How Much Do You Care About Expiration Dates?

One of the hallmarks of being frugal, at least in my opinion, is not caring a great deal about expiration dates.  I have known people who will throw away a carton of milk just because the date of expiration has passed by a day or two, when the milk tastes just fine. That’s silly.  You’ll know when milk has gone bad. It tastes horrific. Unless it’s raw milk, then it will just sour naturally and is actually a rather delicious product. But that’s another blog post in of itself for another day.

Over the years, I have made a point to look for groceries that are near the pull date because you can save a lot of money since the items usually go on clearance for a fraction of the cost.  A pound of cheese that cost $4 might now be 99 cents.  A $5.99 pound of lunchmeat might go for $1.29.  Cheese, lunchmeat, and dairy products (sour cream, milk, yogurt) are all items that I check for in the “clearance” or “discount” section of the store. If I’m not going to use these types of products within the next few days, I will put them into the freezer.

I have found that day old bread from the bread stores can sometimes (astonishingly) be fresher, while costing one-fourth the cost of retail!  I am always shocked to see loaves of bread in the store over four dollars.  In spite of my deep love for all things carb, I am not that much of a bread eater. Well, unless it’s fresh baked.  The smell of fresh baked bread brings back memories of going to visit my Grandma.  She used to live close to the old Holsum Bakery warehouse over near Buckeye and the old freeway. We could smell the bread for miles. But I digress…

Fruits and vegetables don’t have an expiration date per se, but sometimes stores will have an area near the back of the produce section where they will discount produce at half price or less; produce that is perfectly usable. I was so excited a couple of weeks ago to see that one of the stores in the small town near where we live had set up a clearance produce rack.  We were able to buy 6 black plums for 99 cents!  The important thing you need regarding produce is you do need to manage it as soon as you get home.  Refrigerate it right away and use within a couple of days, or blanch and freeze it to get longer life from it. Bananas with spots make THE MOST DELICIOUS banana bread. I’ll have to share my recipe with you sometime. The riper a banana is, the more sweet it’s going to taste, and the less sweetener you’ll need in your banana bread.

I am a bit more concerned about prescription medication and expiration dates. However I don’t understand how a canister of asthma medication can lose its potency when it’s sealed and under pressure.  I can understand the medications that are powder based.  I manage my asthma with one dose daily, when the directions say twice daily. My asthma specialist gives his blessing to this practice. So one month’s medication lasts me two months. Except when I was using the powder based medication, then it would only last 45 days, instead of 60 days. That used to bum me out to have to open a new container when I knew another two weeks worth of product was in the container. Plus, it raised the price of the product.  One month of medication cost me $10 (or $120/year). If I could stretch it to two months, the cost dropped to $5/month or $60/year.  But the powder medication cost $7.50 a month since it only lasted 45 days.

When it comes to items like cleaning products having an expiration date, say for example, dishwashing liquid, I think that’s ridiculous.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use dishwashing liquid long after its date of expiration. What’s going to happen?  Is it going to suds less?  Does it turn to poison?

Here is a page with a long list of items with suggested expiration dates that you might find helpful when trying to decide whether the expiration date is important to you or not.

So how much do you care about expiration dates?

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9 comments to How Much Do You Care About Expiration Dates?

  • I mind the expiration dates on food items, but I don’t freak out if it’s a day or two over the expiry date. As for medical items, like hydrogen peroxide and things that would help heal cuts, I ignore the expiration date. I really don’t see Neosporin expiring and being completely useless within a year or two of production. Good topic to discuss!


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Little House! I see we’re in agreement on a couple of things. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I love it when you guys talk back to me! Thanks so much! 🙂


  • Melissa

    It depends on the product. I could care less about most shelf stable food. I likely wouldn’t even notice if my ketchup passed its expiration date. If my milk is a day or so past its expiration date, I will likely still use it when I cook, but I’m not sure I would use it in my breakfast cereal. Bread goes the same as milk. I can tell when bread is getting close to molding. When it gets to that point, I’ll use it in something I cook (french toast for breakfast, anyone?).


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Melissa, oh boy, definitely, stale bread is so perfect for french toast and no one is the wiser, except for the cook. You’re making me hungry right now. LOL. Thanks so much for stopping by and visiting and commenting!


  • We’re pretty casual about expiration dates. So long as the milk smells okay, it’s okay by us. That’s probably the item we watch most closely. Bread goes when we notice mold. Given how sensitive Tim is to mold, though, cheese has to go as soon as we find any. (My mom always taught me to just cut it off and use the good part. But Tim will actually throw up from being too close to mold.)

    That said, I’ve had canned corn that was a year or more past its date. It was completely fine. After a certain point, I would throw it out on principle. But usually I take the dates as a suggestion/precaution rather than a rule.


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hello Abigail, how’s life in the desert treating you and your main squeeze? Did you get a chance to plant anything? I’m with you on moldy bread. And I have heard you can cut the mold off of cheese, but I’ve also heard spores have grown throughout the hunk so for someone who is sensitive to mold that’s the best option. Thank you SO much for stopping by and joining in the conversation!


  • I’ve heard that dishwasher detergent (not the liquid stuff that you use in the sink) loses its potency over time, especially if it’s kept someplace that gets hot during the summer, like the garage.

    There’s a difference between expiration date and shelf date. Many goods are just fine after their shelf date passes. With food, you might want to be careful when you reach the actual “expiration” date. As for drugs: many of those dates are on there so that people will throw out their pills and buy new, expensive meds. Some actually do lose their potency; some do not. A relative who is a doctor said most painkillers (for example) are just fine long past their alleged expiration dates.


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Funny!! I wonder if the dishwasher detergent – is it powder form that you’re referring to? I wonder if that’s why it can go bad, because typically doesn’t the powder stuff come in a cardboard box? Maybe that adds to the problem. You are lucky to have a relative who can give you the real scoop on what meds to keep and which to toss due to expiration dates. The thing about people having to throw out their meds to buy new, that’s how I felt about the asthma medication I was using in the powder container thing. I wondered if it was just a scam to get me to buy it more often. I couldn’t get anyone to admit to it though, so I kept to the 45 day limit pretty strictly. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!!


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