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This Is How You Know These 10 Foods Expired

Nobody intends to eat expired food. Here's how to tell before it hits the dinner table.

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Vegetables. Potatoes, carrot and red pepper. Garlic and onion. Natural organic bio food. Shutterstock / Tanyastock

Our best intentions made us do it, loading up on fresh ingredients for all the inspired meals we planned to make. Fast forward to the end of a week that did not cooperate and we’re staring at a week’s worth of expired food. As painful as it is to see that grocery budget spend in the trash, food poisoning is worse. Do you know these common food poisoning culprits?

While “when in doubt, throw it out” is generally a good rule of thumb, here are the can’t ignore signs of expired food.

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Homemade salad dressing vinaigrette with raspberry and pomegranate juiceElena Veselova/Shutterstock

Homemade salad dressing

Creamy, mayo-based dressings are best judged by sight. If you can see the ingredients begin to separate, it’s time to say buh-bye. While vinaigrettes and other oil-based dressings generally last longer, these dressings will reveal their point of no return when the oil starts to smell rancid.

What’s your cooking oil IQ? Here’s a quick primer on the various types and why each deserves a place in your kitchen.

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Color Healthy Bell Peppers with helping handsShutterstock / EJ Grubbs

Bell peppers

From Big Bertha reds to tri-colored mini bells, these versatile veggies are at their peak when the skin is firm and free from any markings. You’ll know their sweet, crunchy flavor is gone if you see wrinkly brown spots. Slice ’em up before they have a chance to go soft!

Here are 45 of our favorite bell pepper recipes.

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Chicken soup in white bowl on wooden tray.Shutterstock / Cesarz

Broth or stock

For their rich flavor, beef and chicken broth are staples in many a cook’s kitchen. Broth is also the ingredient that makes this chicken and vegetable stir-fry sing. Still, maybe with the exception of a pot of soup or Thanksgiving dressing, few recipes call for an entire Tetra Pak of the stuff. Once you’ve opened it, rely on your sniffer to tell if it’s past its prime. Expired food, including broth, will have a distinct sour smell.

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Onion whole and sliced. A lot of onions in a wicker basket. Sliced onions on a cutting board. Knife for cutting onions. Preparation of dishes from onions. vegetables for a healthy diet.Shutterstock / EVGENIYA68


Who among us hasn’t found that one rotten onion lurking in the red mesh bag? Perhaps a produce item worth purchasing individually instead of pre-bagged? However you purchase them, store your onions in the pantry away from potatoes. When they are together, you get an expired food accelerant. Both release gases that spoil the other—think potatoes growing long sprouts and onions in a slimy, molded heap. Eww.

Psst: Are you using the right onion for your recipe?

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Raw Organic Golden Potatoes in the Wooden Crate on Aged Wood Planks Tablewelcomia/Shutterstock


While unsightly, sprouts on your taters aren’t a deal breaker. They can easily be cut off with the rest of the potato remaining perfectly edible. And OMGosh that means you can make good on some major spud inspo: Here are bushels of our faves (serious potato lovers only). Rely on the vegetable’s firmness (no soft spots), color (uniform, with no green) and scent (earthy, fresh from the garden soil). If it smells funky, skip the home fries.

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Transparent glass jug with milk on wooden table.Shutterstock / Evgeny Tomeev


Whether for your morning coffee or in lieu of heavy cream in a comfort food classic like sage pork chops with cider pan gravy, half-and-half is a refrigerator staple. It can also spoil well before the “best by” date. You’ll know that’s the case if it pools in little flecks instead of dissolving in your coffee. Put those olfactory senses to their best use with a quick sniff before you pour.

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Garlic cloves on rustic table. Garlic in wooden bowl. Fresh peeled garlic and bulbs.Shutterstock / Krasula


Garlic is at its best when firm to the touch, with papery leaves intact. It also seriously elevates otherwise plain green beans—we’re obsessed with this super simple recipe for fresh green beans and garlic. The cloves themselves should have a bit of moisture inside. If any areas have hollowed-out dark spots, or appear wrinkly and dry, it’s going bad and therefore time to toss.

What if your garlic has sprouted? Well, treat that on a case-by-case basis with these tips.

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Broccoli cabbage in a wicker basket. A lot of broccoli in a wicker box on a brown background.EVGENIYA68/Shutterstock


This cruciferous green is healthiest when the stem is firm and the flowering head is rich in color. It’s a cinch to prep, and might even pass muster with your most finicky eaters—here are our superstar broccoli recipes even picky eaters will love. As it begins to deteriorate, black spots start to appear at the base. Crowns lose their vibrant hue, taking on a yellowish tint. The earthy green scent will also take on a bitter smell, which belongs nowhere near your dinner plate.

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Red grapes on a plateShutterstock / rittikorn poonwong


If you’ve ever accidentally tasted a grape gone bad, you know it. Save your taste buds the agony by sniffing for freshness. Expired grapes will have a dirty, vinegar-like smell, usually accompanied by the odd brown, mushy grape here or there.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on produce ripeness and what to look for before you buy.

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Healthy Organic Green English Cucumbers Ready to Eat; Shutterstock ID 1058462660Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


The high water content of cukes makes them highly perishable—better to buy only what you need and use them up quickly. A bad cucumber will turn soft and sliced ones will start to feel slimy.

Use up your cucumber harvest fast with these tasty recipes.

Rebecca Walden
Rebecca C. Walden is a freelance writer with Deep South roots - an Alabama native now living in north Texas. Her writing has appeared in Reader's Digest, the Huffington Post, Southern Living, and many other regional publications, focusing on everything from health and wellness to parenting, family, and women's interests. Walden also provides freelance writing to corporate clients in finance, government, healthcare, and higher education. Check out her latest work
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