A guide to used by dates: Commonly asked questions

How long does a bbq chook really last in the fridge? And what's the best way to get the most out your salsa and dips? If you've ever wondered about how long to keep things in the fridge before throwing them out, we encourage you to read on...

In honour of Clean Out Your Fridge Day, we spoke with naturopath and nutritionist, Jess Blair, about what best before and use by dates really mean, and how to keep the food in your fridge fresh and healthy.

What is the difference between best before and use by?

"The use by date refers to when it’s safe to eat or consume up until," says Jess. "The best before date is more about the taste and quality of the food rather than a safety issue."

What are the risks of eating out of date food?

"There are many risks depending on what food it is. If you are eating anything like meat, milk or fish that are passed their use by date you can contract food poisoning," explains Jess.

Can I freeze food like raw meat and defrost it to eat after its use by date? How long will it last in the freezer?

"Yes, you can eat meat after its use by date if you defrost it and have it that day. Meat varies depending on the cut," says Jess. "Four months would be my maximum."

Canned food generally has a long life, but when should we throw out canned food in the cupboard?

"Canned goods have a shelf life. Most canned food can last one-and-a-half years. Fish, vegetables and low-acidic canned goods can last up to five years," Jess explains.

"Always check the use by or best by dates. Also, check the cans look similar to when you bought them and don’t have any holes in them, or are swollen."

How long will it last before I have to throw it out?

Jess shares her advice for some of the most-common perishable foods in our fridge.

Cooked chicken

"If the chicken is covered properly and refrigerated, you can eat it three to four days later," she says.

Cheese

"Cheese should be straight in the fridge once opened and stored in the vegetables crisper part of your fridge where it is cold and stable," advises Jess.

"A good idea to keep your cheese fresh is using a wax paper cover."

Yoghurt

"Opened yoghurt is best consumed within five to seven days. Sealed yoghurt should be consumed by the expiration, used by date," says Jess.

Salsa and dips 

"Salsa (once opened) can last up to two weeks If refrigerated properly and stored in an airtight container," she advises.

"Dips vary, however. Once opened, they should be refrigerated and covered with the original cover for up to five to seven days."

What is the best way to store veggies that are half-used and how long can they stay in the fridge for?

"All vegetables should be stored differently. For example, carrots should be stored with moisture and the ends cut off to keep them fresh, whereas as potatoes should be in a dark cupboard, out of the plastic bag they came in," says Jess.

Here are some general guidelines for storing fruits and vegetables:

  • Store vegetables and fruits separately
  • Tomatoes shouldn’t be refrigerated, can add an apple to speed up the ripening process
  • Apples can be stored on a cool countertop or in a cardboard box in your fridge.
  • Melons that are already cut, need to be stored in the fridge.
  • Strawberries don’t like moisture so a brown bag in the fridge works best.
  • Don't keep salad leaves for long, buy them in small batches and often.

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