The Truth About Expiration Dates

The Truth About Expiration DatesWhat you don’t know about expiration dates may cost you a bundle. Even more importantly, it may cost you your survival. Millions of pounds of food are thrown away all throughout America every year simply because the expiration date says that the food has gone bad. Well, you need to know about the truth on expiration dates, because the prevalent thought is costing you lots of money. Expiration dates exist for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s to protect the legal backsides of the manufacturers. They rarely have anything to do with the quality or taste of the food. Just because an expiration date has come and gone does NOT mean that your food has suddenly turned poisonous, ineffective, rancid, tasteless, or lacking in nutrition. It only means that their insurance or legal liability extends to the date printed on the package.

Examples of expiration dates being misleading:

I’ve had spices in my cabinet for 5 years and they STILL season my food sufficiently. I’ve used cake mixes over a year past their expiration date and so long as I’m using fresh eggs, oil, etc., the mixes have never let me down. Taking a few simple steps towards extending the life of your food storage will help you significantly. Keep in mind that in ALL instances, storing your food items in a cool, dry place is the optimal condition. Did you know that sugar is a preservative? Think about it, how many fruits do you buy that come packaged in a syrup? 

That’s because syrup preserves items.  So purchasing fruit in a syrup base will actually ensure that they last longer than a water base. If an item has sugar in it, it’s going to store a heck of a long time longer than its expiration date. Don’t throw it out willy nilly. Items which contain oil as one of its primary ingredients will go bad shortly after the expiration date. This includes salad dressings, mayonnaise, and meats stored in oil. So pay attention to the ingredients of items which you intend to store long term. When your stored food requires the addition of other products, such as pancake mix, cake mixes, soup mixes, etc., they will usually taste just fine so long as you add fresh ingredients such as oil, eggs, milk, produce, etc. (I mean really, just how bad can anything taste with fresh grated cheese melted on top? :)) Oats are also very hard to store long term, even under ideal circumstances. I recommend storing groats instead and then use a flaker. Groats will store almost indefinitely in a sealed container in a cool, dry environment. Canned goods are an ideal way to store items. Number 10 cans are common for just about any food product being stored long-term. Boxed items or items in large paper containers are more challenging to extend. They get wet easily, they are porous, and they are easily infiltrated by “little critters.” While they can go as much as a year longer then their expiration dates, care must be taken to preserve their taste and overall makeup. You can seal boxed items via a Food Saver (sealer) and with an oxy packet and doing so can literally double their shelf-life.

Oxy Packets and Expiration Dates

The use of oxy packets in your food storage will also extend their life well past their expiration dates. But when storing food items in a 5 gallon bucket don’t use an oxy packet. Since the plastic is porous it’s essentially useless. Don’t fall for the myth of “not placing your buckets on concrete.” That’s only applicable if the concrete gets heated. If you’re storing anything on concrete/cement that gets heated, such as with the heat of the sun, then yes, the chemicals from the concrete will leech chemicals from the buckets. However, if it’s in your cool, dry basement, you don’t have to worry about putting the storage containers on the floor. Ultimately storing foods that you eat and rotating them is the best way to ensure they’re edible and enjoyable. But if you’re storing enough for a year, that’s not always realistic. Appetites, convenience, busy lifestyles, and restaurants come into play. I mean really, I could have a years worth of groceries, but unless the electricity is out and all hell has broken loose, I’m definitely going to make my husband take me out to dinner occasionally. And that’s the truth about expiration dates. For more on expiration dates, check out the "Expiration Dates Deception."  You can also check out this article written elsewhere on the topic here.

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Comments

GREAT Post!! I've had this argument with the wife over and over again. I keep trying to tell her that they intentional make the expiration date shorter than the actual expiration date to save their butts from legal action.

Yeah, wait until you read the piece I wrote for today...I can have any kind of chocolate, brown rice, nuts, granola bars, etc for YEARS from now with one simple strategy! Expiration dates are for sissys. :-)

We have an LDS cannery in Houston. I am not LDS and called them to see if a non-church member could purchase a few items. They were very nice, but the answer was no. The info I rec'd was that they only sell to members, but I could order from their website.

Hmmm...I'm wondering how they would even know whether or not you're LDS to be honest. I know that in terms of an actual "distribution center" it's open to the public. But I never thought it would be different at the cannery. But then again, I'm in Utah, and the TX culture and set up there may be very different. Bummer!

I am not an LDS member and I

I am not an LDS member and I have never had a problem purchasing or canning dry pack goods. The only things non-members cannot do it wet pack canning and purchase groceries from the Bishops store house. Maybe they misunderstood what she wanted.

I have used many foods years

I have used many foods years past the use by dates, You have a nose, use it. The early generations did not have a magic number on their food. I know, many people died due to food, many times due to botulism, but for the most part your nose will tell you if something has gone bad.

Wendy, I'm getting you a source as I type this and will post it asap. I'll also answer your questions better then!

Yup, you are starting to drive me crazy, but only becasue of the incompetence of others. I spoke specifically to Goldie. They produce some of their own Groats there, on site. So either I'm getting misinformation there, or you are. I know that my family's farm personally harvests their own Groats (in Ohio) and they do NOT heat treat them at all. So that made Goldie's comments perfectly acceptable.
As I shared previously, you do not need a flaker to make use of Groats. So it's not absolutely necessary to go to that expense. A solid rolling pin will do just fine.
Oats stored in #10 cans are GUARANTEED for a long shelf-life by Blue Chip company, and even guaranteed another 18 months after they have been opened. I'm certain that a company of their reputation would not make such a guarantee if they were going to have to put their money where their mouth was routinely.
Thanks for pushing me too. Now I'm going to have to write a piece specifically researching groats with backup statistics.

No way, you're not crazy! the WORLD is sure crazy though. Hardly anyone tries to master their craft anymore. *heavy sigh* :-)

I think you misunderstand me. I'm not against oat groats -- I just think that both rolled oats and oat groats would store similarly well because of the heat stabilization process.

I keep forgetting that you don't need the flaker for rolling -- sorry about that. It's good to know that you can do it yourself with a rolling pin.

Good blog and good information! Thanks for tolerating the craziness.

Kellene,

I talked to a man at Maple Leaf Inc. (they transfered me around until they found the guy that would "know"). It turns out that Maple Leaf does not mill their own oat groats but actually distributes Honeyville Grain products. So, I called Honeyville Grains, who it also turns out do not mill their own oat groats. The oat groats are actually shipped to Honeyville Grain from Canada. Honeyville Grain did have the information about the milling process, though. The short result of this is that Honeyville Grain said that these oat groats ARE heat/steam processed to stabilize the oils.

I'm sorry to embroil you in such a seemingly silly debate. There is a lady here in our stake that insists that the ONLY way to store oats is as groats and with a roller/flaker. Like I said, I think it is a perfectly acceptable way to store oats (and probably more nutritious and healthy). But many families here are struggling financially and don't need the added cost of a roller/flaker.

I loved seeing the BYU study that suggested that rolled oats could be stored for 30 years. It didn't make sense to me, however, that wheat needed to stored whole and ground only when used to keep it from becoming rancid -- but that was not the case with oats. That's why your comments have intrigued me and pushed me to find out the real answer. If groats are truly heat processed, then it makes sense that any products resulting from the stabilized groats, including rolled oats, would benefit from the stabilization and be able to be stored equally well long term.

I hope you are not offended by my pushing. I really wanted to know and understand. Let me know if you find any other information on the subject.

I think the issue is that if

I think the issue is that if the rolled oats (even if steamed) lose some nutrition and the oils do go rancid if not properly vacuum packed.

Thanks Kellene!

It sounds like what you are storing is not truly oat groats (which is by definition the dehulled oat grain), but actually whole oats.

My opinion is that groats are great to store. They are probably healthier and better tasting than rolled oats in long term storage.

I'm going to keep doing research. I've got experts contradicting each other at this point. The Maple Leaf Inc. site is down. I'll check them out later.

Thanks for your time and your help.

Kellene,
I have had a hard time finding oxy packets. Can you recommend any sources? Thanks! Very helpful as usual.

I have been purchasing mine online, based on the best prices I've found. I've also obtained some from my local church cannery and their distribution center. If you have a LDS (Mormon) church distribution center nearby, that will be the least expensive place to get them. (You don't have to be a member of theri church to purchase them. If not, I just saw some this morning on e-bay. Emergency survival places have them frequently.

I just found this post and wanted to make a comment about not being LDS and going to an LDS cannery. My understanding is that if you know someone who is LDS that you can go with to the cannery you can go. I went through this on a preparedness blog I frequent about a year ago. Try finding someone in your neighborhood who is LDS and I'm sure they would be happy to go with you, if your local cannery does it that way.

I think the location of concrete & the temperture/moistness of the soil on the other side of it may have to do with not storing directly on a concrete floor or not. I live in Michigan, where full basements with concrete floors are common. Some basements are totally dry, year round, and some are not- to the point of major wetness year round.

I have an in between one- no real water issues, just a mild dampness issue during summer months. If I don't run a dehumidifier in the summer, cardboard boxes, linen & such start feeling slightly damp- not enough to damage cardboard boxes or anything.

I personally will not store my buckets of grains directly on concrete basement floor. I'd be worried about moisture being trapped under the bucket & what it could do over time. Its easy enough to raise the buckets up a little- I use heavy duty plastic display shelves I bought from a national hardware store that went out of business. I just lay the shelf, with its open plastic design on the floor, and put my buckets on top of that...presto- the buckets aren't in direct contact with concrete.

Actually if you think about it, you'll see that processing is a modern-day treatment. Groats have been around as long as farming has and I'm certain that early settlers didn't have processing know-how. In my opinion, the disemmination of processing for groats is no different than our FDA telling us that we need pesticides and other chemicals on our produce in order for them to be healthy. Rancidity usually occurs when oil and excess moisture is involved. Groats have very little of either. You can "dehull" groats with a simple rolling pin and some excess anger. :-) Just beat 'em up and then sift them. I observed this being done in the Philippines for over a year. They do something very similiar to the rice they grow as well.

Just another point to make about processing. It is almost impossible to find almonds that have not been heat processed, and those that have do not sprout well. But I have indulged in non-processed almonds regularly. I find they keep longer, and since I can sprout them and satisfy a fresh vegetable need in doing so, I am a firm believer in obtaining non-heat processed versions of just about any food I can find.

In most cases it's disclosed, either on the manufacturers website, or the packaging. I have done a google search on the groats and almonds, etc and have obtained them from various places over the years. (And yes, you're right, the sprouting confirms whether or not the heat processed has been used on them.)

Wendy, I just talked to THE expert on Groats (also where you can obtain them) They never put them through a heat process, they simply clean them (sift them). But she stated that they do, indeed, store for a very long time because they are a whole grain. (This is why wheat stores so long, is because it too is a whole grain) ALL grains can be sprouted, for the record. You're getting some pretty interesting misinformation out there. I'm sure the providers of it are well-meaning, but it would be a shame for folks to avoid storing groats because of this misinformation.
You can obtain oat Groats at Maple Leaf, in Ephraim, UT. www.mapleleafinc.com
450 S 50 E
Ephraim, UT 84627
(435) 283-4701

By the way, I found out that dehulled-sabilized oat groats can be sprouted -- but are not "intended" as sprouting seeds.

Boy Kellene - I can't find any sources that sell raw groats. I can find buckwheat groats (based on wheat), but not whole oat groats. Let me know if you ever find a source.

Maybe I'm confusing the issue. Would you say the groats that you store are truly "groats" which means they are already dehulled? Or do you buy whole oats with the hull still intact? If you buy whole oats, can you roll them directly into the flaker/roller?

Thanks!

Thanks for the information Kellene! I've wondered these things for a long time. Now I'm going to try and find a source for the unprocessed groats so I can list it on my blog.

How do you know that the groats you are buying are not heat processed? Obviously, the fact that they sprout for you might be a big clue. But I can't test them before I buy them. Do you have a good source?

This is a good discussion.

My understanding is that all raw (whole) oats must dehulled for human consumption and then must be heat processed to keep the groat from going rancid. Is there such a thing as a groat that has not been heat processed?

http://www.can-oat.com/docs/oat_proc.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oats

It's good to know that your groats have sprouted.

Unfortunately, Oats are rarely stored in such conditions. But as I said in the article, #10 cans will always extend the life of your food. Steel cut oats store the best.

Groats are a fuss free resource. (buy them raw, not processed, or you defeat the whole purpose.) When broken down with a rolling pin (or a flaker) they take only 15 minutes to cook, less in a pressure cooker. I personally HAVE sprouted groats. In fact their sprout time is very short because they soak up all of the water. I've never purchased any that didn't sprout.

I still firmly believe that the storage of buckets off the floor is unnecessary. If they are stored in a cool, dry place, then the floor will also be cool. No additional cooling will be accomplished by their being raised, and it makes them more suseptible to toppling in the event of an earthquake. The only instance in which I would want them raised is if the floor is suseptible to being heated for whatever reason. This is indeed the case when the food's being stored outside in the shed, garage, on the patio, etc.

Hi Kellene -

I thought you might be interested in this post that I recently did on Oats/Groats: http://iprepared.blogspot.com/2009/05/oats.html. BYU research suggests that rolled oats actually store longer than you might think. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shows a storage life of 30 years for rolled oats (packaged properly in #10 cans with oxygen absorbers). Here is the link: http://providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,7798-1-4224-1,00.html

I also wondered what you thought about the LDS resource that suggests that buckets need to be off of the floor for air flow purposes. It says, "Store plastic buckets off the floor by at least ½ inch (1.3 cm) to allow air to circulate under the bucket." (http://providentliving.org/pfw/multimedia/files/pfw/pdf/96278_PlasticBuc...)

Thanks for your thoughts!

I believe that is correct, Michelle. And I know that all of my LDS friends would be more than happy to take someone else along.

Overlooked a boxed cake mix

Overlooked a boxed cake mix in my pantry. Expiration date 2006. Is it still good?

I really couldn't answer that

Preparedness Pro's picture

I really couldn't answer that unless I knew the storage conditions. If it was in MY pantry, I'd open, it smell it for oil rancidity, and if it passed the sniff test, I would use it.

even applies to ladders for

even applies to ladders for example it ladder says it will only take 200 lbs you can bet it will take 600 lbs, You can bet your life on it!!!

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