As a bit of background I recently returned from a year in Afghanistan. During that time Wifey went back home to stay with family in the PNW. We kept our residence in Germany through this time. We left all the shelf stable food in the kitchen. Over this time pretty much everything that was in the kitchen expired. Being cheap we want to use whatever we can. After all food storage is budget neutral or even positive (you can buy at sales since you don't need it for dinner that night) BUT ONLY IF YOU ACTUALLY EAT THE FOOD. Also I was just plain curious.
Before any more discussion there should probably be a disclaimer. I am going to write some anecdotal observations which come from evaluating and eating food that is past the "best by" date. Please do not take this as anything more than one families individual experiences. I am not a doctor or a nutrition expert or a scientist or in any way qualified to say that expired food is safe to consume. I am just some yahoo sitting at home eating expired food and writing about it on the internet. Do your own research, talk to some experts and make your own decisions. If you eat a can of oysters that have been in a shed in Alabama for a decade, get sick an die don't have your survivors come complaining to me.
I think it is important to consider three things when it comes to the dates put on food. The first is that the dates are "best by" not "you will die if you eat after". Secondly we live in a very litigious society so companies have to error seriously (like belt and suspenders with pants that fit) on the side of caution. Lastly knowing that many people toss stuff at the date on the package and then go out and replace it companies have financial motivation to make the date a bit earlier to (over time and a large customer base) increase their sales. Due to these three things I think the dates on packages are often far earlier than the practical date where food is seriously degraded or unsafe to consume.
We will go item by item in no particular order discussing the edible then those deemed inedible. All items were in their original packaging.
The following items were solidly edible:
Cereal (Cherios 11 months past date, Captain Crunch 13 months past and generic Frosted Flakes 9 months past). No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine.
Flour, sealed, 6 months past best by date. It didn't rise quite as much as normal but tasted fine.
Folgers coffee opened 8 months past best by date. Maybe a little bit stale but perfectly drinkable.
Peter Pan chunky peanut butter, opened and partially used, 8 months past best by date. Starting to separate into solid and oil but smells and tastes fine.
Peter Pan creamy peanut butter opened and partially used, 10 months past best by date. No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine.
Crisco vegitable oil, 7 months past date. No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine. Used for cooking and baking.
Campbells tomato soup, 8 months past date. Slightly gelatinous and the soup came out with some lumps but otherwise tasted fine.
The below items were deemed inedible:
Manwich BBQ Sloppy Joe Sauce, 13 months past date. Opened the can and the contents were gelatinous and seemed to have some pockets of green discoloratation on the top that may have been some sort of mold. Needless to say we did not eat it.
Grape Jelly, Smuckers sugarless, unopened and 6 months past date. Smelled slightly like vinegar and we did not eat it.
It bears repeating that I am just some yahoo sitting at home eating expired food and writing about it on the internet. Just because something worked once for me does not mean it is necessarily so for all people under all circumstances. Do your own research, consult experts if necessary and use common sense before eating any food that is beyond the best by date or has been preserved/ stored questionably.
Anyway I thought this stuff might interest you all. As we try some more stuff I will keep track of it and report the results.
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