If You're Avoiding the Supermarket, Here's What's Safe to Eat Past Its Sell-by Date

Scarlett Wrench
·2-min read

From Men's Health

Whether it's due to self-isolating, social-distancing, or simply battling a heavy workload, many of us aren't able to make extra trips to the shops right now. But that needn't mean subsisting on the last of your breakfast cereal.

First, let's clear up the differences in labelling terms. "'Use-by dates' are there for safety reasons," explains registered dietitian Laura Tilt. "That's why they’re found on foods that can go off quickly and consequently carry a food-poisoning risk, such as meat, eggs and bagged salad." Be very cautious when dealing with these. 'Best-before', however, relates to food quality. These are the ones you need worry less about.

For the final word, we consulted mycologist (that's "mould scientist") Dr Patrick Hickey to get his take on what's safe to eat when the fridge is bare.

Cooked Meat

Never ignore the use-by date, says Dr Hickey. Although most meat will keep for at least two months if frozen fresh, if it's past its best, bin it.

Nut Butter

Nuts cultivate a particularly harmful kind of mould, says Dr Hickey. If in doubt, chuck it out.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Raw Meat

Cooking kills bacteria, so you might have a day or two to play with here, says Dr Hickey. But don't stretch it further than that.


If it's white mould, you can scrape it off. Use the remaining bread to make croutons, or breadcrumbs. Black mould? Bin it.

Hard Cheese

Slice off the outside layer – all of it, if you want to play safe – then eat the inside. Grated cheese, it should be noted, can keep for six months in the fridge if frozen while it's still fresh.

Photo credit: Debby Lewis-Harrison - Getty Images
Photo credit: Debby Lewis-Harrison - Getty Images


Slightly sour milk is harmless when heated. Use it to make pancakes. If it's actually mouldy, we'll presume you don't need us to tell you to bin it...

Pickles and Jams

As a general rule, the more sugar or salt that is added to something, the longer it will last. Scrape away the top layer, and it'll likely be fine.


Are they still in the packet? asks Dr Hickey. Without exposure to air, these can last a good 50 years. Now where did you put the cheese and pickle...?

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