JACKSON, MO (KFVS) - You might be throwing money in the trash can.
A new study from the National Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic said 9 out of 10 people throw away food unnecessarily because they misinterpret the food expiration dates.
Experts said if you keep food past those dates, it is not as big of a health hazard as you might think.
"It expires next month," said Berto Tripp as he picked up a jar from his refrigerator.
Tripp and his wife live in Jackson. They go to the grocery store weekly to stock the fridge for when their grand kids come over. When the new food comes in, the old stuff goes out.
"Eggs never expire, we keep up to date on eggs, we're talking you can get sick on that stuff," said Tripp.
Tripp said they work to make sure their food is up to date for when guests come over.
"It's then that we say we probably need to look at the expiration date, because we don't want to make anybody sick," said Tripp.
The new study says people throw food away unnecessarily if they think it might go bad past the expiration date.
"I understand, they have a responsibility to put dates on there so people don't get sick on anything, so I guess that would cover them," said Tripp.
But experts say just because it is past the date on the box, doesn't mean the food is bad.
"I guess it would be nice if they feel there's a longer expiration date to put a longer expiration date on there, or just not even put one on there if they think it doesn't expire," said Tripp.
While Tripp stays up to date on milk, eggs and dairy items, he said other food like bread or condiments can be more difficult.
A different study from the National Resources Defense Council said the average family of four throws about $500 worth of food away each year.
So what do you need to know?
First, when it comes to the wording on those labels.
If you see a date on your canned foods, yogurt or eggs, what does it mean?
According to WebMD, the term "sell by" refers to how long the store should display the product. You should buy the food item before this date. It lets the retailer know when to pull the food off the shelf.
"Best if used by" refers to the quality, not safety. The product will have the best flavor before this date, but it doesn't mean it's spoiled after the date.
"Use by" is the last date for peak freshness. The manufacturer determines this date.
So how long are most foods okay to eat?
You should be able to keep milk a week after the "sell by" date.
Eggs should be fine for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home, as long as you purchased them before the "sell by" date.
You should cook or freeze poultry and seafood within a day or two, and beef and pork within 3-5 days.
Highly acidic canned goods like tomato sauce should last for 18 months or more, and low acid canned foods like green beans can last up to 5 years.
It's also important where and how you store your food.
Christa Huxel, a Registered Dietitian with Saint Francis Medical Center recommended using a permanent market to label when the condiment or other packaged item is opened. You can also use the marker to label a date on leftovers.
She said, "If in doubt, throw it out." She suggested not rely on smell.
The National Resources Defense Council has a few suggestions on storing food in your fridge.
They said the door of your refrigerator is the warmest. So, you can store condiments, but even though there might be a spot for eggs, they recommend to not use it.
The upper shelves tend to be the next coolest. So, it's a great place to store items that don't have a high safety risk, like leftovers, drinks or cheeses.
Lower shelves are fore foods with a higher safety risk like meat, poultry and fish.
Don't overfill your fridge because air needs to circulate to be efficient. Allow enough space so cold air can circulate the foods.
Your fridge temperature should remain 40 degrees or below to prevent bacteria growth.