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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Expiration Dates*

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*But were afraid to ask.

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Eggs are good for up to 5 weeks past the date stamped on the carton. Canned foods last forever. (So if you want to donate that year-old tuna to the local food pantry, don't feel guilty about it.) Dairy products are good for at least a week past their stamped date, if they stay refrigerated.

Meats are another story. Anything perpetually frozen remains safe, but who knows how good it will taste?

Here's a quick checklist of other products:

1. Beer:
It's a taste thing. According to Consumerist, many bottles of beer are imprinted with a coded expiration date that -- since it looks like hieroglyphics to the average consumer -- will make it hard to steer clear of the stale stuff. The code works like so: "Letters from A-M represent the month of the year. The next 4 digits are the day and year the beer was first brewed, and the last 2 letters are the state code where it was brewed."

So that bottle of Sam Adams (SAM) that says A0699MA? You might want to avoid it.

2. Soda:
Bottlers play the sell-by game -- soda doesn't go bad, it just starts to taste bad. The same goes for tobacco.

3. Condoms: Short answer: Don't play with fire. Condoms lose their elasticity as they age, and are therefore much more likely to break.

4. Prescription Drugs:
It's not completely cut and dried, but, according to the folks at Harvard Medical School, "the expiration date doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use... [In fact,] much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date. Placing a medication in a cool place, such as a refrigerator, will help a drug remain potent for many years."

Harvard. What do they know?

5. Batteries, disposable cameras:
Anyone who's tried to use a flashlight that's been in storage for a year or 2 knows firsthand that batteries dry up and stop working. The same goes for that camera you left in the glove-box "just in case."

6. Vitamins:
Best to pay attention. They tend to remain stable for 4 or 5 years, according to the FDA -- but variables such as packaging, storage temperature, and capsule composition can affect their stability. Determine on a case-by-case basis.

I could go on forever. Here's a laundry list compiled by the folks at Real Simple.

Happy tossing!

What's the oldest product in your home? What's your policy for using things after their sell-by date? Weigh in on The Exchange.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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