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Extreme Couponing Tip: Know the Difference Between Expiration and Use By Dates

When looking at a stamped date on your products, check out the wording to make sure you use it in time or know when to donate it or throw it out.

Best By/Best Before
This is advisory and not a strict expiration date. It simply means the product will taste best up until that date. It is still edible and okay to eat a little past the listed date, though you may notice a slight change in texture, flavor, or color. For example, chips and crackers often have a best by date. If you eat them after that, they may taste stale. Liquids can start to separate or crystallize, and sugar can clump.

Sell By/Display Until
Usually found on bread, dairy, meat. This date helps the store keep track of inventory that needs to be purchased by that time. Many times food is still good to eat a little past the date as long as it was and is stored correctly. If the use by date is a day or two away, stores will usually discount the product to ensure it sells.

Use By/Expiration Date
Food should not be eaten after this time as it is no longer safe to eat and may cause illness. Use by and expiration dates are usually found on refrigerated goods. It’s also a good idea to check for a “use within __ days after opening” stamp on your product.

If any of these dates on your goods are fast approaching and you won’t be able to use them in time, consider donating them to a relative or neighbor. For an extensive list of average shelf life times, check out this post.