The Expiration Dates To Check Before You Start Holiday Cooking

Cooking for the holidays is a marathon, not a sprint. For Americans, the holiday season runs from just before Thanksgiving until the New Year and runs the gamut of food – turkey, casseroles, kugels, briskets, Christmas hams, racks of prime rib, not to mention the multitude of cookies and desserts. There's a lot that goes into pulling off a successful holiday meal, and it requires thinking ahead and a lot of prep — from making sure your refrigerator is organized and has room to double checking that you have enough bottles of wine to sit through your uncle's dramatic speeches.

In the weeks leading up to the holiday, it's an excellent idea to sit down and look at your menu, whether with pen and paper or a meal-planning app. This will enable you to see what you can do ahead of time — things like pie crust and chopping vegetables — so you can focus on bigger priorities come the big day. Before you go grocery shopping, though, take a good look at expiration dates as insurance from having to run to the store to grab that one thing on the busiest days of the year (via Gemma's Bigger Bolder Baking).

Refreshing expired ingredients gives you better-tasting results

Checking for expiration dates is a hugely important step in your organization and prep process. Check everything, especially if it's been around for a while, and toss it if it's expired. Things that tend to stay in the cupboard and only see light once a year, like sprinkles, food coloring, and tubes of icing, might especially be at risk of being expired: No one likes a stale sprinkle on their Christmas cut-out cookie recipe. It's also a good idea to check your flours and sugars to ensure that they're fresh and that you have enough. Refreshing your ingredients will lead to better-tasting meals and desserts and decreases the chances of someone feeling unwell — and not because of too much pie.

If you're confused by any of the dates, remember that "best before" is the date manufacturers suggest to ensure the freshness and quality of their products. "Use by" is the date by which you should eat the food, but if it's a day or two past that date, do visual and smell checks to ensure it's still good (via Real Simple).

And, check in on the person responsible for planning these monumental tasks and maybe get them their favorite bottle of something. They might need it.