There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who see expiration dates as mere suggestions, and those who will toss out anything—no matter how full, untouched, or uneaten—the moment that "sell by" or "use by" date rolls around. This list is for the latter group; as it turns out, there's a lot of stuff in your house with expiration dates you can take with a grain of salt (including salt, but we'll get to that). Not only will knowing this save you some money, it'll also help the planet. Per SaveTheFood.com, 40 percent of all food in the U.S. is wasted, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the total generation of municipal solid waste in 2018 was 4.9 pounds per person per day. Let's do better. Read on to find out which expiration dates you can safely ignore.
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Uncooked white rice
Raise your hand if you've thrown out uncooked white rice as soon as it reached its expiration date. Now you know better: "Uncooked white rice is a highly processed and refined ingredient, and can last up to six months after its expiry date if stored in an air-tight container," Ruiz Asri of Honest Food Talks and an expert on Asian home cuisine tells Best Life.
Ready for this? Soy sauce can be consumed for two to three years past its expiration date, says Asri. "As it is made via the fermentation process and contains a high concentration of sodium, soy sauce has a very long shelf life if it is kept in a cool, dry area and away from direct sunlight. The expiry date is more of a guide of when it is best to consume it because soy sauce will gradually lose its flavor over time."
Kikkoman's official website also says, "As long as no water or other ingredients have been added to the soy sauce, it would not spoil if it had not been refrigerated."
According to Morton Salt's website, while salt itself has no expiration date, salt products that contain iodine, seasonings, spices, colors, and flavors can deteriorate over time. But that plain table salt or coarse sea salt you sprinkle on your dishes? Give it a good five years.
Certain makeup products
Products stored under ideal conditions may be acceptable long after the expiration date has been reached, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A recent Allure article shares that unopened foundation can last for a couple of years, but once the seal is broken, "it's best to replace it after six to 12 months." Nail polish, they also say, won't go bad from bacteria—but it will eventually dry out enough that it's no longer manicure-worthy.
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Clear as day, Crest's website says, "Can you use expired toothpaste? The simple answer is yes." It does, however, become less effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay.
As with most things on this list, the expiration dates on protein powder have to do with quality, not safety. With that in mind, Healthline says it's "likely safe" to use protein powder shortly after its expiration date as long as there are no signs that it has gone bad. (But if you're looking to build muscle, take note: Healthline also says the protein content may decline with age.)
Unopened frozen fruit and vegetables
"You can eat unopened packages of fruits and vegetables that were frozen, up until about eight to 10 months past its stated expiration date," Rachel Scott, co-founder and medical practitioner of National TASC LLC, tells Best Life. "This is because the ultra low temperature keeps the growth of microorganisms at bay."
Unopened is the key word here. If the container was opened before, the contents were exposed to other microorganisms, and there might be just some that were able to survive the very low temperatures and spoil the food, Scott adds.
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In the mood for an omelet, but staring at a date that's come and gone? Good news: The Egg Safety Center says that, although not required, some cartons might carry an expiration date "beyond which the eggs should not be sold, but are still safe to eat."
It's likely okay to use cake mix a year or two after its expiration date, according to the Does It Go Bad? website. "All you need is to add some baking powder or baking soda to make up for the raising agent that lost its potency," per the site.
All those shelf-stable foods that have been lining your pantry shelves for years? They're safe. Most shelf-stable foods are safe indefinitely, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Canned goods will last for years, they say, as long as the can itself is in good condition. (Look for rust, dents, or swelling).
A note on safety: It goes without saying—but we'll say it anyway—that even though a product is considered generally safe to use beyond the expiration date, you should always look for signs of decay. "If the foods have an off-color, odor, or visible mold, they should be thrown out. When in doubt, throw it out," Libby Mills, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Best Life.
The one expiration date you should absolutely abide by is the one printed on infant formula. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most infant formulas need to be used within one month of opening the container, and you should never use the formula after its "Use By" date.
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