How Long To Wait Before Trashing Expired Yogurt, Eggs

Expiration dates on refrigerated food aren’t gospel — they’re conservative estimates by food manufacturers to ensure you don’t get sick from spoiled products. The trick to minimizing food waste is how to know just how long you have to wait to eat food that’s past its prime.

Yahoo Green, using Shelf Life Advice as a resource, delivers this guide to products that are steadily wasting away in your fridge as you read this. Among the items listed in the post:

* Milk: — Gulpable up to a week after the date passes, but expect a steady decline in taste and nutritional value.

* Mayo — Can last a month after it expires.

* Yogurt — Still OK a week to 10 days after expiration.

* Eggs — As long as they’re well refrigerated, they last 3 to 5 weeks past the date on the carton.

The story notes that expiration dates on eggs are governed by states of origin rather than a federal mandate.

What rules of thumb do you use to determine whether or not old food is safe to eat?

Food expiration dates: What do they really mean? [Yahoo Green]

Previously: Will This Food Kill Me? Ask The Internet

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  1. agent 47 says:

    What about those cases where things expire BEFORE their expiration date? I’ve seen this happen quite a few times with everything from bread to milk.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Improper storage, either on the store’s part or your part. You may want to find a cheap thermometer for your refrigerator and make sure it’s holding food below 40 (but above 32, obviously). Make sure that the place where you hold your bread is scrubbed down to get rid of any mold that might be lurking — and if it’s still a problem, store it in the freezer (but never the refrigerator).

      • TheMonkeyKing says:

        For normal refrigeration: 38 degrees Fahrenheit
        For normal freezer storage: 2 degrees Fahrenheit

        Breads made locally (artisanal as opposed to large companies) may contain active yeasts or cultures that will grow in warm locations. So keeping it in the plastic wrapper in the sunlight is a sure way of getting mold.

      • jefeloco says:

        It’s also important to make sure that your fridge is not only cold, but consistently cold. A lot of refrigerators and freezers only maintain an average, especially your freezer if it’s not set cold enough. This will cause a lot of problems if you don’t like your meats all cut up with tiny shards of water.

        I love Alton Brown’s Good Eats.

      • Big Mama Pain says:

        I store my bread in the refrigerator, and it’s just fine.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      So have I. I have gotten quite a few jugs of milk that were still good according to the dates, but smelled & tasted sour.

  2. PunditGuy says:

    Old eggs are fine — they just lose quality grades over time. (We learned that eggs lose about one grade per day unrefrigerated or about one grade per week refrigerated. AA becomes A, A becomes B, etc.) If you’ve ever cracked an egg into a pan and had the white run all over the place, it was an older egg.

  3. Billl says:

    I’ve had yogurt 2 – 3 months after expiration…no problem

    eggs 2 months after expiration…no problem

    mayo has an expiration?

    Milk sometimes doesn’t even make it to expiration!!! (esp. if you drink directly from the carton/jug)

    • Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

      That’s cuz your lip germs are all gettin up in the milks shiznit.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      in early July, I found some yogurt in the back of the fridge that expired in January. I tasted it, seemed OK, so I used it in a smoothie. Am still alive. Did not suffer gastric distress. Woo.

    • Midwest Doc says:

      How can you tell when yogurt goes bad?

      • veritybrown says:

        That’s what I often wonder. The whole point of yogurt is that it is selectively “bad” milk. Ditto with sour cream. I’m sure that these products must become unsafe to eat at some point, but short of seeing mold growing on them, how would you tell?

        • gorby says:

          A film of cloudy, foul-smelling water will form on the top of either when they’ve gone bad.

          • webweazel says:

            BUT, water will develop on top of sour cream and yogurt, as a normal process. If it is basically CLEAR and smells okay, it is good. That liquid just needs to be stirred into the product well for consistency.

            But like gorby writes here, if it is cloudy, and/or smells “off” or bad, it’s bad.

      • Raekwon says:

        Better yet, how do you know is Bleu Cheese has gone bad?

    • Mr.Grieves says:

      Yes mayo can expire. I had a big jar and still had maybe a sixth left or so, it started to smell funky and not good and then I noticed it was a month past expiration lol.

  4. TheWillow says:

    What about things with two expiration dates? (Thanks NY, but I’m going with the Sept 7 exp not the Sept 4 one)

  5. ysthsncnsmrst says:

    I’ve used mayo and other condiments around a year after expiration. Had no clue they expired.

  6. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    Ug, I NEVER try milk after expiration. One bite of cereal with old milk is enough to cure you of that frugality. Eggs, fine for a few weeks. Mayo and yogurt have such generous expirations, I normally don’t have to challenge them.

    • SabreDC says:

      Same here. I’ll usually take my chances with 99.9% of my foodstuffs. But milk is the one item that I religiously discard when the “use by” date passes.

      • selianth says:

        I’m perfectly willing to drink milk that’s past its expiration date, as long as it smells and tastes okay. Open it up, take a smell. If you don’t smell anything, it’s probably fine. If it smells a little, that’s when I’m more careful about tasting a small sip of it first. Smelling “on the edge” will get dumped down the drain. I don’t go pouring it over my cereal before verifying it’s okay, but if it tastes fine and smells fine, why would I toss it?

        • Platypi {Redacted} says:

          I think my own brain works against me. If I know the date is in the past, my brain tells me it is going to be nasty, and then it is (whether it is truly SPOILED or not). I choose to not chance it until I get to a point where that milk is the difference between living and dying…

        • SabreDC says:

          Well, to me, milk stinks to begin with. Whether it is good or not, it smells gross.

          Maybe I consider myself to be “elitist”, but wasting $1.50 in milk isn’t as bad as becoming BFF with my toilet for a few days. It’s a renewable resource, it doesn’t pollute, so I’m okay with discarding it.

  7. Muddie says:

    I use the ol’ ‘see something, sniff something’ tests. If it smells fine and looks fine, I’m putting it in my mouth.

  8. limiter says:

    “Wait, rule of thumb? In the early 1900s it was legal for men to beat their wives, as long as they used a stick no wider than their thumb.”

    I knew a guy who worked at a foodbank and they had a guide on all kinds of food they could take after expiration. He claimed some lunch meat was ok to eat for weeks. I wish I could get a copy of the guide. Right now I go with the “better safe than sorry” method and have to rely on exp dates from manufacturers.

    • RandomHookup says:

      The food bank I volunteered in had the following guide for expiration dates on “nonperishable” goods:

      Mayo – at expiration date
      Juice boxes – 6 months after expiration date
      Cereal – 6 months after expiration date
      Salad dressing – 6 months after expiration date

      Everything else was one year (we didn’t sort refrigerated or frozen goods).

      They also threw away nutrition bars 30 days before expiration, but I think that was a supply/demand thing — pantries didn’t get these bars, only places that put people on specialized diets.

  9. salviati says:

    My rules of thumb comes from watching the show ‘Hoarders’. Every time it comes on, I have an uncontrollable urge to clean out the fridge (if you’ve seen it, you probably know why).

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      We call that the ‘Now I’m Cleaning the House’ show because every time it’s on either the spouse or I will get up and start cleaning something. Dish in the sink? It’s washed! Work clothes on the bed? Laundry time! It’s like magic.

  10. dulcinea47 says:

    This is an issue where people utterly FAIL to use common sense. LOOK at the food. SMELL the food. Does it look okay? Does it smell okay? If yes, it’s most likely okay- taste a little. Does it taste okay? If yes, it’s FINE. If it looks, smells, or tastes off, toss it. Regardless of the expiration date.

    • SabreDC says:

      Speaking of common sense, I am also baffled when people don’t understand the difference between “sell by”, “use by” and “best by” dates.

  11. Bativac says:

    My dad’s wife works in a grocery store and I guess that job has conditioned her to throw out everything the instant it hits the expiration date, refrigerated or otherwise. She refuses to give it the “see ‘n’ sniff” tests – it goes straight into the trash. They waste so much food.

    I on the other hand will use something until it’s gone, unless it has obviously lived beyond its useful life. But with, say, cheese, I’ll cut off the moldy part and eat the rest (seldom does any cheese last that long in my house, but it has happened on occasion).

  12. savvy9999 says:

    I buy our eggs fresh from a farm (CSA), picked within a day or two of laying, and in the refrigerator they have lasted up to 2 months.

    Since I know when they were laid, within a day or so, I can make

    So riddle me this, consumer groups reading this. Why doesn’t everything that could possibly spoil have a “made on” date, clearly there for the consumer? “Use by”, “sell by” are nebulous, and up to the whims of law or whatever. “made on” is not. That’s when it was made (laid, pumped out of the cow, etc); seems like a critical and rather objective piece of info to have, so we can make our own decisions about the quality of something we’re putting into our mouths.

    Why don’t we? Too hard to determine? Lobbyists?

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      Eggs: it wouldn’t be the date laid, but the date they were last washed. Eggs are bleached and dated and sometimes rebleached and redated before they end up on the grocery shelf. They would last an extremely long time if you rebleached them at home every few weeks and they didn’t develop any cracks.

      Milk: pasteurization date please. I wouldn’t buy milk that wasn’t pasteurized. UHT pasteurized milk can last months unrefrigerated, but will go bad within a 7-10 days of opening it. Regardless of pasteurization temperature or date, it is unlikely that milk will last more than 10 days from the date you open it even though you can usually find milk in the grocer with expiration dates more than 10 days away.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Store bought eggs usually sit around in a warehouse for 2 months before they even hit the shelves; they last a really long time. I don’t think a “made on” date really has any effect on quality as long as it’s not spoiled. I have apples in my fridge that have been there for three months, and they are perfectly fine-knowing when they were picked has no impact on that.

  13. The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

    I’ve used peanut butter more than 5 years after expiration. My parents got a huge container from a warehouse store. The expiration date was in 2003. I haven’t tasted it lately, but it is still in their pantry. My guess is it’s still edible.

  14. PBallRaven says:

    Try telling that to my wife. The expiration date is the line where the food crosses from being perfectly safe to one of “OMG we’ll dieee a horrible painful death if we eat that!”.

  15. Mulva says:

    user-pic
    SmittyWerbenmanjensen
    September 1, 2010 10:39 AM
    Moderate | Flag for review

    We generally finish our milk well before the expiration date, but have used it a few days past as long as it smells right. I have found that organic lasts longer overall; however, since I find the whole “organic” system suspect, I will buy it if it’s on sale and I have a coupon, otherwise I just go for the milk labeled non-BGH.

    A well-tightened jar of mayo past expiration does not scare me. Does it smell like mayo? Does it look like a science experiment? If yes to the first and no to the second, I’ll use it.

    I hate yogurt, so not an issue.

    Older eggs are easier to peel when hard boiled. I purposely keep an older carton for my egg salad cravings, and I plan ahead so that I have a full carton waiting for egg dying during Easter. Fresher I use for baking.

  16. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:
  17. Mr_D says:

    What I heard for eggs is simple. If you’re not sure, put the egg in water.

    If it floats, it’s fine.
    If it sinks but stands up on end, it’s okay to eat scrambled or in a recipe, but might taste a little off.
    If it lays down, it’s too old.

  18. SabreDC says:

    Speaking of refrigerating eggs, I must say that I was completely freaked out when I visited London last year and saw that the local Tesco had eggs on the normal shelves (don’t even get me started on the tin can of full-sized hot dogs…)

    Is refrigerating eggs an American/FDA thing?

    • mbz32190 says:

      I believe so. From what I understand, eggs don’t really have to be refrigerated (although I’m sure it helps them last a bit longer).

    • Elginista says:

      Yes, refrigerating seems to be an American thing. When I lived in Hungary, eggs were sold unrefrigerated, and not in those nice dozen-egg carton. You would fill a plastic bag with as many as you wanted, just like you would peppers or beans. Good luck getting them home intact!

  19. trashpicker says:

    To tell if an egg is fresh all you need to do is place it in a bowl of water. If it sits on the bottom on its side it’s very fresh. If it starts to stand up or stands up, it’s not very fresh but okay. If it floats to the top throw it away.

  20. KennyS says:

    Those aren’t expiration dates, they’re “Sell by”, “Best before”, “Packed on”, etc. dates. How would the food know when it’s time to expire? Should they expire in the morning or evening of the date? Would it expire when it’s shipped across the dateline?

  21. BuffaloGal says:

    It’s easy to tell if milk, eggs, meat, etc are spoiled. I’ve eaten eggs that are months old. Never had a bad one, and I think I’d know *instantly* upon cracking it if it were spoiled. Things like flour, OTOH, are harder to determine. If it gets to be months old, I’d throw it out. I recall reading about people becoming very ill from rancid rye flour.

    • webweazel says:

      Flour, or anything with grains in it should, ideally, be stored in the fridge (or freezer). Especially if it’s something that’s going to be held longer term. I have actually HEARD scratching noises coming from inside multiple packages of flavored pasta and rice mixes sitting on a shelf in storage at a relative’s. Bugs inside.

      After I ate some nice crispy fried bugs on a shrimp dish I made, I now also store sesame seeds in the fridge.

      Flours of all types, seeds, oatmeal and other grains, and even pasta, should be stored cold if it’s not going to be used up quickly. Or at the very least keep it out of very warm places.

  22. Mcshonky says:

    When in doubt throw it out.

    Are you going to lose work or school days and maybe incur a hospital bill to save 50¢ on some eggs or yogurt?

    Next time buy half as much and you’ll use it up.

  23. thekevinmonster says:

    I lived in a student co-op house (specifically co-housing where a bunch of people shared a big regular ol’ house, not like a co-op townhouse or condo thing) and several housemates would not refrigerate the eggs. They claimed that it wasted space in the fridge and that they simply wouldn’t go bad any faster or become dangerous.

    I was shocked.

    On the other hand, they never got the squirts or anything from eating them that I know of, so…

  24. Destron says:

    Growing up my dad always had laying hens, we just used to keep the eggs in a bowel on the counter, so to this day I still don’t refrigerate eggs. My local butcher that I buy all my meat at sells them unrefrigerated to, but he keeps some in the cold case for those finicky types.

  25. cmdr.sass says:

    If you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating food that has gone bad, you’ll err on the conservative side with regard to expiration dates. A mouthful of sour milk cures any temptation to ignore the expiration date for good.

  26. bwcbwc says:

    I figure yogurt is rotten already and just keep eating it as long as it tastes OK. I’m more conservative with eggs since if they go bad it’s salmonella. Milk seems to vary wildly. I’ve had bottles start to taste “off” a week BEFORE their official expiration date, but in those cases I suspect an idiot in the family drinking out of the bottle (yech). Refrigerated mayo: keep it until it starts to discolor.

  27. bwcbwc says:

    Oh and bread: if you put it in the freezer for a couple of days, the regular white bread can last for weeks after you thaw it out. More substantial breads tend to go stale rather than get moldy so freezing doesn’t help as much.

  28. LONGSAIL says:

    Old eggs are a must if you are looking to separate the yolk from the white. Can’t be easily done with fresh eggs, but is a snap with eggs several weeks old. Ask any chef.

  29. LONGSAIL says:

    I’ve found that plain or vanilla yogurt in large containers is fine many months after expiration. It is a live culture. The only thing that I see happening is that it becomes firmer with the liquid going to the top, becoming more like a Greek yogurt. Small containers, including those with fruit sometimes are fine, other times not. But it is a live culture.

  30. lockdog says:

    The thing with eggs: Any old-fashioned/heritage breed of chicken will lay about 1 egg every other day. Typically as chicken would lay about 12 eggs in a clutch before starting to sit on the next (incubate) the eggs. That means for the older egg has been sitting out at room temperature for up to 24 days before the embryo even begins to develop, and then another 21 days of incubating for the entire clutch to hatch. If an egg can sit out that long and still produce a viable chick, you’re really got nothing to worry about.

  31. Carlee says:

    I’ve eaten yogurt a few months after the expiration date. I’ve also opened up yogurt that hadn’t expired yet but had already gotten ranky (and it’s not because of how I stored it because other yogurt containers in the same batch will be absolutely fine).

    You can usually smell and see if the yogurt has gone bad (you don’t have to taste it to find out).

  32. nodaybuttoday says:

    My rule of thumb with eggs is how the shell cracks. I’ve noticed when bad eggs are cracked, the shell is a little harder and sticky.

  33. CapZap says:

    I test the safety of out of date food by eating it. If I spew, it’s bad. If not, it was OK.

  34. wee_willie says:

    If I open an egg and the insides have started to stiffen, I toss it. Otherwise, if the egg doesn’t stink, and it looks good, I use it. I freeze my milk, and after I thaw it, it keeps even longer than its usual 1-1.5 weeks after its sell-by date. I have had milk go bad, though, well before that date. I picked up a loaf of bread in a local store that was entirely green/black. It had a sell-by date of three months prior. With most foods, if it passes my look, smell, feel test, I’ll try it.