So you want to eat from your kitchen and ask yourself: Pasta? Sandwich? Tapsilog? Maybe just a slice of fruit? Whatever you’re craving, it’s helpful (and economical) to know that not all items in your fridge and pantry that have gone past their expiration date deserve to be tossed. If you can’t trust your nose to do the work, use this guide for some basic rules.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
This goes for your fine sugar and salt. When we say don’t sweat it, we mean both literally and figuratively. These food items, when stored properly, basically last forever. Pure honey is also known to be a perfect concoction of nature that lasts indefinitely so don’t throw out that unopened jar from your ninang three Christmases ago just yet. The same goes for white rice but considering how much we eat it we rarely need to worry about old stock.
Brown rice, however, needs to be consumed within six months as it goes bad faster due to higher oil content.
Cooking oil actually does go bad, whether it’s olive, vegetable, canola, or sesame. Your best bet is to check the “use by” date and if you feel like it’s been sitting on your pantry way longer than that, as in a year, then it’s time to dispose of it.
They don’t go bad. (Yay!)
It’s good practice to keep some canned meat and tuna in the pantry for rainy season or for doomsday prepping. They last for up to 2-5 years past their printed date but damages like dents on the can affect the freshness. Just make sure nothing is brown when you open it.
The recipe says “oregano” and guess what, you have it! But it doesn’t have an expiration date and you can’t remember when you bought it, so what now? As a general rule, a strong, aromatic smell means the spice is still potent. Dried and ground spices, when stored properly, do not usually go bad but can get less flavorful over time. Some spices come with a “best by” date which means the flavors may not be as strong after that period. Those without a printed date are good for up to 2-3 years after purchase.
Hold up, we’re seeing a lot of reminders that go “when stored properly.” What is proper storage?!
The best place to store any food item is in a cool, dry place. We’re talking airtight containers away from the heat of the stove or sunlight from the windows. Spices even benefit from being stored in the dark! Moisture leads to growth of mold and mildew, so refrigerating items don’t exactly make them safer.
Dried, uncooked pasta can last for about a year or two past its printed expiration date. As long as it is unopened or unpenetrated by moisture, it should still make a good bowl of spaghetti marinara or two. Speaking of marinara...
Tomato-based sauces can last for up to a year past its printed date, but use your sense of smell to be sure, but not so much that you inhale mold spores! The same goes for oil-based pasta sauce like pesto and garlic. Cream-based ones are even more high-maintenance and may only last six months past its date.
However, those organic jars of fancy sauce do not come with preservatives and may go rancid faster than a normal jar of Ragu.
Bread is generally good for about 2-3 days past its printed date, as long as there are no signs of mold. It has a better chance out of the refrigerator than inside where moisture builds up faster.
Can’t remember when you opened that jar of mayo in the back of the fridge? If you’re making a tuna sandwich, it’s best to open up a fresh jar as mayonnaise is one of those high-risk foods in terms of spoilage. An opened jar will only be good for a month in the fridge, but once past its printed date? Hard pass.
As a dairy product, butter doesn’t last that long. It is recommended that you consume an opened stick within two weeks! Shocking, we know.
Ketchup juice is that gross, watery fluid that comes before the actual ketchup pours out of the bottle but its presence doesn’t mean the ketchup has gone bad. Ketchup can actually last up to a year if stored in the fridge, and unopened bottles may last up to one year past its printed date. The vinegar and sugar in most brands of ketchup help preserve the popular condiment.
The egg test
When your eggs don’t come with a date or you’ve simply lost track, try doing the egg freshness test by placing them in a bowl of water.
Eggs that sink to the bottom on their side are still good.
Eggs that sink to the bottom upright must be eaten soon, preferably hard boiled.
Eggs that float have got to go.
Apples and oranges are not that different in terms of freshness and will last up to two months in the fridge. Bananas will last up to a week, refrigerated or not. Unripened mangoes should be kept out of the fridge for it to ripen to sweetness but once it’s too soft and mushy, it has gone bad. Fresh strawberries from Baguio are best consumed within a week.
About your vegetable drawer
Veggies can last anywhere from a few days to a month. Staples like carrots, potatoes, and un-sliced onions can last for over a month in the fridge. Fresh greens such as broccoli, lettuce, cucumber, and asparagus have a short shelf life and are maxed out by Day 7. Some veggies like cauliflower and celery can last up to three weeks. Tomatoes are delicate but will last up to two weeks if stored well and separated from other produce. Sliminess and mushiness are sure signs of a vegetable gone bad.
And lastly… avoid freezer burn!
Bacon, one of the most important food groups, usually come with an expiration date but can last up to 6-8 months past it when kept in a freezer. The same goes for your frozen beef and pork staples will last up to 6-8 months.