Can you eat frozen food past the expiration date?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat frozen food past the expiration date?”, and what foods can you eat past their expiration date?

Can you eat frozen food past the expiration date?

Yes, you can eat frozen food past the expiration date. As long as the food remains constantly frozen at 0℉, it is safe to eat. But the quality won’t be the same. 

The formation of ice crystals is the primary quality threat. It damages the texture and leads to freezer burn. Some foods cannot withstand prolonged freezing and must be consumed before their expiration dates. 

These include fresh eggs, hard-cooked eggs, mayonnaise, and most deli-prepared meals and salads, including chicken, tuna, or ham salads, pre-stuffed chicken breasts or pork chops, and various vacuum-packed dinners.

What do the labels mean?

According to the USDA, the terms ‘use-by, ‘best-by, and ‘sell-by, all portray a different meaning when they are printed on the food package. Let’s talk about what these terms stand for.

Sell-by date: This date is of importance for the retailer. There is a time window past which the product should not be displayed on the store shelves. The retailer takes care of this and removes any products from the shelves that have exceeded their sell-by.

Use-by: The manufacturer does not take responsibility for the product quality and safety past this date. Therefore, any food with its use-by date exceeded poses safety threats.

Best-by: The use-by date is just a proposition that the product is best consumed by this date. The food product remains safe past this date but the quality deteriorates significantly.

What are the foods that you can eat past their expiration dates?


Dry, boxed pasta, if stored correctly, stays good 1-2 years past the printed date. However, fresh (uncooked) pasta, sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, will only last 4-5 days past the printed date. 

You can freeze it to extend its shelf-life for up to 8 months. Cooked pasta only lasts a week in the fridge but it can be frozen for up to 6-8 months.

Breakfast cereal

An unopened box of breakfast cereals lasts 4-6 months past the printed date. Cooked cereal should not be kept in the fridge for more than 4-5 days. Even if the cereal goes stale in the pantry, it remains safe to eat.


The best-by date on the eggs is an indicator of freshness. The eggs remain safe for 3-5 weeks of their purchase date. However, inspect the eggs for spoilage before you cook them. Discard the eggs if they fail the float test or give off a sulfur-like smell.

Raw meat and poultry

The shelf-life of raw meat and poultry can be extended by freezing them. Ground meat lasts 3-4 months and whole chicken or turkey stays good for up to a year in the freezer. 

Food constantly frozen at 0°F has an indefinite shelf-life. But prolonged storage produces noticeable quality changes in frozen food.

Raw fish 

Unopened canned fish, such as tuna, stays good for about 2-5 years past the printed date. However, this only applies if the fish is stored correctly in the pantry. 

To extend the shelf-life of the fresh fish for up to 9 months, consider freezing it. Frozen, smoked fish lasts 3-6 months while commercially frozen fish stays good in the freezer for about 10-12 months.


Cheese naturally contains mold. Cheese lasts way past its printed date if you store it correctly. If the mold hasn’t spread throughout the cheese, you can cut the affected area and consume the rest of the cheese. 

This is important because cheese is not inexpensive and tossing a whole block of cheese with a small benign moldy spot is a waste of resources. In fact, the white mold on the soft-ripened cheeses like  Camembert and Brie is natural.

Leafy greens 

Bagged salads and pre-cut or frozen veggies come with a sell-by date. But the veggies can last sometime after the printed date. If the leafy veggies have just started to wilt, they can be rescued by dumping them in ice-cold water for 5-10 minutes.

Dairy milk 

The shelf-life of dairy milk is affected by its fat content. Because fat is more susceptible to rancidity and spoilage. Non-fat milk has a shelf-life of 7-10 days in the fridge. 

If properly refrigerated, dairy milk can last 5-7 days past its printed date. The shelf-life can be extended up to a month if the milk is unopened and of non-dairy and shelf-stable variety. If the milk smells bad or develops a lumpy texture, discard it.


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat frozen food past the expiration date?”, and what foods can you eat past their expiration date?