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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Date Labeling on Pre-Packaged Foods

Frugal Kitchens 101
If you have been following this blog you will have read about the importance of date labelling home canned and home frozen foods. My rule of thumb for: home canned foods is to use within two years or less; frozen fruits and vegetables one year; frozen combination dishes (eg. lasagne) 6 months; frozen cooked meats 6 months; bulk purchased beef, pork, poultry 12 months; and fish 6 to 9 months. Basically what this does is ensure the food put up is used within the period of one growing (availability) season to the next. Like most people we also have to buy pre-packaged foods.

In Canada there is mandatory date labeling on pre-packaged foods. There may be more than one date on the package. Each date has a different meaning. Understanding these dates can help you make frugal shopping choices as well. Product dating is classified as: packaged on date, best before date, use by date, sell by date and expiration date.

Explanation of Canadian Date Labeling on Pre-Packaged Foods:

  • packaged on date - This date is common on many pre-packaged products. It is a means of the company labeling the date the food was produced and may contain other informations such as the factory number, the line number and line number. As a consumer the packaging date is important in the event of a food product recall, allergy or health alert.
  • best before date/use by date - This is also known as the durable life date and must appear on pre-packaged foods that will keep for 90 days or less. The best before date refers to the anticipated time that product when stored properly will retain its freshness, taste, nutritional value and any other quality claims by the manufacture. This date appears as either the date with further instructions such as keep refrigerated or the packaged date and best before date along with storage instructions. It is important to know that best before dates do not guarantee product safety. The best before/use by date only gives you information about the freshness and potential shelf-life of unopened foods you are buying. Unopened foods may be consumed after the best before/used by date although the quality may be diminished. Opened foods past their best before/used by date should be discarded. The best before date can be identified by "best before" and "meilleur avant" grouped together with the date and may appear anywhere on the packaging.
  • sell by date - The sell-by date is the date determined by the manufacturer as an indicator that the store must sell by that date or remove the product from the shelves. This date can be considerably shorter that the best before date. A savvy consumer can use watch for these foods nearing their sell by date in the reduced for quick sale section of the grocery store for additional savings. Some of these foods can be frozen, canned or dried to extend their shelf-life.
  • expiration date - The expiration date appears on: formulated liquid diet supplements; foods represented use in a very low-energy diet (foods sold only by a pharmacist and only with a written order from a physician); meal replacements; nutritional supplements; and infant formula. These foods should not be consumed after the expiration date!

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