Happy Monday, milk chuggers. If you woke up excited to suck down a hearty serving of dairy—only to be dissuaded by your carton’s “best by” date—I come bearing good tidings. Turns out that most milk is safe to drink up to a few days past its listed expiration date. But, like with any past-its-prime animal product, you’ll want to be discerning.
As Best Life explains, “sell by” or “best by” labels on milk cartons can, of course, help you determine a product’s freshness. But these labels don’t necessarily indicate an explicit expiration date. Instead, you need to rely on your senses to determine if your milk is safe to drink. “Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria,” the USDA writes. In other words, you’ll likely know when your milk has gone bad. That spoiled smell is hard to miss.
If you’re still feeling a little creeped out by your dairy, keep in mind that unopened milk can typically last for between five and seven days after the listed “best by” date. Opened milk can also last a few days after the “best by” date, but you’ll need to give it an extra good sniff to determine whether you’re down to drink it.
Finally, a reminder that storing milk on your fridge door might be intuitive, but storing it on an interior shelf will help it last much longer since the fridge door is typically the warmest part of the fridge and the most subject to temperature fluctuations. Ultimately, the USDA says that milk products should still be safe “until spoilage is evident,” even “if the [best by] date passes during home storage.” Go ahead and give your milk a thorough sniffing and use your best judgement. However, if your sniffer isn’t what it once was, you can always play it safe and replace your milk.