Views #1494 | Intermediate (B2)

Expiration Dates

Rachel and Todd share how often they keep old things like clothes.

Todd: Rachel, I thought we would talk a little bit about items and their shelf life, like how long will you keep something? For example, like a book or clothing, because yesterday I was talking to my students and they were surprised when I admitted that the shirt I was wearing, I had had for over 10 years. Now, they're young and they can't imagine that.

Rachel: No, that might be a function of being young.

Todd: Right, exactly.

Rachel: Because their clothes of 10 years ago are obviously too small.

Todd: Yeah.

Rachel: It depends on the clothes.

Todd: Do you like to keep your clothes a long time?

Rachel: If I really like them, I might.

Todd: Yeah. How often do you toss out your clothes?

Rachel: I toss out clothes once or twice a year. I'll go through my wardrobe and throw out things that are too small or have started to look shabby. But there are other things that I just keep year after year after year, probably things people don't see as often like pajamas might last a little longer.

Todd: Yeah.

Rachel: Some people advise that if you haven't worn something for six months, you should throw it out, but that seems to me to be not logical, given that there are four seasons and they last a year. If you haven't worn something for a year, maybe you should consider throwing it out. But yeah, definitely, at the start of the season, not in the opposite season. You have to think about the weather.

Todd: Yeah. What about food? We live in Japan. We're both teachers in Japan. One thing I often wonder about is the sashimi and the sushi, the raw fish. How long can you keep it before you eat it? They say you're supposed to have it that night, but I sometimes eat it the next morning or even for lunch.

Rachel: With fish, as well as other meats, I think it's very easy to tell, because you can tell by the smell whether something's good or not. I actually think that rice is more dangerous.

Todd: Oh really?

Rachel: Yeah, because it will grow bacteria. Because it's been warm, it will grow bacteria easily at room temperature. The rice is the part you need to be careful about.

Todd: Oh. Well what about other foods? Like are you somebody who's really strict about the expiration date?

Rachel: I'm not. I think the expiration date on most products errs on the side of safety. And another thing is people confuse the best by date with the expiring date.

Todd: Right.

Rachel: The best by date is just about freshness, flavor. For example with spices ...

Todd: And that's the date they put on the package in the store.

Rachel: That's often the date that people go by.

Todd: Sell by, yeah.

Rachel: Yeah, sell by and best by. For example spices might have a best by date. After that, they might plump a little, they might lose a little flavor, but they're not dangerous.

Todd: You can still eat it.

Rachel: You can still use them, yeah.

Todd: My rule is always three days. So, I'll eat anything if it's within ... except for meat, maybe, but anything if it's within three days of the expiration date or the sell-by date on the store's ...

Rachel: Oh, I think that matters ... To me it makes an enormous difference what it is. For example, moyashi, which is bean sprouts, I'll eat them on the day or the day after, but not after that. They start getting bad really quickly. But, for example, a jar of pickles, that's going to last much longer than the three days after.

Todd: Right. I think the big one, I guess, you're right about time, is dairy. Milk is obvious, because milk you can smell. But cheese ...

Rachel: But on the other hand, it just turns into yogurt.

Todd: Right, yes. So that's the other one is yogurt. So yogurt, I'll see it in the fridge and I'm like, "How long can I keep this?" Like sometimes it'll be past the expiration date, but it smells fine, it looks fine.

Rachel: Well, yogurt is soured milk, so it's difficult to say at which point it sours, because it's already sour.

Todd: Yeah, and cheese too lasts forever it seems like.

Rachel: Pretty much. You can see the mold on cheese.

Todd: Yeah. So what about if you see bread and there's a little mold on the bread?

Rachel: No.

Todd: Are you old school? Will you cut around it?

Rachel: No. I used to and I used to cut the mold off cheese, but having learned more about visible mold is only a small amount of it and parts of mold you can't see are branching into the food.

Todd: Oh, I see.

Rachel: Yeah. So that makes it a little dodgier. So, no I probably wouldn't eat bread that had any kind of mold on it. And I'm dodgy about cheese to. That's got the wrong sort of mold on it.

Todd: Right.

Rachel: There's the right sort of mold like a blue cheese, and that's fine.

Todd: Right. And I should clarify here, neither of us are medical professionals.

Rachel: Don't take this advise.

Todd: We're just talking about our own habits here, so ...

Rachel: Another thing that ...

Todd: What about juice? What about juice? Like how long can you keep juice? Can you smell when juice is bad?

Rachel: I don't usually buy juice, so I don't really know.

Todd: Oh, yeah.

Rachel: Maybe you can smell it.

Todd: Maybe you can smell it.

Rachel: Yeah, I'd probably toss juice because I'm not experienced enough with it, obviously, to have made my own mind up about it, so I'd probably go by the date with that one.

Todd: What's interesting is when you see some foods that you think would last forever, but actually they won't, they just have an expiration date that's way in the future, like canned goods.

Rachel: Yes.

Todd: Sometimes it's surprising when you're like, "Oh, there actually is an expiration date on there."

Rachel: There is.

Todd: But it's way in the future.

Rachel: It's way in the future, as long as the can's not dented, I think ...

Todd: Or rusty, right?

Rachel: ... is the rule for that. Yeah.

Todd: Yeah. Interesting topic.

Answer these questions about the interview.
Audio Lessons about Phrases and Vocabulary

shelf life


Let's talk about items and their shelf life.

Shelf life is the amount of time an item is usable. Notice the following:

  1. Canned food has a longer shelf life than fresh food.

toss out


How often do you toss out your clothes?

When you toss something out, you throw it away. Notice the following:

  1. Toss out that salad. It is five days old.

go through


I'll go through my wardrobe and throw out things.

When you go through something, you examine it carefully. Notice the following:

  1. I went through my inbox and I didn't find your message.

err on the side of safety


Most products err on the side of safety.

When you err on the side of safety, you are extra careful or cautious. Notice the following:

  1. That looks old. I would err on the side of safety and not eat it.



So that makes it a little dodgier.

When something is dodgy, it lacks in quality or trust. Notice the following:

  1. This street looks dodgy. Let's avoid it.

made up my mind


I made my own mind up about it.

When you make up your mind, you decide on something. Notice the following:

  1. I made up my mind not to quit my job.

Vocabulary Quiz

shelf life • toss out • go through
err on the side • dodgy • make up my mind
  1. This street looks . Let's avoid it.
  2. It is best to of safey.
  3. I need to these reciepts.
  4. I can't on what to eat for dinner.
  5. Canned food has a long .
  6. Please don't that salad. It's still good.

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About the Teacher / Creator

Hello, and welcome to elllo. My name is Todd Beuckens. I've been an ESL teacher for 25 years. I created elllo to provide teachers and students free audio lessons and learning materials not usually found in commercial textbooks.
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