The Chronic Guide to Figuring Out How Long Your Food Will Keep

Reading labels---sell by dates, use by dates, best before dates,...

Today's post is all about those dates on packages, what on earth do they mean and what the heck is the difference between them?

Knowing what those dates means can really help you out & save on food bills. After all I hate throwing away food but salmonella & gastroparesis seem like the worst combination, right?

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First a bit of a 'common sense note', if it's growing hair or smells bad, regardless of the date on the wrapper throw it out, just saying. Also, the dates on the package are for the unopened products, often there'll be a date on the packaging for after you've opened it (like, eat within 24 hours after opening)

Okay, let's get started, shall we?

There are 4 different types of dates on package dates, there's sell-by dates, use-by dates, best-by dates and manufactured on dates. Let's take a look at them.

1. Manufactured On

I want to start with the Manufactured On date, because it's a bit of the odd one out. You'll pretty much only find these on oils to show when the oil in the bottle you're buying was pressed.

It's a way for the maker of the product to show you it's a fresh product or it was made in a certain season. You'll find how long it lasts on the bottle or on the product's website (I.E. 2 years after the manufacturing date).

2. Sell-By Date

Next is the sell-by date. This is pretty much just a date for stores & supermarkets (hence, the 'sell-by' name) to know when they should start discounting the product (hopefully!) or throw it out.

It's no indication for us, people who buy the products, whether it's still safe to eat.

3. Use-By date

The use-by date, on the other hand is just that, it's safe to eat until the date on the package. This sort of date you'll find on things in the fresh section of the store, think yoghurt, cheese, meat, dips, etc.

If it was stored well, you probably have about a day leeway but that's pretty much it.

4. Best-Before Date

Lastly, there's the best-before date. Again, it pretty much does what it says on the label. It's the way for the producer to say 'we can guarantee that the product tastes the same as it did on day 1 until this date'. 

After this date, it might start to taste a little less nice but it won't go bad for a while after that date.

You'll find this type of date on things that keep for longer, like grains, pasta, things in tins & jars and vacuum packed foods.

Let me know in the comments if you've got any extra questions and don't forget to download the cheatsheet and stick it somewhere near your fridge.

Download this cheatsheet

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ABOUT SARAH

Sarah is a certified health coach and trained pastry chef. She was diagnosed with gastroparesis almost 6 years ago. Since then she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and dysautonomia. Her step by step systems help other spoonies combine going gluten-free with their other dietary restrictions, apply systems to use their spoons well and get support.