Food Storage: Shelf Life & Expiration Dates

Hey all. I’m still not sane enough from all the organizational lists to move on to the shopping part just yet (give me one more week :)). So instead I wanted to quickly give you another thing to think about regarding the recipes you choose to use for your year supply, and that is shelf life and expiration dates. MOST foods that are shelf stable will last for over a year, which means you can easily gather a year supply of them without them going bad before you use them. However, there are a few that have a bit of a shorter shelf life, i.e. mayonnaise. Mayonnaise generally has more like a 6-8 month shelf life, cereal is generally around 10 months, a lot of snack foods won’t last a year (chips, crackers, cookies, applesauce in the serving size containers (the big jars last MUCH longer), etc). So my point is: 1) plan accordingly, and 2) check expiration dates.

Plan Accordingly
You can still plan for a year supply of meals that contain ingredients like mayo. You’re just going to have to get a little creative. 🙂 For example, just stock up on the rest of your ingredients for that meal as usual and then only get a 6 month supply or so of the mayo (so that you don’t just keep throwing away mayo that has expired). Just keep restocking your mayonnaise as usual (each time you use one, buy another and rotate). And then plan for what to do if the time comes when you have to live off your year supply and can’t get any additional mayo past your 6 month supply. Did you know you can make homemade mayo? (I’m sure I’ll post that sometime, but for now you can always just Google it.) Just plan to have ingredients on hand to make your mayo if you can’t buy it from the store. Ta-da! Problem solved. Of course, one of the ingredients for mayo is egg (not shelf stable), so there again… another reason to give powdered eggs a try. 🙂
So before you throw in the towel on some recipes due to a complication here or there, remember to think outside the box! You can also make homemade tortillas and tortilla chips! So if you’ve got lots of recipes with those, be prepared to have those ingredients on hand too! (And, yep… you guessed it… there will be a post on those in the future as well.) 🙂

Check Expiration Dates
This seems to go without saying, but it’s easy to forget to do! Before I started doing my food storage this way, I rarely (if ever) checked the expiration dates on the food I was buying. I’m still not perfect at it, but it’s really very helpful to do. One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that different stores will give you longer/shorter expiration times on the same food (I think this is often by chance and based on when the store got their last ‘batch’ of canned goods in (or whatever product you’re looking at)). But, for example, I can buy a can of corn at Store X and have it expire in 10 months, or I can go to Store Y and have the corn last for 2 years. So if I’m needing to buy more corn, and I check the expiration date and see that the cans at this store are only good for 10 more months (when I know it can last for about two years), I may hold off until I can find corn that will last longer. (Or you can sometimes try and find later expiration dates towards the back of the shelf.) The basic point of this is: if you know a product can last longer than a year, don’t buy ones that are due to expire in less than a year.
And by this same token, don’t kill yourself trying to memorize the shelf life of every product on your food storage list! It will come. In bits and pieces, you’ll start remembering little things like ‘corn can last for 2 years’ and ‘mayo will only last about 6 months’, etc. (And if you’re a veteran shopper, you probably have this down pat!) But I know some people who make lists of what stores have what prices and where the best deals for this that and the other are… and honestly, by the time I’m done trying to do all that, I want nothing to do with a grocery store ever again! So for me, it works better to just let it come naturally. If I lose a few pennies in the process or my canned goods expire earlier than others I could have found, well then so be it! But the more I’ve been doing this, the more I remember what stores have what types of bargains, how long certain products will last, etc. and I’m not killing myself in the process (well… sometimes I still try to push it too far, but I’m getting better! :)). I try to just do what will work for me and keep me sane. May I recommend you do the same? Because again… once you reach burn out, you’re much more likely to just throw your hands in the air and be done with it (which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid). 🙂

So there you have it. My two tips worth two cents and the best of luck two you. 😀