Ahh…the age-old question! Keep it or toss it?

Just because you have expired foods in your home, it doesn’t mean they’re not safe to eat. Every food you purchase has a shelf life. Except for fresh produce that isn’t sold in a package, virtually all food items are marked with an expiration date, giving the consumer an idea of when they should eat them.

However, those dates are only intended to serve as guidelines and don’t ACTUALLY indicate food safety. They really just provide a general estimate regarding when a particular food is at its peak quality. That means that you can basically enjoy anything beyond the date you see on the packaging.

Baby formula is the only exception because it has a federally regulated expiration date and must be consumed within a given time period. So which foods are ok to eat when the expiration date has come and gone? We’ve found 10 that may be lurking in your pantry NOW!

…Keep reading to find out what to toss!

Expired Food
Photo by Nataly Gejdos at Shuttestock

Expired Food: Eggs

3-4 weeks past expiration date

The dates printed on egg cartons are not actually expiration dates. The American Egg Board explains that these dates show when the eggs were packed or just an indication for stores to know how long they can sell them.

With proper handling, you can extend the shelf-life of this “expired food.” Raw eggs will keep at it’s best quality for about three weeks after their sell by/use by/best by date printed on the carton, as long as you have kept them refrigerated the whole time and aren’t cracked.

An excellent way to check whether an egg has expired put the egg in a glass of water. If it stays on the bottom, the egg is fresh. If it floats, trash it!

Expired Food: Bread

5-7 days past expiration date

Bread can last about five to seven days past its expiry date. But look for mold around it, especially if kept in a moist environment. The ideal way to store bread is in a cool, dry place. And if you want to extend its shelf life, store it in the freezer, and it’ll keep for three to six months.

Of course, it will lose some freshness and flavor, but at least it will be safe to eat. The risk of eating expired bread is that some molds produce mycotoxins, which are poisonous and dangerous to eat or inhale.

Mycotoxins may spread through an entire loaf, which is why you should throw out the whole loaf if you see any mold. They can upset your stomach and cause digestive problems.

Expired Food: Canned Food

1-2 years past expiration date

In 2015, a team of arctic explorers discovered and ate canned food that was left behind for more than 60, all of which were perfectly safe. Canned food is the least perishable out there. Canned corn, for example, usually has a best-by date of three to five years on the label. But you can eat it for years to come.

The canning process kills microorganisms that cause food to spoil in the first place. Besides that, canned foods are vacuum-sealed, which means there’s no oxygen to make the food degrade.

Other unopened canned goods that made our cut? Beans, fruit, chicken, mushrooms, pasta sauce, and chili. The longer you’re past the expiration date, the more likely its flavor will be affected, but other than that, it should still be safe.

Expired Food: Pasta

2 years past expiration date

Pasta falls under the dry product category, which is why it doesn’t spoil quickly. The same stands for whole-grain pasta, as the dryness offsets rancidity. That is why you can safely cook it past its due date. The quality may just suffer a bit.

The same goes for uncooked rice, as well as raw oats and oatmeal. But now, if we’re talking about FRESH uncooked pasta, that is a different story.

If it has been kept refrigerated and in an unopened package, it can still be good to consume for a full 7-10 days after the use-by date on the packet.

Expired Food: Cereal

1-3 weeks past expiration date

As a rule, if you have a box of cereal in your cabinet with a toy in it, it’s probably from the 90s, and you should definitely throw it out!

But, while most of us don’t keep cereal around for that long, it’s not uncommon to be scouring around the pantry and come across a box of cereal that’s passed its “sell by” or “best by” date.

The same as many canned goods, some cereals have long shelf lives, but it’s not always clear how long is too long. So, is that cereal you found still safe to eat?

Well, that depends. Like pasta, these dry processed foods don’t contain that much moisture, which contributes to their stability. The same goes for crackers, dried fruit, and chips.

Expired Food
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Expired Food: Spices

1-2 months past the expiration date

By expired foods, we’re also talking about salt, white flour, baking soda and powder, and sugar. Since there isn’t moisture in dry ingredients, they’re less sensitive to bacterial growth in general.

Salt especially never goes bad because it can’t support bacterial growth and is often used as a preservative since it’s good at preventing that growth.

You obviously shouldn’t eat any dry ingredients with an unnatural smell or signs of a pest infestation. And while Spices never actually go “off,” they DO lose their potency and flavor over time, so there isn’t much point in using old spices in your cooking.

Generally, whole spices stay fresh for around four years, ground spices for 3-4 years, and dried and leafy herbs for about a year. An easy way to check? Sniff your stock. If you can’t smell them, you won’t be able to taste them.

Expired Food: Cheese

A few weeks after the expiration date

Harder cheeses, like Parmesan, are another safe bet even if they begin to show some signs of aging. Once these are past their best-by date, they can start to form a white or blue-green mold on the surface.

Scrape off the mold on this expired food or even cut the parts affected, and your hard cheese is safe to consume again. The firmer the cheese, the lower the moisture content.

That makes it challenging for bacteria to grow since most bacteria prefer moist environments. The shelf life of cheese depends on where it comes up on the hard-soft scale. Hard cheese like Asiago or Parmesan will last for up to a year in the fridge if adequately covered.

Cheese like Cheddar has a much shorter lifespan, 3-4 weeks at best. Super soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are even harsher at 1-2 weeks. To extend the life of your cheese, wrap its original packaging up tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil before refrigerating.

Expired Food: Milk

1 week past expiration date

Dairy milk can last up to one week past its expiration date. But if you aren’t sure, just give it a whiff to see if it’s gone sour. And while we’re on the topic, don’t be afraid of Shelf-stable pasteurized milk.

This non-refrigerated milk is not only better for the environment since it’s typically sold in cardboard or aluminum boxes, but it also lasts for up to a month past its expiration date, and six months it it’s unopened, at room temperature.

Once opened, you can keep the milk in the fridge for between one and two weeks before it officially becomes an expired food.

Expired Food: Nuts

weeks to months after expiration date

Though most nuts are relatively safe because they lack an abundance of moisture, these satiating foods are typically high in fat, meaning they might need a bit of extra inspection if they’ve been sitting around for a while.

Don’t eat dry processed foods with a grassy or paint-like odor and a dark or oily appearance.

Nuts have “best by” dates because the distributors are legally bound to put one on the package. This is like best before dates on frozen products or cans: those products never expire, so the distributors place random “best before” dates to please lawmakers.

So how do you know if a nut is good? You shell it and eat it. Is it good? Great! Does it taste rancid? Then you’re SOL because while they won’t make you sick, they taste disgusting.

Speaking of which, Amazon has a wide variety of nuts we think you’ll love, especially THESE!

Expired Food: Yogurt

3 weeks past expiration

Though yogurt, typically dairy-based, isn’t often thought of as a particularly shelf-stable food, it also has a lifespan beyond its expiration date. If the yogurt is unopened, it’s safe to eat for up to three weeks past the expiration date.

It’s made by adding probiotics and lactic acid bacteria, which help keep harmful bacteria at bay. If you notice that your yogurt has whey that’s separated from the curd, it’s normal and nothing to worry about.

Keeping your yogurt in the fridge and below 40° F / 5° C the whole time will make it safe to eat for 1-2 weeks after the “sell by” date on its package.

Older yogurt always has a more pungent taste, but the moment it tastes terrible or changes in appearance, then it’s time to add it to the expired food category trash it.

Expired Food
Photo by Feng Yu at Shutterstock


Food waste due to obscure date labeling is a big problem in the US. Efforts are being made to reduce this waste, but consumers need to use their best judgment and available tools until then. So as we’ve said, most expired foods can be safely consumed for varying periods after their sell-by dates.

But that doesn’t mean that a massive chunk of food won’t go bad EVENTUALLY. When in doubt, use your senses to check if food has gone rotten. If it smells off, feels off, and looks off, chances are it IS!

For example, spoiled milk will have an unpleasant sour or even putrid smell. Meat that has a pungent, ammonia-type smell developing a green hue and slimy is also rotten. Also, look for discoloration in fruits and veggies or if they’re forming mold.

 If you found this article on expired foods interesting, our site has many more that we think you’ll enjoy. For instance, check out: What Happens If You Eat Mold by Accident?

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