Keep track of food expiration dates

According to a paper by Value Chain Management Centers, about $27 billion in food ends up in Canadian landfill and composts.  It’s an important issue because a lot of resources are invested into producing food.  If instead, some money was spent preventing food waste, the entire system could be more efficient and perhaps spend less money and resources.

Photo credit via flickr

Photo credit via flickr

Brian and I try to use up all the food that we buy.  Very rarely do we ever throw something out uneaten because it’s gone bad.  That’s the only way to make a $200 grocery budget work!  But you do need to have a general sense of how long foods last.

Here’s a quick list of How long to keep things for (ish):

One to two months:

  • packaged cookies (yikes.. better start chowing down)
  • bacon and sausage

Less than a year:

  • baking powder, brown sugar, and oils
  • condensed and evaporated milk
  • hot cereal, frozen soups and stews
  • dried fruit, crackers
  • ground meat (in the freezer)

One year:

  • ketchup
  • canned food
  • dried products: rice, beans
  • whole, uncooked meats (in the freezer)

More than one year:

  • loose tea
  • granulated sugar, chocolate syrup
  • pasta, unpopped popcorn
  • spices, vineagar
  • coffee in a can

Anything I missed?

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  1. That’s such a sad waste of food, on the plus side never has there been a better excuse to get stuck into the cookies!!

  2. I was wondering about Peanut butter actually.. I have some that is past the expiration date of the beginning of this year and it’s unopened and everything. The oil has separated quite a bit from all the peanuts though.


    • CF says:

      It might be rancid – open it up and try, haha. Rancid peanut butter won’t hurt you, it’ll just taste bad. 🙂

      I suspect it’ll be fine and just need a bit of mixing.

  3. Cat says:

    How about molasses? I think I have some in my fridge 2 years past the expiry date! 🙂

    • CF says:

      I had some really old molasses too – I ended up using it for bug traps in my garden. I would check it for mold. The general consensus for sugary things like molasses and syrups is a year or two.

  4. Mackenzie says:

    Good to know! Spices are hard to keep track of; I can never remember exactly how long they’ve been on the shelf!

  5. I’m trying to get better at not wasting food by buying smaller amounts at a time. Yes it’s more trips to the grocery store, but it really helps me out a lot!

  6. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says:

    Nice–will refer to this. I end up using my nose for most things, which may not be the best trick.

    • CF says:

      I read somewhere that we actually end up eating a lot of food that is rancid or going bad and we don’t know it. Most cases, it won’t hurt us, it only tastes bad.

  7. Condiments! We always end up tossing our salad dressing, it lasts less than a year.

  8. A good idea so that you won’t end up wasting any food. Will refer to these list next time we go shopping.

  9. I’ve kept items longer than what they have suggested and they are perfectly fine. We have pasta, ketchup, dry beans and rice which are perfectly fine. I’ve bought items that are 50% off and the are fine up to two weeks later. I think it all depends on the product but I certainly wouldn’t be chucking it out just because someone said so unless it was going to kill me. I’d test it out first. We don’t stockpile food much these days though. Thanks for the info.

    • CF says:

      I keep things past their due date as well, but I like to know in general how long things should be kept for. I’m especially guilty of keeping mayo and salad dressing for far too long though. Oops!

  10. I HATE wasting food. It’s so sad to see food go uneaten and then end up in the garbage. I try to always plan around what I have leftover in the fridge.

  11. I find that if you keep your pantry and fridge somewhat organized it helps to keep track of food and expiry dates. I feel bad the odd time I find something way back in the fridge that was forgotten and rotten.

    • CF says:

      The back of the fridge is truly evil. So is tupperware that is not see-through… it makes it so much harder to keep track of what’s around!

  12. Packaged cookies only last 1 to 2 months? That seems surprising, but I’m assuming this is after they are opened. I hate throwing out food, but it seems like stuff is always expiring.

    • CF says:

      It wasn’t clear to me whether the dates listed were “best before” in terms of quality and taste or whether they were hard expiration dates, due to food deterioration. I’ve definitely eaten packaged cookies past 2 months…

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