10 Expired Food Items You Probably Don't Want to Throw Away Yet

March 7th 2016

I grew up in a household were it was totally acceptable to trim a small amount of mold off of bread, throw out the offending part, and eat the remainder of the loaf. As an adult, however, I've discovered that's not how the majority of Americans were raised. 

More than 90 percent of Americans throw out food prematurely according to one study, and at least 40 percent of food in the U.S. is discarded before use due to sell-by, use-by, and other food package dates. ATTN: has already written about the truth of these expire-by dates and given you tools to become a label decoding ninja. But are there any foods that can simply be considered safe, without having to interpret the labels, even if they have expired? 

Not exactly — you still need to employ at least a "sniff test" — but here are 10 things that are generally OK to consume even after they've passed their expiration date. 

1. Bread

While bread might go stale, it can definitely be eaten after its expiration date, unless it smells spoiled or sour. See a little mold? That's okay, too, within reason. Just trim it off, and you can still enjoy the rest of the loaf. Stale bread is also great for making breadcrumbs, French toast, and a whole host of tasty treats.  

2. Condiments

Although the sell-by date may pass, unopened ketchup is usually safe to keep for at least a year — and six months, once opened — and items such as mustard and Worcestershire sauce can be kept longer. As with bread, just use your common sense: If it smells bad or looks funny, toss it. Otherwise, slather it on that hot dog. 

3. Eggs

Eggs can be tricky, because they certainly do expire and they can make you sick, but they are also frequently fine to eat after their sell-by date. But luckily, there's also a simple way to test to see if they're still edible: Place one egg at a time in a bowl of water to check its buoyancy. If it sinks, it's still okay to eat. (The faster it sinks, the better.) If it floats or bobs up-and-down in the water, throw it out. 

4. Pre-bagged Produce

With the number of E. Coli and other food-borne illness outbreaks linked to salad greens in recent years, you might be surprised to hear that prepackaged produce is usually fine to eat after the expiration date. Why? Because food dates actually indicate the freshness of food, not how safe the item is to consume. So if your greens are wilted (and not rotten), they are probably still fine. 

5. Yogurt

While we're talking about packaged items, yogurt is also something to think twice about before tossing; it's usually good for up to two weeks after the sell-by date, especially if it's unopened. And if you think about how yogurt is made — hint: healthy bacteria like lactobacillus bulgaricus — it might make more sense that it takes yogurt longer to go bad than the package dates would have you think. 

6. Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamins and supplements aren't even required to have an expiration date on their labels. So why do they? The best-by or use-by date simply indicates when the manufacturer feels that the product will be at maximum potency. Unless your supplements are growing mold or seem "off," they're probably fine, although they may have smaller concentrations of the active ingredients than they did when they were made. 

7. Dry Pasta 

This might be a good food to stock up on before the zombie apocalypse. Because dry pasta doesn't contain any water, it can keep much longer than its labeled one-to-two-year shelf life. Just store it in a cool, dry place and it will likely still be safe to eat for years

8. Cereal

Store your cereal the same way you do you dry pasta — in a cool, dry place — and although it may get a bit stale, it should last for up to six months beyond any date on the package. It's great! 

9. Frozen Food

If there's a sale on T.V. dinners, go ahead and stock up — they're unlikely to go bad, if stored properly. Freezing cold temperatures prevent food from spoiling and dramatically increase the shelf life of many items, so as long as the temperature remains stable, your frozen pizzas and chicken dinners will be fine long after they expire. You'll just have to learn to tolerate the freezer burn. 

10. Cheese and Butter

Hard cheeses are aged to begin with, which may ease your mind when you save what's likely perfectly safe cheddar by trimming a little mold off. Butter is another dairy product with an extendable shelf life. It's usually good for at least two weeks after the expiration date in the refrigerator or up to nine months if you stick it in the freezer.

Share your opinion

Do you eat foods even after they have expired?

No 17%Yes 83%