What is the Real Expiration Date of My Food?
How often have you stocked up on a pantry item like Pasta or Peanut Butter because you found an amazing deal and then lost track of the expiration date? The date on the package is the “sell by” date and not the date the food is no longer safe to consume. So, how do you know how long is too long after the “sell by” date?
It is estimated that Americans waste 33 tons of food. Up to 21% of available food in the United States goes uneaten at the consumer level. Now, we’ve probably gotten it free or nearly free so it doesn’t create a hit to the pocketbook but when you think about all the people that live with hunger on a daily basis, it’s heartbreaking how wasteful we actually are.
Here is a general guideline for some of our favorite pantry items (sources: tiphero.com and eatbydate.com):
- All-Purpose Flour: 12 months unopened, 6-8 months opened
- Granulated Sugar: 2 years unopened, 6 months opened
- Brown Sugar: 4 months unopened, 4 months opened (in freezer)
- Baking Soda: 18 months unopened, 6 months opened
- Baking Powder: 6 months unopened, 3 months opened
- Tomato Products: 1-2 years unopened
- Fruit Juices: 1-2 years unopened
- Soups: 3-5 years unopened
- Vegetables: 3-4 years unopened
- Pasta (dried, non-egg): 2 years unopened, 1 year opened
- Salad Dressings: 1 year unopened
- Ground Coffee: 2 years unopened, 2 weeks opened (in refrigerator)
- Jams and Jellies: 1 year unopened
- Peanut Butter: 6-9 months unopened, 2-3 months opened
- Cereal: 6-8 months, unopened
Here’s another cool resource. The USDA has created an App called “USDA Food Keeper”. It not only provides information on pantry items, but also information about Meat, Dairy, Deli, and Prepared Foods. Please keep in mind that the information provided in the App are guidelines and assume proper storage of your food.
Now that we are armed with this information, let’s all try to be less wasteful in our everyday lives. Also, a good tip to remember is to always rotate the items in your stockpile so that when you bring new items in they go behind the current stock. This will ensure that you will use the oldest items first.
Again, please remember that these are general guidelines and are not hard and fast rules. Your method of storage, temperature, etc. can impact the shelf life of an item as well.
Happy Shopping and Happy Saving!