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Is Milk Good After Its Expiration Date?

A person holds up a jug of milk in front of a fridge.

For many, saving money on groceries is a priority, but it’s not just about the cash you spend at the grocery store. It’s also about what happens when you bring the food home, like watching expiration dates of easily expirable foods.

When it comes to milk—a pricy and quickly spoilable food—can you use it past the expiration date?

There’s good news. Milk is typically good even after the date on the carton has passed. For opened cartons and jugs, you’ve typically got two to three more days, and unopened containers can be good for up to seven more days.

While drinking “expired milk” might seem like tempting fate, the labels are why this isn’t such a bad thing to try. The dates on milk can have three different potential labels: best if used by, sell-by, and use-by. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require a true expiration date. That’s why none of the dates you’ll see are labeled as such. Instead, you get one of the other three.

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Best if used by and use-by have a similar meaning. Essentially, after those dates, peak freshness might wane, but that doesn’t mean the milk has expired. As for the sell-by date, that’s mostly for store usage and is the date the milk should be sold. All the labels focus more on the quality of the milk, not how long it is safe to drink it.

If you reach in your fridge and see that your milk has “expired,” don’t rely solely on the date. Smell the milk for a sour aroma and check that the texture is still smooth and no yellowing has occurred.

While saving money at the grocery store is one part of budgeting, getting the most out of your purchases can also help you save.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Assignments Editor at LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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