Emergency Food Supply: How Old Is Too Old?

expired food in bags

Food waste is a huge problem in our country. A recent study from the Department of Agriculture states that the average amount of food wasted a day per person is one pound. One pound! That’s a lot of food that could be better served elsewhere. And most of that food is thrown out due to misconceptions on what “expired” really means. Hibernate wants to help clear up the confusion on what is considered “expired food” and what you can do with older food in your quality emergency storage kits instead of tossing it in your garbage. 

What You Need To Know About Eating Expired Food Storage 

We’ve all been there—grabbing the last can of food from the back of our pantry and seeing that it had expired a year ago? Do we throw it out and waste it? Is it still good? How do you know if it’s really expired or bad? The good news is that fear and anxiety of expiration dates on food are really based on just a conservative estimate of how long the food will last in the worst-case storage conditions. Even beyond that, most dates you see on food packaging really indicate the taste-quality integrity of the food, and the manufacturers vouch for the product’s nutritional quality as well. 

Sell-by date, use-by date, and best-before date are really more for the production and the grocery stores than for what we do with the food at home. The only foods that really have a truly set expiration date are infant formula and pet food. All else, provided excellent storage, will retain nutritional value oftentimes for 10+ years. And that is also a very conservative estimate. The best rule is to trust your instincts and use common sense. If it looks funny, smells funny, and the texture is off, don’t eat it! And food storage kits are meant to have a long shelf-life—there is even talk out there of people consuming 70+-year-old MREs or canned foods in long-forgotten cellars and basements! 

When it comes to water, however, depending on if you stored the water yourself in a huge drum or the water is store-bought and packaged, it will likely need to be replaced every six months. Even if the plastic bottles are BPA-free, chemicals can still leach into the bottles, as they are permeable, and can contaminate the water. And likewise, with the drums you fill up, bacteria can enter in at the time of filing them up and can begin to contaminate at that time.

Do Emergency Food Kits Expire? 

Again, expiration dates on food and emergency kits can often be interpreted loosely and are very much dependent on the food kit’s quality (see what the best food storage is!) and storage conditions. Depending on where you are geographically, food will not last as long in hot climates. But even then and there, if you properly store your food, they can have a long shelf life with care and precautions. And always, cool, dark, and dry are the optimal ways to store your food kits. You’ll also want to be sure to check your food storage every six months and rotate soon-to-“expire” foods into your pantry so you can use them up. 

Some survivalists will even test a small amount of the “expired” food and wait for an hour. If there are no intestinal gurglings or pains, that is usually an indicator that the food is safe. Also, trust your nose—if something smells off when you open it, chances are it’s no good. And be sure to thoroughly inspect the can or package. If there is any bulging or excess air, the food inside has likely been compromised by spores or bacteria and is not safe to eat. 

Home-canned foods should not be eaten after a year as the risk of botulism increases with home-stored food. If you do can at home, be sure to follow the FDA’s recommendations for doing so. 

What Do You Do With Expired Food Storage? 

It can be hard to throw away expired food, but there are always ways to be sure they receive a bit of a second life! 

Six Clever Things You Can Do With Expired Food:

  1. With your expired water pouches or barrels, you can water your plants, gardens, flowers. 
  2. With expired food, you can throw a “preparedness party” where you sample what you’ll be eating when an emergency happens.
  3. You can feed your animals—cats, dogs, chickens—but be sure nothing is spoiled or rotten since that can make your furry friends just as sick as it can make you.
  4. If you have expired coffee grounds in your food storage, you can use that for a facial masque—mix it with liquid (milk or water) until a paste is formed, apply to your face and let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse off! The antioxidant properties of coffee will help restore balance to your skin. 
  5. You can use the old food as compost or fertilizer!
  6. And always, check with your local food bank and see if they will take any of your expired food.

Hibernate food storage

Hibernate: Long-Lasting Emergency Food Supply 

Hibernate cares about helping you feel prepared for emergencies and cares about the alarming food waste that occurs in our country due to misguided information on expired food in long-term food storage. We want to help you understand how to keep an inventory of your emergency food and help you feel assured that by choosing Hibernate, you can feel confident your emergency food stash will last for years before you even hopefully have to use it. 

Get your 2-week Hibernate emergency food storage now so you can always be ready for whatever the next moment brings!

More From Hibernate On Food Storage:

What Is The Best Survival Food With A Long Shelf Life?

5½ Easy Tips For Building Your Emergency Food Supply

Dinner For Backpacking Adventures