The concept of the durability of food whether in how you got it from the store or produce stand or stuff you grew, or as in leftovers as something prepared and then stashed, was burned into my brain by my grandparents and parents: “If something you were going to eat that has been put away awhile has grown new fur, you probably shouldn’t eat it. And if it smells bad when it didn’t before, you probably shouldn’t eat that either. Maybe you should, but probably not. Otherwise, go for it. And if you let it sit that long before eating it, shame on you.”
I say this thinking primarily about my Grandpa Tom. Shame meant sit at the table and finish your meal. He was practical, frugal, and admittedly a bit taste bud-challenged due to years of smoking Benson and Hedges. He liked to eat liverwurst, Limburger and mustard sandwiches on pumpernickel, with a side of sardines, so his flavor profile went to 11 on the 1-10 Mohs scale of food hardness. I inherited no small part of my love for the stanky food from him. Anyway, his non-scientific theory/mandate has served me well. I have always assumed that the silly dates on packaging aren’t really scientific or even a guideline, let alone a promise that something is completely given over to making you sick.
All the time, I see people throw out massive quantities of food that is still perfectly edible. I do it too. In both the restaurant business and home food business, portion control is the main culprit. People want huge plates of food because it looks nice, but seriously, does every meal have to look like family dinner just for you? And don’t be scared of a silly number when you buy more than you can use before its number comes up.