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How Long You Can Keep Your Food Past Its Expiration Date

Skeptical about an expiration date? Not sure if expired butter is actually, well, expired? We've broken down how long most common refrigerated foods can last.

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Piece of butter in paper on white backgroundShutterstock / jeehyun

Butter

Past Food Expiration Date: 2-3 months unopened, 1-2 months opened

Expired butter? Not necessarily. Butter fortified with oil will, in general, last twice as long past the expiration date as pure butter (which you can keep on the counter, by the way). Margarine has more additives than butter and thus lasts longer. Opened margarine lasts roughly 2-3 months, and unopened from 4-5 months.

Learn more about different types of butter and how to make butter from scratch.

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Close-up view of raw chicken eggs in egg box on white wooden backgroundLightField Studios/Shutterstock

Eggs

Past Food Expiration Date: 3-4 weeks

How long do eggs last after the sell by date? Well, that depends on whether they’re in the shell. Eggs are a protein and protein takes a while to break down. In fact, fresh eggs with unbroken egg shells can last up to 3-4 weeks after the expiration date has passed. (Want to learn how fresh your egg is? Use this trick.) Eggs removed from shells will only last a few days.

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Mustard with a turkey bagelShutterstock/Troy Maben

Pre-Packaged Deli Meat

Past Food Expiration Date: 7-10 days in fridge, ~7 months in freezer

Sealed, pre-packaged deli meat lasts for at least a week in the fridge. Processed deli meats last much longer. Salami will keep for about a month, and bologna lasts 1-2 weeks. Bologna is trickier because the ingredients vary based on company and price point. When in doubt, follow your nose and check for these other signs of spoiled food.

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cold cuts with breadValerio Pardi/Shutterstock

Freshly Sliced Deli Meat

Past Food Expiration Date: 5-6 days

Meat cut fresh at the store lasts almost a week past its expiration date. Deli meats, in particular, are often labeled with a sell by date, not an expiration, and is for retailers’ reference. Luckily, your senses are a great gauge of expired deli meats. If the meat surface has that slimy residue, be wary. If it also smells sour, then you should definitely throw it away.

Editor’s Tip: Make sure you’re bringing home the freshest meat possible. When you’re at the store, ask the deli clerk to cut the first piece off and throw it away. As a customer, you don’t know how long the item has been open, and store’s don’t always mark the item’s expiration date.

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cansShutterstock/Anthony Berenyi

Canned Vegetables

Past Food Expiration Date: 1-2 years

Canned vegetables keep for a long time already thanks to the sodium and other preservatives usually packaged in-can with the produce, but that doesn’t mean they don’t eventually go bad. When you’re at the store, avoid cans with dents as these imperfections can let air in and cause contamination. In the pantry, check your cans’ lids. Rotting vegetables produce methane and other gases, so if the can’s lid is starting to bubble from the extra air pressure, its contents are probably rotten. Another way to tell is by opening the can. If your veggies look browned or blackened, they’ve gone bad.

Use up your canned goods in one of these yummy recipes.

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milk being poured into a bowl of cerealgemphoto/Shutterstock

Cereal

Past Food Expiration Date: 6-8 months unopened, 4-5 months opened

Perhaps the most egregious example of misleading food expiration dates is found in cereals. Most boxes, even if opened, can last months past the printed date—though improper storage can speed the process. You can tell if it’s time to toss when the cereal tastes stale.

Use up those extra O’s with our best cereal bar recipes.

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DUBLIN-MAY 29 2011:Bottles and cans of Guinness for sale. Guinness is one of the worlds most successful beers selling over 18 million pints worldwide every year.Dublin May 29 2011Shutterstock/trevorb

Beer


Past Food Expiration Date: 6-9 months in pantry, 1-2 years in fridge

Beer goes bad when it goes flat. Depending on the type of beer you might be able to see sediment at the bottom of the bottle or discoloration in the liquid. Need to use it up quick? Host a last-minute party or cook a dinner with these easy recipes.

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yogurtShutterstock/DONOT6_STUDIO

Yogurt

Past Food Expiration Date: 2-3 weeks unopened

Greek yogurt or yogurt with real fruit chunks mixed in don’t keep as long past the food expiration date, up to 2 weeks at most. Unopened refrigerated yogurt can keep 1-2 months after the date.

Here’s how to make yogurt at home!

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horizontal close up of chrome teaspoon stuck in vanilla ice cream with mix of black and red frozen berries on brown background selective focusShutterstock/macondo

Frozen Yogurt

Past Food Expiration Date: 3 months

Yogurt tends to change color when frozen. If it goes bad, your five senses will protect you. Like other dairy products, bad yogurt is pungent.

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Ketchup and mustard bottles, close-up. Traditional hot dogs and potatoes on the background, baking paper. Western dietShutterstock/Yuriy Golub

Mustard and Ketchup

Past Food Expiration Date: 2 years unopened, 1 year opened

Mustard is preserved with vinegar and ketchup has its own effective long-term preservatives. If you remove either condiment from its bottle and put it in a special container, it will go bad more quickly. The easiest way to tell if either has spoiled is a strong discoloration. Ketchup becomes a deep maroon, and mustard turns a dark yellow-brown.

Learn how long condiments really last.

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Homemade mayoTaste of Home

Mayo

Past Food Expiration Date: 3-6 months

Like mustard and ketchup, mayonnaise discolors, becoming yellow. Additionally, mayo is susceptible to mold growth. If the mayo was unopened, you may not see mold or yellowing but the consistency will feel thick, and it may look lumpy.

Try these unexpected uses for mayonnaise.

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