Does the thought of having to deal with expired food in your pantry keep you from organizing your kitchen storage? Do you dread putting groceries away because there is no room in the cabinets? This might be a sign that you need a pantry purge.
Food waste is a big issue in the US. We have a tendency to over-buy food then let it go to waste. Screw up your courage and take a swing through your pantry and fridge to re-familiarize yourself with your own inventory and make a plan to use things up before they go bad.
But when do things really go bad? The product expiration dates on food can be a bit confusing. Here’s how they break down:
Sell-by: A manufacturer set date when to take products off the shelf; but they may still be just fine for you. Properly refrigerated milk, for example, will last 5-7 days past it’s sell-by date before souring.
Best if used by/before: This is all about when maximum quality and flavor will expire, not safety – except baby formula.
Use-by: This is basically the exact same as “Best if Used by/before”. It indicates the expiration of peak quality of the product, not safety (except baby formula)
How to tell if it’s really gone bad?
According to food safety experts it’s ok to trust your nose and taste buds to tell if something has gone bad. Another handy tool is the Food Safety App from the USDA – a quick search by product will tell you how long it should be good for unopened AND once opened. Once you determine that a food item is no longer edible, remove it from its packaging and put it in the compost bin.
What if it’s is still good?
Drop it by your local food bank, or into a collection barrel at one of the major supermarkets, or don’t be shy to post it online to NextDoor or Freecycle and offer it to neighbors.
Did you know that it is far better to use up food from your panty than donate it to a food bank? Why? It saves the food bank precious resources: schedulers, drivers, food sorters, and fuel. When you donate cash instead of food the food bank can purchase their most-needed items…and usually get $7 worth of food for every $1 of donation.
And, don’t forget to check for expired foods in your earthquake kit! Have your earthquake food be part of your household food rotation; re-purchase earthquake food every six months and donate the older food to a food drive orthrow a disaster preparedness party and invite people to share their earthquake food, tasting different food bars and ordering fresh supplies. Look for long-shelf-life foods…some bars last 5 years.
Are you ready to take the plunge and refresh your food storage? Take a bite out of your resistance and commit to tackling one shelf at a time.