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Food Shelf Life Recs

Food Shelf Life Recs

Food Shelf Life Recommendations

Version 1.1


Grocery product shelf life is based upon the Manufacturer’s Date Packaged (DP) code. Manufacturers encode the Date Packaged somewhere on the product in a form unique to their internal procedures. My objective is to provide Date Packaged (DP) code keys for well-known products to assist your food purchasing and rotation efforts. Remember that these times are the manufacturer’s recommendations for MAXIMUM freshness and nutrient value. Several vendors indicated their products are edible long beyond the published recommendation dates.

The information presented here was retrieved from either the vendor’s website or via contact with the vendor consumer hotline. In order to maintain freshness within the suggested expiration dates, food should be stored in a dry, cool location. Discard any food product exhibiting changed color, odor, or taste. Storage temperature has a great influence on shelf life. Per Del Monte – a 15-degree change reduces expected shelf life by 50% (ideal temp is 65; if stored at 80, then shelf life is reduced by 50%).

Recommended product Shelf life is defined as MOS (months) Unopened and Opened. Both of these timeframes are calculated using the Date Packaged (DP) as the base. Unopened refers to total months the product can be stored at home. Opened refers to the total months (or days or weeks) the product can be stored once it has been opened. If the chart has a time recommendation for Opened, consider it as a SUBSET of the Unopened timeframe. For example, if a product has an Unopened shelf life of 12 months and an Opened recommendation of 3 months, the following statements are true:

  • For maximum freshness, the product should remain on your shelf for a maximum of date packaged + 12 months
  • Once the product is opened, it should remain on your shelf for a maximum of 3 months OR less. The combined unopen and open timeframes should not exceed date packaged + 12 months.

This chart is a work in progress. Feedback for additions, corrections or improvements should be forwarded to czimmer@gte.net for inclusion in a subsequent update. The chart is organized closely to the sequence of the generic Cupboard Storage Chart at extension sites (e.g. http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/dp_fnut/HRAP/STORAGE/cupstor.htm ). I’ve included the extension product recommendations in the table. They are listed without a specific manufacturer entry and with "generic" in the comment column. Food categories include:

  • Staples
  • Mixes and Packaged Foods
  • Canned and Dried Foods
  • Spices, Herbs, Condiments, and Extracts
  • Others

Chart column definitions:

  • DP= Date Packaged; (X= letter or number not significant to product shelf life, Y=Year Packaged, MM or M= Month Packaged (if only one M then 1-9=Jan-Sep, A=Oct, B=Nov, C=Dec unless otherwise noted), DD=Day Packaged, JJJ=Julian Day Packaged (Jan 1 = 001, Dec 31 = 365 or 366 depending on presence of leap year).
  • DP LOC= Location of Date Packaged
  • UNOPEN= Number of months shelf life unopened from Date Packaged
  • OPEN=Number of months shelf life once opened.


PRODUCTMFGDate Pkg.DP LOCRecommended Shelf life (Mos) UnopenRecommended Shelf life (Mos) OpenCOMMENTS
Baking Powder18 or exp. dateGeneric: Keep dry and covered. Test effectiveness w/ 1 tsp. BP and cup tap warm tap water. If bubbles, then still active
Calumet Baking PowderExp. DateExp. datesame1-800-431-1001
Baking Soda24Generic: Key dry and covered
BisquickExp. DateExp. dateSame
Bouillon24Keep dry and covered
Bouillon Herb OxHormelXMMDDYBottom24same1-800-523-4635 www.hormel.com;
Bouillon ToneToneYMDDx M = A-M for Jan –> Dec (I is skipped!)24same1-800-247-5251
Cereals Ready to Eat To Be Cooked6-12 62-3Generic: Refold liner tightly after opening
Chocolate Pre-melted Semi Sweet -- Unsweetened12 18 18Generic: Keep cool
Chocolate Syrup246Generic: Refrig. After opening
Cocoa Mixes8Generic: Cover Tightly
Cocoa Mix Nestles QuickNestlesYDDDEmbossed top row of codes on bottom243-61-800-637-8536
Coffee Cans Instant24 12-242 wks 2Generic: Refrigerate after opening. Keep tightly closed, use dry measuring spoon.
Coffee Yuban (can)YJJJBottom of can; top row121May refrig. after opened. 1-800-982-2649
Coffee Lighteners (dry)96Generic: Keep lid tightly closed
Cornmeal12Generic: Keep tightly closed
Cornstarch18Generic: Keep tightly closed
Cornstarch ArgoBest FoodsMDDxYTop of pkgIndefiniteSameLasts indefinitely. Discard if lumps, bugs, or moisture. 1-800-338-8831
Drink Mix Country Time LemonadeYJJJxxBottom24SameUse within 2 years of DP 1-800-432-1002
Drink Mix Crystal LightYJJJxxBlue Band, white printing24SameUse within 2 years of DP 1-800-432-1002
Drink Mix TangYJJJxBottom of product, 2nd line24

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