It’s that time of year again, spring is upon us and so is the annual spring cleaning. Most individuals work on their yards, clean out their cupboards and give away all the clothes that no longer fit but what about your fridge? With all the fresh Ontario produce coming into season now is a great time to purge your fridge of all those expired products and the many jars you never ever use. It’s time to make room for fresh, nutritious veggies and fruit!

If you have read this far, you are likely standing in front of the fridge or thinking about how and when you are going to do it…. Feeling stumped? It can be a bit daunting when you start to pull things out; you wonder how long the mayo has really been in there? Is that yogurt still good? What the best before date really mean on the block of old cheddar you never got a chance to open? Instead of closing the fridge or putting off your purging plans due to the many unanswered questions here are a few guidelines to help get you started. Trust me – you’ll feel so much better once its’ done!

First we need to understand what the “dates” mean (as per the Canadian Food Inspection Agency):

“Best Before” – are mandatory on products with a shelf life of 90 days or less, the best before date takes into consideration product freshness, taste, texture, nutritional value or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer. You can eat products that have passed the best before date but remember that a best before date is not an indicator of food safety – so when in doubt throw it out.

“Packaged-on” – are mandatory on meat products. When at your local grocery store there should be a chart in the meat section which will help you understand how long your meat option will last – this chart is designed to match up to the ‘packaged on’ date on your product. If you don’t see it – ask the butcher.

“Expiry Date” – are mandatory of fortified foods (such as liquid nutritional supplements or infant formula) and medication. These products have active substances that naturally degrade overtime and can become dangerous if consumed past the expiry date.

How long in the fridge…

1-2 days: fresh chicken, fish, meat broths (opened), sausage, lamb and red meats

3-4 days opened luncheon meats, ham slices, cooked meats, homemade dips

6-12 weeks: hard cheeses, opened condiments and opened pickled products, juice, milk, yogurt (base on date provided)

How long in the freezer

1 Month: bacon, fish sticks, ham slices, sausage, hot dogs

3-4 Months: raw fish, frozen dinners, cooked meats, breads, bagels, muffins,

6 months: uncooked chicken and meats

Good luck and happy purging!