How long does milk last? Until the expiration date?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how long milk (cow’s, soy, almond, etc.) will last in the refrigerator once it is opened.  Before you whip out the usual argument that you’ve had milk in the refrigerator for two, three, or whatever weeks and survived to tell the tale, let me remind you that you are in fact worth more than the $3.50 or so you paid for your beverage.

I opened this today, 3/27/16. It won't be good until that expiration date listed above. A Sharpie keeps me informed.

I opened this today, 3/27/16. It won’t still be good on 4/18, the expiration date listed above. Using a Sharpie allows room to store other things in my head.

That expiration date at the top there reflects…either a sell-by or use-by date. And I couldn’t tell which, because of the three types of milk in the refrigerator, NONE of them distinguish which type of expiration is printed.  The Western Dairy Association says:

  • If properly cared for, milk generally stays fresh two to three days past the “sell by” or “pull-by” dates on milk cartons.

So let’s assume the dates are “sell by” dates.  So we know that unopened, the date on the carton pictured above gives us until 4/20 or so before we need to start using our noggin and moving on to the next carton.  But what about once you’ve opened the carton?

silk milk expire

This is true for cow’s milk too, but you won’t always find it on the label. GRRR.

As you see, milk — soy, almond, or cow — expires 7-10 days from the date you open it.  So get out a Sharpie, keep it in a kitchen drawer, mark up your leftovers and milk with the date you opened them, and don’t drink milk  if it’s 2-3 days after the printed expiration date.  Just don’t.

Go to the bottom of this page for the chart from the FDA showing cow’s milk and other stuff you can store properly so you don’t hurl.


Sell by, Best if Used By and other such expiration explained here.

Can a store sell food past the expiration date?  Yep.  Not great practice, but it’s done.  That’s why you should be aware when you shop so you get the freshest food that will last the longest by reaching to the back because of the First In, First Out (FIFO) rule.

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