10 Foods You Can Eat Past The Expiration Date, So Don't Clean Out The Fridge Just Yet

I grew up in a house where it was completely normal to slice the green fuzz off a block of cheese, then continue making your sandwich with it. But when I went to college, several of my friends found my nonchalance about expiration dates a bit alarming. Despite what people may think, however, there are foods that you can eat past the expiration dates on their labels. Expiration dates aren't always accurate representations of a food's shelf life, and those labels actually cause millions of pounds of food waste every year. With one in six Americans suffering from hunger, it's startling to think of that much food getting thrown away because people are misinformed. Of course you don't want to eat something that's unsafe or could make you sick, but you can save money and reduce waste if you stop living by the date you see stamped on your yogurt cartons.

Most people don't understand expiration dates or what they really mean. The common misconception is that once the sell-by date on an item has passed, the food becomes inedible, but that isn't always the case. Food products are actually labeled with expiration dates to give consumers information about the food's freshness. In other words, most foods don't "go bad" or become unhealthy to eat when they've reached their sell-by dates, but they will start to lose quality in taste. When it comes to eating food that is expired according to its label, the most important thing to do is use your common sense. If it smells bad, looks rotten, or otherwise doesn't seem right, then don't eat it. Never consume something you're unsure of. But don't waste food, either. There are plenty of things that are safe long after their sell-by dates.

Maybe you aren't the type to eat around the mold, but here are 10 things you can safely eat past their expiration dates.

1. Cheese

If you think about how cheese is made and aged, you might be more apt to believe it's the kind of food that doesn't always go bad after its expiration date. Even if there is a little mold growing, consuming "expired" cheese is perfectly safe — as long as you cut off the mold. Don't let your precious cheddar go to waste ever again.

2. Cereal

While it may begin to get a little stale, cereal has a true shelf life long beyond its printed expiration date. Like many foods, if it is stored properly — in this case, in a cool, dry place — cereal can last months after the sell-by date. The next time you see a sale on your favorite brand, don't hesitate to stock up, because it will last you.

3. Pasta

Although dry pasta already has a one-to-two-year shelf life, it can actually last much longer than that, because it doesn't contain any water. As long as it is stored in a cool, dry place, dried pasta can last years after its expiration date. Fresh pasta, on the other hand, does contain water, and spoils more easily, but it can still be good past its date as well (about two to three weeks, usually, as long as it doesn't have a spoiled odor to it).

4. Bread

It might get stale, but bread past its expiration date can be safely eaten, even if there is some slight mold on it. If the bread smells sour or spoiled, don't eat it, but you can always slice a moldy end off and enjoy the rest of the loaf. Stale bread makes excellent French toast and croutons, so don't toss it out because it's "too old."

5. Yogurt

Say goodbye to days of throwing out your half-eaten tub of yogurt, because this is another dairy product you can eat after its package labels it "expired." Open yogurt will spoil sooner than unopened yogurt, but sealed yogurt will usually last one to two weeks past the sell-by date. When it comes to yogurt, you just have to ask: Does it smell right? Is there mold in it? If not, then feel free to proceed with making your smoothie.

6. Chips

Like bread, potato chips may get stale past their expiration date, but they are still perfectly safe to eat. If they are in an open bag, they'll be alright for a few weeks, but if the bag is sealed, it can still be good months later ... as if you'd have an uneaten bag of chips laying around for that long.

7. Chocolate

You know that white film that forms on old chocolate? It's not mold. It's what's called "chocolate bloom" — either of the fat or sugar variety — and it can be safe to eat. If chocolate is stored in a cool place (70 degrees or below), it will outlast its sell-by date. But as with chips, what are the chances you'll have chocolate for more than, like, five minutes?

8. Condiments

I used to loathe spending so much money on condiments like ketchup, mayo, and jam, because I could never seem to use it all before it expired. That changed when I found out that many condiments, including salad dressing, are consumable after their sell-by dates. If they're open, give them the old sniff test to see if they have spoiled. But if they've never been unsealed, condiments can be stored in your cupboard for longer than the package would have you believe.

9. Frozen Food

If you don't mind freezer burn, then frozen foods can be eaten long after their expiration dates. Freezing food is the easiest way to extend its shelf life, whether it be vegetables, pastries, or proteins. Go ahead and stock up on frozen pizza. You know you want to.

10. Prepackaged Produce

A little bruised cucumber or wilted lettuce never killed anyone, and neither did bagged salad eaten past its expiration date. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it's simple: If it's rotten, don't eat it.

Images: Tom Mecklem, Graem Maclean, Barb Watson, Brenda Gottsabend, Christian Cable, M Dreibelbis , Neil Conway, Rich Renomeron, Mike Haller, Emils Jasuns, Diane Main, Mike Mozart (3), slgckgc, Adam Kuban, stacy, Korona Lacasse/Flickr