Saturday, January 18, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Expiration date shock

I quite accidentally worked on a much needed project this week.  It didn't seem all that long ago that I had checked expiration dates for the items in my kitchen pantry (those items kept in the built in kitchen cabinets and in the antique yellow cabinet).

When I was pulling a couple cans out of the kitchen cabinet this week, I saw the two boxes of Amy's Mac and Cheese and thought I should check the expiration dates.  They had to be soon.  Yes... soon as in a year ago!  Thus started a quick check of items I knew I had not purchased recently.  Would you believe there was a jar of marinara sauce with an expiration date of 2017?

I knew most of the items in the antique yellow cabinet had been purchased within the past year or so, except spices and if you have read here long enough, you know I use spices far past the suggested dates.  They last a very long time... herbs, not so much.

The two boxes of cake mix I bought just to have on hand when they were on sale expired last summer.  How did that happen?  Times does fly or so it seems.  They are still in a window of time that I would use them so I pulled both out of the antique cabinet and transferred them to a shelf that I see all the time.  I'm going to bake both boxes in 9" cake pans and freeze the layers.

There are some items I don't use at all after the expiration date.  For instance, the ingredient that causes the expiration date in cake mixes is usually the baking powder in it.  I always replace my actual can of baking powder before the expiration date and when I purchase items like baking powder, I check the dates at the store.  I have found expiration dates in cans on the same shelf to be months apart. Baking soda has an almost indefinite expiration date so I buy it in bulk and keep it in Ball jars.

Both salt and white sugar last indefinitely if kept in a dry place.  Honey is not suppose to go bad but I always used to purchase it in larger jars at the Farmer's Market and then pour the honey into smaller jars.  It does become solid if you are using raw honey and it is much easier to place a small jar in a saucepan of hot water to liquefy than the very large jars.

I read many years ago that people with mold allergies should never use pancake mixes after their expiration date.  At first I thought it was another Internet tale but was astonished to find out it was true.  There is something about the ingredients in pancake mixes that can cause problems with mold allergies if they are old.  Everyone except me in my family have severe mold allergies!  I don't make pancakes often these days so when I do, they are made from scratch.

I have learned through the years that one should never let oil get old, even olive oil goes rancid.  On the other hand, dried pasta stored in their original boxes in a safe place (I store most of my boxes of pasta in a Rubbermaid style container) can last a year or two.  I had old fashioned oats that I bought in bulk while in a food co-op last a year and a half.

Heat and moisture are the enemy of keeping items fresh so people living in such climates have to check expiration dates more often.  As far as canned goods, expiration dates are a suggestion and the food doesn't suddenly go bad the day after what is listed.  I have read that it is the nutrients that start degrading after the date.  However there are some items that do go bad quicker than others, high acid food such as canned tomatoes will go bad much quicker than a can of green beans.

Although not having anything to do with expiration dates, I learned the hard way after the mouse infestation in the garage that any items you do not plan to use for regular cooking immediately should be stored carefully.  I had canned goods stacked on top of each other and the mouse urine (ewwww...) corroded everything.

It was most likely the bags of items sitting on shelves (bags of beans for soup, kitty kibble, etc.) that drew in the rodents in the first place, or at least made them make nests and multiply in the garage.  It was a smorgasbord.  I knew to have things like bags of powdered sugar and pasta in protective containers but I didn't think that dried beans would draw in mice.  I now know that they love any kind of kibble.

I have already written that I have some pouches of Mountain House food put back in case of an emergency.  I did have them in a deep drawer in the kitchen but decided instead to store them in a food grade bucket.  Just in case we were to get mice in the house.  They are not cheap and unwanted creepy rodents are not welcome to them.  Shudder.  Florentine's kibble is even kept in a container in the house. There is nothing like a mouse infestation to change one's habits!

I think all the items in my kitchen have been checked for past due expiration dates now.  I know the items that are in my extended pantry (which consists of a few shelves in the garage) are recent since we had to get rid of everything due to the whole rodent situation.

In a way, going through that was a blessing in disguise.  Even though it was creepy and disgusting at the time.  I learned an important lesson during a time that I didn't depend on the extra canned goods for day to day sustenance.  It was a financial loss but I learned a lot that I hope prevents it from happening again.

Image:  A photo from the days when I used to purchase raw honey in bulk at the Farmer's Market.


Barbara Harper said...

Thanks for the clarification about pancake mix. I had heard that and wondered about other kinds of mixes and wheat products. I'm glad to know it's mainly pancake mixes. We use many things way past their dates, too, unless there's an odd smell or taste to them. It's hard to know with some things. I tend to check expiration dates more when the pantry gets too crowded.

Deanna Rabe said...

I didn’t know that about pancake mix. We usually make pancakes and waffles from scratch (it’s so easy). Its crazy how fast time goes by!

Vee said...

For those of us with time issues 🙃, expiration dates can be a problem. You are so right about checking expiration dates varying a lot even at the grocery store. Takes extra time, but I always check those dates. Honey truly never goes bad...another reason to have some in the pantry.

mdoe37 said...

I just went through some of my pantry the other day and found some forgotten items. Boo!! Speaking of mice....I had a particularly bad struggle with them one year, but I didn't really see them in the food at all. Until I picked up a bag of chocolate chips that was nearly empty. One of them certainly got a belly ache!

Karen said...

This may off subject a little..but anyone with an elderly relative should check dates in the fridge and on shelves,,my mother in law who is still very sharp at 78 , but may be having trouble seeing well...was gone for a few weeks so we cleaned her fridge..there was food with dates from 2014 , and it looked that bad , but she buys cheap food and takes food that people give her, her taste is gone from smoking..and she always complains of digestion troubles. Sausages that were open and 3 months old ,tan mayo ..etc. We had cleaned it out last year , so somehow she had hauled old food home again . Checking dates is important for us to do , and think of our older relatives too.