10 Foods You Can Eat Safely Past the Expiration Dates

Adriana Velez | Oct 8, 2014 Food & Party

carton of eggs

Nobody likes wasting food. But sometimes, maybe too often, we just don't get around to eating something by the time its "best is used by" date rolls around. Hopefully you're not confusing that with the "sell-by" date, which is usually means you have another week or so to eat. 

Something to keep in mind: "Best if used by" dates have more to do with the food's quality than its safety. "Use by," on the other hand, usually means you should consume the food before that date, as explained by public health and safety organization NSF International.

hunk of cheddar cheese

But even so, just because a food has "expired" past that printed date doesn't necessarily mean it's unsafe to eat. There are a few exceptions -- and if you're aware of them, you can avoid wasting both food and money.

More from The Stir: You've Been Reading Food Expiration Dates All Wrong

Images via booleansplit/Flickr; bert_m_b/Flickr

  • Bread


    Image © iStock.com/Oliver Hoffmann

    You can extend the shelf life of your bread by keeping it in the refrigerator. The downside is refrigeration isn't great for bread's taste and texture, but it's worth it if you hate wasting bread. You can also freeze a portion of your loaf as soon as you buy it.

  • Breakfast Cereal


    Image © iStock.com/Oliver Hoffmann

    It may be stale, but most dried cereal should be safe to eat months past its "best used by" date.

    "A big concern for cereal is snacking," says Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International. "Kids will put their hands in a box, put it in their mouths, and then put their hands back into the box." This can introduce bacteria into the cereal. For snacking, pour the cereal into a bowl. And for storage, Luptowski recommends putting the whole box into a resealable plastic bag.


  • Canned Food


    Image © iStock.com/Boarding1Now

    Canned food has been proven safe long after its expiration date -- so long as you keep it in a cool, dark place. Luptowski recommends checking the cans for rust, bulges, and leaks before using. And it's important to heat the food according to the manufacturer's instructions (usually up to 165 degrees).

  • Medium and Hard Cheeses


    Image © iStock.com/tysmith

    Medium to hard cheeses are usually safe to eat even if you see mold growing on them. Just cut off that mold. The CDC points out, certain cheese are made with mold, and those molds are safe to eat.

  • Dried Pasta


    Image © iStock.com/catetus

    Like cereal, dried pasta and rice are safe to eat past the best-by date so long as they're kept in a cool, dry place.

  • Eggs


    Image © iStock.com/Scrambled

    "Eggs are safe to use two to three weeks past their printed date," Luptowski says. Just make sure you keep them refrigerated if you bought them refrigerated or washed. If you happen to buy unwashed eggs direct from a farmer, you can keep them at room temperature.

  • Frozen Foods


    Image © iStock.com/bonchan

    Food will "keep" in the freezer indefinitely -- "assuming those foods were kept safe after purchase," Luptowski says. It's just the quality that will suffer. 

  • Mayonnaise


    Image © iStock.com/RainerPlendl

    Unopened, commercially-made mayonnaise is good a week or two past the printed date so long as you keep it in the back of the refrigerator. "Once you open it, it becomes semi-perishable and you should finish it within a month or by the date on the label," Luptowski says.

  • Milk


    Image © iStock.com/diane39

    You can extend the life of your milk by keeping it in the back of your refrigerator (instead of the door), and if you lower the temperature in there. An unopened carton of milk is safe up to a week after its best-by date, Luptowski says.

  • Packaged Snack Foods


    Image © iStock.com/alptraum

    Packaged junk food (like pre-wrapped snack cakes) can last a long time as long as it remains sealed. Once you open that package, though, you should consume it or keep it in the refrigerator.

food safety

More Slideshows