If you're like me, then you hate throwing out food. I try to only buy as much as I'm going to actually eat within the span of a week or two. I don't like it when things go to waste. But even expired foods can find a new life in a number of different ways. Before you throw out all your expired food, take a look at this list below to see how you can improve your spending habits and quality of life.

What Do the Dates On Food Packaging Mean?

First of all, let's understand all the different kinds of dates that you'll see on food packaging:

  • “Sell by”: This is the last date when sellers (such as supermarkets and grocery stores) can have the item on their shelves. Manufacturers want consumers to receive the product at its optimal quality; therefore, food should still be of good quality for at least several days after a “sell by” date.
  • “Best by” or “best if used by”: This date is much more subjective, as it measures the last date at which the food will be at its tastiest (according to the manufacturer). This date is not related to food safety, only to taste.
  • “Use by”: Similar to a “best by” date, this is the last date when the manufacturer has determined food is at its peak quality. As with “best by”, this date is also not related to food safety, except in the case of infant formula.
  • “Expiration” or “EXP”: This is the date after which the manufacturer has decided the food should not be sold or eaten due to decline in quality.
  • “Packed on”: This is the date when the food was packaged. Pack dates are required by the USDA for certain foods, such as poultry, in case of an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Use it as Fertilizer

You can start a compose pile with scraps like eggs, vegetables, coffee grounds and other organic materials. Simply dig a hole, dump all your vegetable peels in, and then cover it with soil. That is more beneficial than throwing them off as waste. Egg shells can also be used as a seed-starter "pot." Gently fill it with dirt and a seed of your choice, then plant it in the ground once it's sprouted (bonus points if you use an old egg carton as a holder). Even if you don't use them to start seedlings, cracked-up eggshells can be added directly to your garden to give the soil a calcium boost.

Turn it Into a Cleaner

Some foods, such as Mayonnaise, actually make good cleaners when they are expired. In fact, mayo has an oil content that really shines up stainless steel. Additionally, lemons and limes make excellent garbage disposal cleaners.

You Can Donate Some Food After the Expiration Date

According to the NYC Food Policy Center, many people encourage the use of past-date foods, whether by donating them to a food bank or reselling at a discount. Food banks that accept past-date food often have strict rules about which types of past-date products are acceptable and how far past the date they will accept them.

For example, City Harvest, a major food rescue organization in New York City, will accept non-frozen bread products up to one week past their labeled expiration date, but will not accept dairy products that are past-date. The Utah Food Bank is a bit more lenient in how long after a date they will accept; their policy includes accepting dairy products a few days past the sell-by date. Virtually no food banks or pantries will accept deeply dented cans, as the food inside can be exposed to bacteria. And, of course, food that is visibly spoiled, rotten, or moldy should not be donated or given to people in need.

Refresh Candle Scents with Spices

You can revitalize a candle that has lost its fragrance — or make a newer candle more potent — with spices. Light a candle and allow the wax to melt. Blow out the candle and mix in the spices of your choice, stirring carefully. If you experiment with different spice blends, you can even make a chai- or pumpkin spice-scented candle.

Use it as a Cosmetic Face Mask or Exfoliant

Forget about spending hundreds of dollars on the latest facials! Some foods like Greek Yogurt or coffee can be used to revitalize your skin, even if it's passed the expiration date. Greek yogurt is full of lactic acid which helps exfoliate dead skin cells. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of yogurt and 1 tablespoon of honey in a bowl. Then, apply it to your face. Let sit for 15-minutes and wash it off.

You can use coffee as a face exfoliator, too. It is packed with antioxidants.Coffee grounds make for an excellent skin exfoliating agent thanks to coarse particles that remove dirt and dead cells from the skin surface, doing the job that microbeads would once have.. Simply mix stale coffee grounds with a little bit of milk to form a paste. Then, apply it to your face. Let it sit for 20-minutes and rinse.

Fix Squeaky Doors with Butter

Similar to WD40, the oils in butter can help quiet a squeaky door hinge. Simply rub a small slab of butter on the culprit, and it'll be silenced in no time.

Use Spoiled Milk in Baking

You won't want to drink spoiled milk, but you can still bake it into certain dishes. Spoiled milk can be used as a buttermilk substitute, and can be good for making bread, muffins, and cakes. Don't too long to use it; though, because using spoiled milk for baking is only good for about 1 to 2 weeks after expiration.

You can make your own sour milk by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to each cup of milk and letting it sit for five minutes. If the milk is more than a week past its expiration date, smells very sour, is lumpy, or has an off color, it's best to throw it away.

Beer Can Help Your Hair Health

InStyle reported that the hops and barley found in most beers are chock full of B vitamins and proteins, both of which will help strengthen and return luster to your hair. Simply dump the beer on your head after shampooing and before conditioning.

Revive Brown Sugar

When your brown sugar gets crusty and clumpy and you think it's unusable, think again! Throw it into a blender and add a few drops of water to help soften it up and make it more user friendly again.

If you don't have a blender, or you don't want to get the blender messy, try a microwave. Put the hard brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl or container and place a dampened paper towel on top of it. Then, microwave for about 20 seconds and break it up with a fork as you go. The moisture from the paper towel should help get the brown sugar soft.

Keep Stale Bread

Instead of buying bread crumbs, make your own with stale bread. You can either put the bread in a bag and smash it up, or throw it in a blender with salt, pepper, and other seasonings. This trick also works well with stale cereal or crackers. You can then use the breadcrumbs for meatloafs, mac and cheese, and a variety of other dishes.

Polish Your Shoes with Banana Peels

Bananas contain a lot of potassium which, according to Today, is a key ingredient in most shoe polishes. Just wipe the inside of a banana peel on your leather shoes and buff it out with a cloth.

Turn Your Avocados into Shampoo

Smash up the avocado into a bowl, apply to wet hair, and then wash it out like you would your normal shampoo or conditioner. Avocado oil contains monosaturated fats, making it a good choice for hair treatments. Well-hydrated skin on the scalp can make hair appear healthier. If the skin is dry or flaky, massaging oil into the scalp before washing and conditioning hair may help.

Turn Expired Veggies into Vegetable Stock

Wilted vegetables can be placed in the freezer until you can turn them into vegetable stock. Once you make them into a stock, you can then can them for a longer period of time. Combine filtered water and your vegetable ends and cook them either for 10 minutes in the Instant Pot or at a simmer for 40 minutes on the stovetop. Pour everything through a fine mesh strainer. This may need to be done in a few batches depending on how much you made!

Keep Your Canned Goods

Most canned goods have an expiration date for the quality of the food, not necessarily the safety of the food. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture says acidic foods have a good quality for 18-months, and other canned foods can be good for 5-years. Basically, canned foods are fine to consume even after their expiration date. They may not always taste the greatest or have much nutritional value after the expiration date, but in most cases can be safely consumed up to 5-years after the date.

Canned goods are great to have stored in a pantry or shelter in case of emergencies. Remember to have other non-perishable items on hand such as canned chili, soup and spaghetti, trail mix, instant pudding, mustard, catsup, vinaigrette-type salad dressing, cookies and perhaps candy. Plan ahead to keep any unused canned products in a well-chilled cooler.

6 Popular Grocery Store Items You Didn't Know Were Made In New York State

From downstate New York to the upstate area of New York State, freshly made items are created and sold in our favorite grocery stores.

Some start in Southampton, NY while others begin in Binghamton, NY bringing a unique taste of their own.

Gallery Credit: Allison Kay

Ranking of Grocery Chains in Newburgh, New York According to Google

Gallery Credit: Nick Kessler