We probably all have experienced something similar to this: You reach to the back of a kitchen or pantry shelf and find a can or jar of food you purchased quite some time ago. The expiration date printed on the packaging passed by more than six months ago. Is it safe to eat?

Usually, yes. While a product’s expiration date might have passed, it often still is fine to eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains a product’s use-by date is the last date recommended for the product to be at its best quality. The quality of the item might decline after that date, but it’s quite possible it’s still fine to eat. So, how does one know for sure?

Websites such as and allow you to easily search for a particular food type or item and learn how much longer it’s usually safe to eat beyond the date. For example, jarred pasta sauces typically are good 12 to 18 months past the date if they have been stored in a cool, dry area. Cereal can be good up to 12 months past the date if it is unopened.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, Email your own couponing victories and questions to

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