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how long to keep condiments?

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In cleaning out my refrigerator this weekend, I was confused about how long to keep certain items that have been opened. I usually err on the side of caution, but am wondering if anyone has any wisdom about things such as salad dressings, mustard, pickles, taco sauce, etc. It may be well before the expiration date, but if the item has been opened, isn't the standard different? My rule of thumb is usually if I can't remember opening it, it's too old (except pickled things).

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  1. If it doesn't contain dairy or eggs, I usually go with the look and smell test. If it looks and smells ok, it's ok. Taste to be sure. If it's before the expiration date, even better. Here in the UK, almost every label says "eat within 5 days after opening." Ha.

    1. Pickles and mustard, I don't think I've ever thrown out. Taco sauce, or bottled salsa, you should be okay until you see mold growing on the top.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ESNY

        Hot sauces, in my experience, never go bad, mustard as well.

        1. re: beevod

          How could hot sauce ever go bad? It never lasts more than a few days after I open it.

        2. re: ESNY

          It's not that they go bad exactly, but they do lose quality. Why would you keep them around?
          None of this will poison you but if all your other ingredients are fresh and wholesome, why use old stuff that has deteriorated?
          Check the difference sometime between a fresh bottle and a bottle that's been hanging around for awhile.

        3. Many are surprised to hear that spices in your pantry have a shelf life of only 6 months.

          They are also the slowest moving item in the grocery store so you have no idea how long it sat on those shelves.

          1. In the case of most condiments, I use what I call the vinegar rule of thumb, If it contains vinegar and at least a few preservatives that you can't spell, than it is usually still good. Ketchup, hot sauces, A1 type things, when I collect a few that have only about a few tablespoons left I usually mix them into a marinate or something like a meatloaf to use them up.

            1. Actually, most condiments have a "use by" date on them. I did the refrigerator clean-out recently, and had a few lesser used items (grape jelly, for instance) that had been in there since the early 2000s. Needless to say, I threw them out.