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Spoiler Alert: What You Need To Know Before Throwing Out ‘Expired’ Food

Before you toss out that grub that’s been sitting in your fridge a day or two after the expiration date, think again! A recent study at the University of Minnesota reported that Americans throw away at least 160 billion pounds of food a year – even though much of it is still good to eat.

In response to food-safety concerns, many manufacturers began printing dates on their products back in the 1970s, however, since there was no regulated system for adding the info, many of us may be reading these dates and abiding by their “suggestions” a little too closely. For instance, the “best by date” suggests that a food’s flavor and quality will be optimal until this date. A couple of days later certainly wont kill you. Same goes for the suggested “sell by date”:  this date simply lets the supermarkets know when it’s time to rotate their stock and is not meant to communicate anything to consumers. A “use before” label indicates that a food’s flavor and quality will be at it’s peak before this date, but food with this line is still cool to devour a few days later.

While date labels may be open to some interpretation, the one thing that plays a major role in food safety is you!

How fast you transport perishable items from the supermarket to your refrigerator, whether you store and defrost it at the appropriate temperatures, and how well you wash, prep and cook your food all matter. For instance raw chicken will only last in your fridge 1-2 days, however pop it in the freezer and you have nine months to figure out if you want to grill it or bake it. That multi-grain bread you love can live in your pantry for 5-7 days, however if you want to make it last longer put your sandwich staple in the freezer and get three months out of it.

Still think your grub has gone bad. Think again – your favorite grub may be past it’s prime, but before you toss it, try these quick tips in order to bring it’s flavor and freshness back to life:

1. Revive chips that have lost their crispness by baking them at 250 degrees for 3-5 minutes

2. Soften stale bread by wrapping it slice by slice in a damp paper towel and microwave it for a few seconds.

3. Cut off the discolored parts of lettuce and soak the rest in ice water for 10 minutes. Hello crisp again!

Ultimately RADicals, the best way to determine whether to eat or toss food after that date on it has come and gone, is to use your five senses. If something looks, smells or tastes bad, it probably is. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and throw out food that seems questionable — food poisoning is never fun! But there’s likely a lot of items in your ‘fridge that don’t have to go to waste.

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