Letter Re: Food Items Past Expiration Dates


I have been an avid reader of SB for about five years now. It amazes me that folks with what appears to be good common sense are throwing away products they have used to start or continue their prepping activities. Most of these comments say they are tired of throwing out stuff that has gone past its expiration date.

With all the long-term storage info available on this site, I cannot for the life of me understand how someone would do this. With good storage rotation practices, first-in first-out, store what you eat and eat what you store habits, this should never happen. With good inventory control, you can determine when something is coming up on an expiration date. All it takes is a little effort. Use your Outlook program or some type of “come-up” file to remind yourself that Box A or Pail B has items within thirty to sixty days of going past the “use by” dates. THEN make that trip to a local food bank and contribute it. Since many of the food banks operate on slim inventory most of the time, these things will turnover quickly.

Here, in the community where I live, the local Emergency Food Bank serves almost six hundred families– approximately 2000 men, women, and children. Their rules state that you must show a picture ID to participate and you can only visit once a month. It is run out of a 600 sf facility and has been recognized as a model program since NONE of the staff are paid and the space they use is donated by the building owner.

If you are living at 40th and Plumb (forty miles from nowhere and plumb back in the sticks) and it is a major event to go into “town”, you may just have to plan a little better. If you are making a trip that takes all day, why don’t you volunteer some of your time and make an effort to help the fine people that run these efforts? Who knows, someday you might be on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity.

Depending on how far off the grid you are, you can probably get a tax deduction of some sort for what you donate, if you want. If not, then enjoy the personal satisfaction you get from knowing your prepper food is not going into a landfill but into the kindness of helping another person not go hungry. Personally, we are bringing several types of canned meat products and some other things we get on sale to our food bank about every five to six weeks and everything is at least thirty days or more before the expiration date. The folks at the food bank never ask any questions; they just take the food with many heartfelt thanks, and we see how it helps. I don’t think there is anything as sad as the look on the face of a hungry child.

If you need another reason, here it is. Someone once said that the most dangerous thing in the world is an “idea”. That may be all well and good if you are speaking philosophically, but in my mind, the most dangerous person in this world is a parent that can’t feed their hungry children, and that my friends is a person that it dangerous! – An older prepper in NC

HJL Responds: When I first started prepping, I was struggling with my own startup business. Money was tight and food beyond what we had in the normal pantry was precious. When a friend had the sale of a house fall through and ended up in an even worse financial position than me, I knew what I had to do. I took my precious larder and split it in half, giving the other half to my friend. A couple of months later, the wife of my friend took my wife aside and told her “You need to check your food. I had to throw most of that food away because the cans were a few weeks past their expiration date.” I felt crushed. My charity had ended up in a trash can because of a manufacturer’s arbitrary date designed to absolve them of any responsibility for the food. The expiration, especially that of canned foods, is more of a suggestion. Food doesn’t magically go bad when the expiration date passes. The food will degrade, and the nutrients will gradually break down over time. The speed of that degradation is intertwined tightly with the conditions of the storage. With cool, dry storage, canned goods will literally last for multiple tens of years past the date stamped on the can. The fiber structure will gradually break down, and the vitamins will degrade, but calories are calories. As long as the can is undamaged and the food is palatable when opened, you can eat the contents. Oxygen and temperature extremes are the enemy of any stored food, so if it is protected, the date is just a method of tracking how old the food is so that you can rotate your stock. While botulism is a tasteless and odorless bacteria, it generally grows in an environment that other, far more odoriferous bacterial also grows. The visual appearance is also a critical indicator.

As for donating to a food pantry, the nanny government sets standards and any expired food you donate will be thrown away.