.
Those packages of salad mixes, spinach and arugula are fineto eat past the due date. If the leaves have wilted, just cut off those bits before use. When your greens are starting to decay though (think mushy, slimy leaves), it’s time to chuck.
Ice-cold temperatures prevent foods from going bad, so any packed frozen foods are generally safe to eat past the expiration date. If the food gets freezer burn due to dehydration caused by oxidation it won’t be very tasty. However, if you’re feeling frugal, freezer burned food is still safe to eat.
Related: A Guide to Using Frozen Vegetables
Cookies, Crackers and Chips
When cookies or chips get old, the stale taste is quite obvious. But as long as it doesn’t smell funky (the oils in the cookie may go bad over a long period of time) and it doesn’t crumble apart in your hand, then it’s okay to eat.
Chocolate can last way beyond the best before date depending on the grade, how it is stored and whether the package is opened or not. Ideally, you want to keep your chocolate products in a cool, dry place at a temperature of 21ºC (70ºF) or less. For semisweet chocolate chips, they can be stored in the pantry for two to four months past the printed date, from six to eight months in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and from two to three years in the freezer. Milk chocolate will last up to eight months past the printed date in the freezer. Also, don’t mistake fat or sugar bloom on your chocolate for mould. Despite the splotchy look, it can still be safely consumed or used in baking your favourite chocolate desserts.
If unopened, both smooth and crunchy peanut butter will keep for one year past its best before date whether stored in the pantry or fridge. Once it’s been opened, both are good for three to four months in the pantry or six to eight months in the refrigerator past that date. Natural peanut butter has a shorter shelf life — just two to three months in the pantry or three to six months in the fridge beyond its best before date. It’s perfectly normal for a natural separation of oil in your natural peanut butter. You can either stir it back in or pour it out and use it for cooking. If your smooth or crunchy peanut butter changed to a hard, dry texture or the colour darkens, it’s time to throw it away.
Not everyone likes the same cereal in a household. If members in your family enjoy different brands, those cereal boxes can stock up and will take longer to consume. Rest assured, cereal is OK to eat for up to six months past the best before date — so long as you can handle the stale flavour!
Pickled cucumbers, peppers, beets or other vegetables are good for one to two years past their best before date, whether opened or unopened and can be stored in the refrigerator or pantry. They may lose their crunch over time, but are still safe to consume. How do you know if pickled items have gone bad? A sure sign is a rounded or dome-shaped top of the lid, which indicates the jar was not sealed properly. When opening a new jar of pickles, you should hear a pop when the seal breaks.
Ketchup, Mustard and Relish
Condiments like ketchup, mustard and relish have a long shelf life. If your ketchup is unopened, it can be stored in the pantry for up to a year past its best before date. Once it’s been opened, store it in the fridge and consume it within six months. Yellow mustard can be stored unopened for up to two years past its best before date, or for a year in the refrigerator after opening. Unopened pickle relish can be kept in your pantry for up to two and a half years, or up to nine months in the fridge after opening.