If we were all honest with ourselves, we could probably dig around the kitchen cupboards and fridge and find at least a couple of expired food products. We live in a culture that is very fast-paced and hectic. It is a culture that makes it extremely easy to forget about what’s going on the kitchen. As such, there’s nothing abnormal about putting something in the back of the refrigerator and forgetting about it until long after it has expired.
One of the services we offer clients is help in organizing the kitchen. We help clean out cupboards and refrigerators in an attempt to get rid of items that are no longer edible. Through many years of doing this, we have learned a thing or two about expired food.
Expired Doesn’t Mean Bad
The goal of this post is to offer a few reminders about expired food, beginning with the fact that expired does not necessarily mean bad. Understand that expiration dates are arbitrary. There is no way to time a particular food so that it is good up until a particular date and then instantly goes bad on the following day.
A better way to view expiration dates is to see them as general guidelines pertaining to quality. In other words, if you use up a particular product before its expiration date, you’ll enjoy the best quality possible. Quality will begin to decline on or after the expiration date.
Distinguish Between ‘Expired’ and ‘Best By’
A logical extension of the previous point is distinguishing between expiration and ‘best by’ dates. An expiration date is a general estimate of when the quality of a product begins to diminish. A ‘best by’ date is a bit different.
It is a date assigned to foods like eggs, meat, and poultry. Because these foods spoil more quickly, producers are required to put ‘best by’ dates on labels to instruct customers how much time they have before they can expect to see signs of spoilage.
This is important because the ‘best by’ date becomes irrelevant once food is cooked. Even if a ‘best by’ date on a carton of eggs were tomorrow, you could still use them today to bake a cake that might take several days to fully consume.
The Smell Test Really Works
Any concerns about expiration dates can be addressed with the simple smell test. Yes, it really works. The human brain is incredibly adept at identifying bad food by its smell. If you open a jar and it smells bad, there’s a good chance it is bad. If a food still smells normal, it’s probably safe to eat.
The smell test obviously doesn’t work on foods that naturally smell bad to you. So if you are not a big fan of sauerkraut for example, don’t rely on the smell test to determine whether or not an expired jar is still usable. You’re not going to like the smell anyway.
Don’t Take Any Chances
Our final reminder is one of common sense: don’t take your chances on any expired food you have legitimate concerns about. Your health is too important. Furthermore, it doesn’t take much to make a person sick – especially if you are a senior or you’re suffering from some other chronic illness.
Expiration dates are general guidelines. But there’s no point in pushing the boundaries if you’re unsure. If any product raises concerns, you are better off discarding it. Do not give it to your neighbor; do not donate it to a worthy cause; do not even feed it to your pet. Be safe and get rid of it.
If you need help cleaning up the kitchen, feel free to call on My Divine Concierge. We will help you organize your dishes, check the food in your refrigerator and cupboards, and even go grocery shopping for you.