A few days back, The New York Times ran this piece about expiration dates on food. They tackle many different types of food and how certain ingredients really can be consumed over a long, long period. This is an interesting subject for me. I’m a person who pretty much lives and dies by the expiration date on the packaging. I’ve now read multiple articles now, including this one, that say expiration dates are misleading and only provide guidance as to when the food is optimal to eat. And some food manufacturers do put “best by” instead of “use by” and perhaps that’s the way things are going. But I’m not sure I’m ready to go beyond the dates stamped on packages. My logic is that those dates are there for a reason.

They cite a definitive list of things you never have to worry about and will pretty much last forever:

  • Vinegars
  • Honey
  • Vanilla & other extracts
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Corn Syrup
  • Molasses

I’m pretty much on board with those. I will use any of those ingredients anytime, regardless of how long it’s been in the cabinet – and I don’t think they even have dates on them. Where it starts to go south for me in the article is with other things. Eggs, in particular. Here is what the Times says about eggs:

The Julian date printed on each carton (that’s the three-digit number ranging from 001 for Jan. 1 to 365 for Dec. 31) represents the date the eggs were packed, which, in most parts of the country, can be up to 30 days after the egg was actually laid. The sell-by stamp can be another 30 days after the pack date. That’s 60 full days! But odds are good that they’ll still be palatable for several weeks longer than that.

New York Times, January 24, 2023

OK, so no. No way. There is no chance on green Earth that I am eating eggs 30 days after I purchased them. Nope. They also say that salad dressings will last up to a year, but I think that’s throwing a blanket over a LOT of different options. While a lot of dressings ARE vinegar based, which bodes well for their longevity, plenty are not. Just picture the salad dressing aisle at your supermarket. It’s like 5x larger than it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s. You can’t tell me that ALL those are lasting one year, particularly the ones with cheese in them.

Anyway, the more I read these articles, the more expiration date stubborn I think I get. If food hits an expiration date in my house, it’s generally gone the day after. First-world problem, yes. But peace of mind – also yes.