If you have these items in your fridge or pantry, get rid of them. They might not be safe to eat.
You should be cleaning your fridge at least once a week. That includes checking expiration dates, purging older items and moving larger containers out of the way to see what's hidden in the depths of your fridge. After all, some bad foods are easier to spot than others, especially if they have a foul smell or mold growth.
Once you discover what's expired in your fridge, it may be time to give it a deep clean and throw out other food, too. That means getting rid of sauces you only used once. Or eggs that have a sell-by date from two months ago, even if they seem fine (see the egg test below). Then there's the milk and the container of whatever it was that you planned to use but forgot about.
Even if some foods look fine, they could be dangerous to eat. Old food can grow bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses and smelly kitchens. We'll tell you which ones you should throw out if it's time, which will also give you room for some healthier food. (You can also check out five pantry foods that expire faster than you think, and nine cooking hacks that actually work.)
If you've had leftovers in your fridge for more than four days, it's time to toss them out just to be safe. The Mayo Clinic says that after four days, the risk of harmful bacteria increases. Nobody needs food poisoning from food that could just be thrown out.
However, if your leftovers haven't been in there that long and they're tightly packed in a sizable quantity, like a quart of soup, you can safely freeze them for later -- just make sure it's not too late. Here's a food storage chart to help you determine when it's time to throw out old meats, vegetables and desserts.
This is an obvious one. If anything in your fridge is growing mold, you need to get rid of it -- yes, that includes cheese and fruit. There are exceptions: If you have, say, raspberries where only a few of them are moldy, you can still eat the ones that aren't as long as you thoroughly rinse and inspect them.
Also, you could cut off the moldy portions of hard cheese if there's enough to salvage, but make sure you're cutting out a deep enough margin that the mold is gone. Clean the knife between cuts so it doesn't spread spores.
If you've got opened foods in your refrigerator like deli meat or sausage, you should probably toss them after four days. Cooking them in a new dish could extend their life, but any longer and they tend to let off a rotten smell, signaling they've gone bad.
Your food should never be slimy -- this goes for meats, veggies and lettuce -- especially packaged greens. Deli meat is a repeat offender here. The slime is due to bacteria taking over the food. If you open the packaging and notice the food has a slimy film, chuck it in the compost immediately.
If you've got eggs with a sell-by date that's well over a month ago, there's an easy way to tell if they're still good to eat without cracking them open.
You'll need to fill a deep bowl with water and place one egg at a time in the bowl. If the egg goes straight to the bottom and falls on its side, it's still very fresh. If it falls to the bottom, but it's standing up, it's still fine to eat, but you should eat it sooner rather than later. If it floats, it's time to throw it out and buy new eggs.
If they're standing, you'll probably want to use them before they go bad.
Quickly clean, shine and protect your fridge with a gentle stainless steel cleaner. After you clean out the interior of your fridge, add the finishing touches by cleaning the outside. Get rid of those fingerprints and stains to make your fridge sparkle.
Once you're finished cleaning out your fridge, it's best to take a look at some pantry items that may have expired. Usually, these items last longer than fridge foods but bread, sauces and canned foods have expiration dates, too. Here's what to look out for.
Now that you've got your fridge cleaned out, it's time to move on to the pantry and other areas of the house. Here's how to tell when flour, sugar and other baking ingredients expire and how to clean your kitchen in under 15 minutes.