Food & Beverage

Cleaning Out Your Fridge

Truth be told, I just threw out cans and boxes from my pantry dated back to 2012. But I’m much more concerned about the food in my fridge, which I toss every week. But should I? Let’s assess.

1.) You are buying food you don’t eat. Americans waste hundreds of dollars of year on wasted food. If you habitually toss lettuce, STOP BUYING IT! Make a mental note of what gets tossed and go without it on the trip. Or, scale back. If you bought a gallon of milk, buy a half gallon next time. And don’t buy something just because it’s buy one, get one free.

2.) Expiration dates may not be the end-all be-all.  WebMD provides some useful and sometimes surprising guidelines on when to toss.

It turns out that expiration dates are optional for manufacturers on everything exception baby formula. When you look at packaging, you may be looking at several different phrases. Here’s a run down:

Expiration Date refers to the last date a food should be eaten or used.

Sell by Date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. The issue is quality of the item rather than whether it is on the verge of spoiling.

“Best if used by (or before)” date refers strictly to quality, not safety. This date is recommended for best flavor or quality.

“Use by” date refers to the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

When it comes to safety, follow these guidelines according to WebMD before you decide to throw away money:

  • Milk–fine until a week after sell by date
  • Eggs–safe for 3-5 weeks if you bought before sell by date, though they may decrease a grade.
  • Poultry and seafood–Cook or freeze this within a day or two.
  • Beef and pork–Cook or freeze within three to five days.
  • Canned goods–highly acidic foods like tomato sauce can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods like canned green beans are probably risk-free for up to five years.

So the only time you really need to toss is by the “expiration date.” You can stretch the rest for a few more days. If you do that, you may find your spending $20-50 less per month on average. And as usual, shop for coupons first, to save even more.  Stop & Shop offers extra points on gas rewards on a regular basis. Another quick tip is to rotate grocery stores. When Shop Rite doesn’t see you for awhile, they send you coupons!

If you’re looking for specific items, we found the most comprehensive list at Real Simple. Check there to do a real inventory of your fridge.