Budget Rescue: Expiration Dates Matter


Zoom in on an use by-product

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Expiration dates most certainly matter when you’re shopping. I don’t mean a “best buy” date, or a “freshest before” date, but an actual “expires on” date. It matters when you’re looking at discounts, freshness, and food waste.


I regularly shop the clearance nooks at Safeway in the Deli and Butcher aisles. Food that is going to go bad within the next day will often be discounted because the grocery store would rather sell it then throw it away. At my particular local store I know I’m more likely to get a 50% off tag later in the day, but I like the selection, and lack of a crowd, in the early morning. If you notice on the package, it usually says, use or freeze by xx/xx/xx. In most cases I buy discounted meat in bulk and pull out the trusty Foodsaver when I get home. It’s ready whenever we are, and it keeps our meat costs very low.


Sometimes an expiration date can indicate how fresh something is or whether or not it has preservatives. I try not to purchase anything that’s shelf life will outlast my pets. However, when I’m looking at a particular item on a shelf I want to make sure I purchase the item that has the best expiration date because I don’t like….

….Food Waste

This morning when I was grocery shopping I was looking at milk. I would rather purchase organic milk because I’m a little bit hippie, and a little bit rock ‘n roll. I normally don’t have the budget for it, but at this point we’re not drinking a lot of milk. I could buy the regular milk for $1.79, but I realized the expiration date was November 11th. There’s a good chance we would have to throw out half of it by that date. The organic milk was $2.99, but the expiration date was in December. It may seem more expensive initially, but I would have to buy the regular milk up to three times before I have to dispose of the organic milk. I love it when health food is a better deal.

In short, it may seem like it’s just another number to look at on a package, but paying attention to your expiration date can give you some good bargains, and a fresh pantry.

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