Shopping for items with expiration dates can be a bit of a hassle, especially for the one who wants to read the labels…to ensure their purchases will be the freshest possible. Food, tobacco, over the counter medicines including vitamins and alcohol all have one thing in common, expiration dates.

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), it is a responsibility that is taken seriously, when protecting and promoting public health; they oversee proper labeling to assure that regulations follow guidelines provided, also to include warnings and alerts. Beginning with food items, expiration dates are used to indicate freshness, and is not related to things such as food born illnesses. People in the U.S. are believed to be throwing out tons of food prematurely, using these dates under the misconception of being spoiled or inedible. An example here, eggs; they may be consumed up to five weeks after the expired date. As for myself, I remain close to the dates provided when it comes to dairy products. Boxed foods like hamburger helper or mac and cheese can often be used up to a year after the date; it’s up to the individual as to what’s acceptable when it comes to consumption beyond the date. Typically, on packages you will see ‘use by’, ‘best by’ and ‘sell by.’ If you should see the ‘sell by’ on packaging, one must know that the intentions are solely for the manufacturer or the retailer selling the items. Personally, I wished they didn’t stamp that ‘sell by’ on packages, as I’ve used it as a guideline and probably shouldn’t; it’s not intended for consumers.

On to the spirits; beer and wine have expiration dates. When it comes to wine, proper storage is so important; expensive wines last longer if stored right from the beginning. Cheaper wines however have a much shorter shelf life and should be consumed within two years of purchasing. Also note, that wine should always be stored on its side so the cork doesn’t shrink. Once you open a bottle of wine, it’s usually good for two to seven days, depending on the type (kind), the temperature and how you sealed it. Distilled spirits like Gin, whiskey and vodka never expire; after opening the bottle it’s recommended use should be within a 6-month period.

Coffees dates can differ from ground beans to whole beans, not to mention their packaging, but you should always look to make sure it’s good… as stale coffee is just bad. Often you might see a great sale on coffee, check the date first; if it’s not a good seller for the retailer they’ll offer a good sale, to unload their stock.

Cosmetics, drugs and other items all have expiration dates, and it’s important you follow those guidelines, as some products lose their potency and others (like cosmetics) can irritate the skin, causing possible infections. Example…eye drops; it’s important to follow instructions and never use old drops.

In an ever-changing environment, progress is always being made, but some things need to be paid close attention to; such as expiration dates on products we consume or use. Items are chemically processed so they may last longer. Be diligent in your health because… healthy is happy.

Make your week count.