About expiration dates
Today’s topic is expiration dates on food. It’s also called ‘sell by’, ‘best by’, ‘best before’, ‘best if used by’, ‘use by’, ‘packed by’ – I bet you’ve seen a lot of different terminology on different types of food, but the main question is –
How long is the food good?
Generally speaking, most of these dates are not regulated by federal law, unlike baby foods and baby formulas which expiry dates are the only food mandated by the FDA. Food manufacturers put these date labels on a state by state basis and they usually mean different things in different contexts. For example, ‘best before’ date indicates until when the producer of the item is willing to stand behind the quality, flavor and nutrient content of the food. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that after that date the food is not eatable or that all the nutrients simply disappear. Actually, it may be perfectly fine, even after a prolonged period of time long after that date.
There are couple of reports where people opened the can after 30 years and the food was still perfectly fine and eatable.
I mean, a five-year-old can of ham may look perfectly good when SHTF and under conditions of limited supplies. That is all correct, and yet, your job is to make sure you have the freshest food possible at this moment, before the SHTF situation.
So, should I keep the food or throw it away after expiry date?
Well, there are no solid proofs in favor of either of the previous statements and everything you read should be taken with the grain of salt. There are so little credible studies or thorough experiments which seriously address this question. I think that your best bet is to try to stay on the safe side and keep track of those dates.
When the expiration date approaches, you can simply consume that food and replace it with the fresh one.
That way you will always have up to date, a perfectly fresh stash of food and you won’t be throwing any away. The perfect solution with only one problem – How to keep track of all those items?
Emergency supplies with expiration dates
Let’s stop for a second and think about what kind of ‘expirable’ items exactly are we dealing with here, from the perspective of prepping and survivalism of course.
Items from your GHB/BOB
First, there are items you would want to keep in your ‘BOB’ or ‘Bug Out Bag’, or ‘Get Home Bag’. In this article How to make your Get Home Bag – GHB I’ve listed a few items I would personally recommend as a content of your bag. Among these, there are some which date of expiration you might want to keep under control. As you can see, some of them are not just food.
- First aid kit
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes
- Portable food, energy bars etc…
- Certain drugs: aspirin, ibuprofen
- Drugs for your specific medical conditions
- Insect sting treatment
Let’s break this down a little bit. Carrying a first aid kit with you is essential, but even more important than just carrying a first aid kit is making sure that the items inside are going to be effective should any situation arise. Eventually, items in first aid kit will expire. Wet (alcohol) wipes will dry up. Antibacterial hand sanitizer, aspirin, insect sting treatment, ibuprofen, all of those items will expire over time, so it’s just good to get in the habit of periodically reviewing the items in your first aid kit to make sure that they haven’t expired.
Items from your food storage/food prepping
Some preppers keep their large stashes of food, with many of them doing so in several different secret locations, because they don’t want to keep all their eggs in one basket. Large quantities of different kinds of food, dislocated, hidden or simply put in one big pantry, require a lot of organization skills. Maybe the biggest challenge is keeping track of expiration dates of all these items. Let’s list here some typical choices when it comes down to picking the emergency food, from long-term, mid-term to short-term, mainly non-portable, with respect to their ‘best before’ labels:
- MRE’s (Meal Ready To Eat), stuff that’s 3 to say 8 years good to go
- Mountain House Cans are rated at 25 years. But do they last that long? I don’t know.
- Canned beans, usually 2+ years. If kept in a dark cool place, up to 5 years
- White rice in pantry, 4-5 years
- Brown rice, 6-8 months
- Dehydrated meats (as all the others, highly depends on storage location and ambient temperature)
- Dried beef jerky, 1-2 years in the pantry
- Smoked sausages, 6 weeks in pantry, indefinitely in refrigerator (source: fsif.usda.gov)
- Salmon, tuna, sardines, typically about 3 years. If stored in a dry pantry, in an undamaged can, it can last close enough to forever.
What about water expiration date?
Why does my bottled water have an expiration date? Does this stuff actually go bad?
A plastic bottle of water that’s been sitting there for about a year, or even more years, eventually is gonna leach compounds from the plastic containers into the water. It’s not going to kill you, but it’s not good for your health either.
A much bigger problem comes with unsealed containers which have been exposed to bacteria, especially if tanked by tap water. Then there’s dust inside your house landing in your water. No matter what option you go for, whether you replace water bottles with fresh ones, plan to conduct chemical purification, filtration or boiling, you need to set check update on your water stash as well.
The solution: Expiry Wiz – Product Expiration Date Organizer
Expiry Wiz is a very useful application, unlike other calendars, because it’s simple, practical and user-friendly. Not only will it keep your storage/BOB/GHB items organized in groups/folders, but you will get notifications when these items are about to get expired.
When creating a new item, the app requires only 2 basic inputs: ‘item name’ & ‘expiry date’.
Other optional inputs are reminder date, item picture, extra note, setting up a new group, etc.
The most important is ‘Reminder date’ which is when you want to be notified.
The data you enter is stored locally on your phone’s SD card or internal memory, not on some remote server, so you don’t have to worry about WiFi Internet coverage or loss.
Let me show you how to use this app and what this app can do for you in the following video. As a demonstration, I am going to be using exactly the same ‘items’ we talked about in this text.
So, what does this app does for you exactly? First, it saves all your ‘expirable’ items into your phone, so you can ‘carry them with you’ all the time. Next, you can set an expiration date for each item in order to get reminded when the date comes due, which is, as we’ve seen in the text above, basically the hardest part about keeping any food or medical supply in healthy and consumable condition.
If you are concerned with whether you’d be able to preserve and later restore the data in case your phone gets broken or stolen, don’t be. You can easily create backups on Google Drive cloud storage, which comes free btw for every android phone user. You can then easily restore from the existing backup by doing a sync from another device. However, you will need an active Internet connection for this.
There are many similar apps on Google Play but there is none to my knowledge that is equipped both with the options to do backups and to organize items in groups/folders. Plus it’s completely free.
Additionally, you may want to use this app to track the expiration dates of your personal documents such as driver’s license, ID documents, passport. You can even use it to get reminded about your wife’s or girlfriend’s birthday. Why not!
Unfortunately, Expiry Wiz does not have an appropriate counterpart on iTunes, the Apple’s app store, but is an excellent choice for people with Android phones. If you have any suggestions about another app we should try, please let’s hear it in the comments below. Expiry Wiz is my personal choice, the app I use on regular basis for this purpose and also to keep track of many other unrelated items.