While shopping at the grocery store, you often come across some terms that may confuse you. Sell by, use by, and expires by are probably the three you see the most. Yet, what is the difference between the three? Do these terms mean they are the absolute last day you should use that particular product?
The 'sell by' label is primarily geared towards grocery store employees as to how long they should keep that product on their shelf for. However, just because a store isn't able to sell the product by that particular date, does not necessarily mean that the product is automatically bad at that point. If the grocery chains store their products properly, then products can still be good for a few days later even after the 'sell by' date.
Use By Or Best Before
When you see the 'use by' or 'best before' label, that means it comes directly from the manufacturers. If you consume the product by this particular date, it will taste the freshest and have the best texture it can ever have. After this date, it won't taste as fresh or have the greatest texture. You have to be careful with this category because this does not determine food safety regulations.
The third one you probably see a lot is the 'expiration date' label. This specific label has everything to do with food safety regulations. If you are trying to consume a product that is past its expiration date, throw it out immediately. The time after the expiration date is a warning for you to not consume the product anymore, as it is no longer safe to do so according to WebMD. Throwing the food away after the expiration date can prevent you and your loved ones from getting sick.
Quick Reference Guide
Traditionally, everyone has the following items in their fridge or pantry, so if you are still unsure about how long to keep certain products, use this quick reference guide to help get you started.
-Dry Pasta: This will last between one and two years after you purchase it.
-Butter: This will last between two to three weeks after you purchase it.
-Fish: This will last one to two days after you purchase it and should be kept in your refrigerator at 32 degrees.
-Milk: This will last two to three days after the 'use by' date and should be kept in your refrigerator at 38 degrees.
-Eggs: These will last three to five weeks after you purchase them.
-Canned Fruits And Vegetables: These can technically last forever because they are sealed tight in the canning process.
-Poultry: This will last one to two days after you purchase it.
-Beef And Pork: It is recommended that you cook or freeze this within three to five days.
-Veal And Lamb: Consume within three to five days after purchased.
-Cured Ham: Cook or freeze within five to seven days after you purchase it.
-Cereal: Depending on the type of cereal you purchased, the rule of thumb is it can last for 4-6 months after you purchase it.
-Baby Food: At the very latest, opened baby food can last no more than two days.
-Bread: Depending on the type of bread it is, typically it will last up to six months if stored properly.
-Juice: If it is freshly squeezed, it is recommended that you consume it within two days. If bottled, it can last up to a week after the expiration date.
-Leftovers: It is recommended by the Mayo Clinic to consume your leftovers safely within three to four days at most.
-Do not leave your food out for more than two hours after cooking it.
-Come home right away from the grocery store after you have purchased anything perishable, in order to store it in a timely manner that is safe.
-Handling the product properly will also determine whether the product is safe to consume or not.
-Always remember to wash your hands before and after touching meat, especially when you switch from touching meat, to dairy, to vegetables, and back again.
-Make sure your refrigerator is set to 41 degrees or below to provide sufficient cooling to your products.
-The temperature danger zone is between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure your food is not getting too hot or is not avoiding getting properly cooled.
-Vacuum sealing your food can double your shelf life so your food can be as good as the day it was packaged.
When In Doubt, Freeze It
If you are ever in doubt of consuming anything, or concerned about expiration labels, don't be afraid to freeze the product. Freezing products can make them last longer according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Just remember the earlier you freeze it, the fresher and more nutritional it will be. When you freeze your food, you can add months and sometimes even a year to its product life. You can also save a lot of money in return by not wasting food.
Watch this video to learn how to properly handle your leftovers.
Trust Your Senses
Trust your nose as it will always tell you when something is no longer safe to eat. In addition, trust your eyes and touch - for you will be able to tell if the texture doesn't feel right or if you see a discoloration from what the product normally looks like.