Wait! Don’t Waste!

Do you throw out food based on the sell-by dates on your food packages? Learn which dates matter, and check out our suggestions on how to make sure your family stays food-safe at home! According to a study by the National Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law policy clinic, NINE out of TEN Americans throw away still-good groceries because they don’t understand the labels! That contributes to the FORTY percent of the nation’s food supply that ends up in the trash!

Learn the Lingo!

Sell By: Labeling tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Buy the product before the date expires. This date reflects QUALITY (freshness, taste, consistency) NOT SPOILAGE. The product will be edible for some time after the date.

Best if Used By (or before): This refers to QUALITY NOT SAFETY.

Use By: Last date recommended for use while at peak quality, determined by the manufacturer.

If dates don’t matter, how do I know my food is safe?

If foods are mishandled, foodborne bacteria can grow. YUCK! Since product dates don’t give you a true guide to safe use of a product, here are some tips!

  • Purchase the product before the expiration date
  • Refrigerate, or freeze promptly after returning from the store
  • Frozen foods do not need to be consumed before the expiration date if stored properly
  • Keep food out of the temperature danger zone! Refrigeration should be less than 41 degrees
  • Perform the SNIFF test! If it looks slimy, has a foul odor, or is growing mold (that shouldn’t be there!), throw it out!

Additional suggestions:

1) Shop smarter. Rather than stocking up, only purchase the food you plan on using.
2) Pay attention to portions. Dish out reasonable amounts (especially with kids).
3) Label your leftovers! Avoid packing them into concealed containers, and label clearly so they are not forgotten!
4) Befriend your freezer! Keep food that you may delay preparing in the safest place in your kitchen, your freezer! Super cold temps keep food safe for months!
5) Watch expiration dates, but don’t be quick to discard! Use the smell test and this guide:

How Long are Foods OK to Eat?

MILK – Ignore the date, but do the smell test!
EGGS – Place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not the door!). Use within 3-5 weeks after purchase
POULTRY – 1-2 days in refrigerator
BEEF – 3-5 days in refrigerator
CANNED GOODS – 3-5 YEARS in pantry (as long as the cans are not dented or bulging)

Want to hear more? Check out Lara’s most recent news segment on FOX 32 News here: April 24, 2015

Lara Field MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Specialist in Pediatrics with over a decade of clinical and client experience. When she’s not actively working to keep her clients healthy, she’s a busy mother of two active boys and loves testing new recipes in her kitchen. Follow her on Instagram to see her recipe ideas, product suggestions, and see how she manages a healthy lifestyle @larafield.