As a shopper, it is easy to be confused between the best before dates and expiration dates. Quite often people think that they’re the same thing and end up throwing out food that may still be good. This is an obvious problem as you’re creating food waste for now reason.

Knowing which foods have expiration dates and what the best before dates are will help you plan your meals. In addition, you’ll be able to save some money as you can take advantage of any discounted products and avoid throwing out food that’s still good. Here’s everything you need to know about the best before date vs. expiry date, when it comes to food.

What does best before date mean?

Best before date is designed to communicate with the consumer exactly how long a product will stay fresh. If the product is unopened and properly stored in the right environment, the best before date provides a guide on the timeframe in which that item will sustain both its flavour and nutritional value.

In this case, best before dates are not as focused on the actual safety of the product as compared to expiration dates. While taste or consistency may change on a product such as ketchup or dry pasta, the products are generally safe to consume slightly past the best before date. However, Health Canada recommends not eating anything past its best before date and using your judgement. Their motto is when it doubt, throw it out.

Some products like orange juice may lose some of their nutritional value past the before date, such as not providing as much Vitamin C. It is important to note that best before dates do not apply if a package has been opened or frozen as products will vary in their life span once you do so.

What does expiration date mean?

The expiration date refers to the last day in which a product is deemed safe to consume. Unlike best before dates (which are a more flexible guide), expiration dates are stricter. Only five types of products are mandated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to be labelled with an expiration date. These products include baby formula, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets, and formulated liquid diets.

Health Canada’s advice when it comes to an expired item is “there is no doubt, throw it out.”

How to extend best before dates

  • Freeze what you can’t consume fast enough – such as meat, vegetables and fruit. Always ensure your foods are tightly sealed when frozen.
  • Canned foods should be kept in a cooler, dry environment.
  • Store produce and plant-based foods in the right places. For example, keep fresh produce in the crisper of your refrigerator; potatoes in a cooler, dark place such as your basement or cellar; and nuts in the freezer.
  • Meal prep using the items that are the closest to their best before date. Determine what ingredients need to be consumed and search for a recipe online that incorporates those foods.
  • Store your bread in a bread box where it is out of the light and tightly sealed in its plastic wrapper or a container. If you can’t consume one loaf in under a week, store it in your freezer and take out slices as needed.
  • Don’t forget about your leftovers by keeping them in a clear container or labelling them with the contents and date the meal was made.

How to eliminate food waste

Unfortunately, in Canada, food waste is a serious issue. Canadians throw away nearly 2.2 million tonnes of edible food every yearand the average Canadian household wastes more than $1,400 worth of food annually. Not only does food waste have a negative impact in the environment, it hurts your wallet too.

Here are some simple ways to eliminate food waste in your household:

  • Plan ahead by determining what you want to eat in a week and shopping accordingly. It is really easy to browse deals on Reebee and build your shopping list right in the app.
  • Stick to your list. By following your grocery list in-store, you are more likely to buy only what you need, rather than the odd items that catch your eye or impulse purchases that are likely to go to waste.
  • Consider leftovers as ingredients. So many meals can be repurposed. Get creative in the kitchen rather than throwing leftovers away.
  • Organize your cupboards and fridge based on what items should be consumed first. Send the newer products to the back just as they do when stocking grocery stores.
  • Do an inventory check before you visit the store. It may be hard to remember while shopping, so take a quick look at what needs to be replaced and what you already have at home before you go.

Final thoughts

I personally hate food waste since it’s basically throwing money away. Now that I understand the differences between best before vs. expiry date, I can hopefully reduce the amount of food that I’m throwing out.

Best Before vs. Expiry Date: What’s the difference?


  1. AnotherLoonie on July 25, 2020 at 6:28 PM

    This is great 🙂 I have a major problem throwing food in my house.. I’m definitely going to look into bread boxes as we’ve been sticking ours in the fridge and it just tends to get moldy in there.

    • Barry.Choi on July 26, 2020 at 5:58 AM

      I still keep my bread in the fridge, I don’t have enough counter space for a breadbox.

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