In my household, there’s a big basket full of remedies for common ailments (Aspirin, antacids, etc.) and another one that my wife uses for baking supplies. In the pantry, there are more storage boxes. There are even a few bins in the fridge. The exception may be our spices, which we keep on a lazy Susan.
Almost everything in these baskets and boxes (and the lazy Susan for that matter) has an expiration date. And the only way I’ve found to make sure that the containers remain uncluttered is to check the dates on an, at least, semi-routine basis.
I do that by creating an event on my calendar that prompts me to check the dates every two or three months. Otherwise, my household winds up with a lot of spoiled food and medicines that have lost their efficacy.
When I get that calendar reminder, I find that it’s also a good time to do a deep clean of the fridge, which shouldn’t require excessive effort because I also try to discard food that’s past its date every week.
Checking expiration dates isn’t fun. And sometimes it can be difficult–if not impossible–to find an expiration date, but I’ve found that it’s beneficial. I don’t want to go through all of the trouble of preparing a salad just to find that my vinaigrette is way past its date.
When it comes to items that are close to the expiration date but haven’t quite passed when it’s time to clean, I discard them as I’m confident I won’t be using them during that time.
For the spices or condiments I use frequently, I make sure to add them to the shopping list right after discarding them. I don’t want to find myself without mayonnaise when I’m trying to make a roast beef sandwich.
I know some people will say that many foods are still edible past the expiration date, but I think there’s a limit. And whereas it can feel like a waste to throw food away, I find it acts as an incentive to do more thoughtful meal planning if for no other reason than to save money.