Having a list with your canned food expiration dates is no doubt very useful if you like to store a lot of canned food in your food pantry, or if you have an emergency supply.
But before creating your expiry dates list and start throwing out food, here are some facts about canned food which you may want to know, as well as some guidelines on how to save money and yet stay safe when storing canned food for a long time.
The type of canned food you are storing
If you store home-canned foods, then keep in mind that the authorities from the USDA recommend that home-canned food should be stored for no more than 1 year. This makes home-canned food not very suitable for long-term emergency supply storage.
If you still prefer to make home-canned food, then make sure that you use the proper procedure and seal the cans with an appropriate pressure canner.
Also, don’t forget to write down the presumed expiration dates of your cans on the cans themselves, as well as in your expiring date list.
To prevent food waste, you may want to resort to а food rotation system for your canned food storage or emergency supply.
This means checking the expiration dates and using the canned food which you have added to the storage first before it actually expires. In other words – first in – first out.
Not only will a system like this help you save money, prevent waste, and will allow you to enjoy fresh and healthy food, but it can also protect you from dangerous and sometimes fatal foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria like botulism.
As for commercially canned food, the USDA divides this type of food into two categories – highly acidic and low acidic.
The highly acidic canned foods include citrus juices, pickled foods, tomato-based foods like tomato soup, food with vinegar, and more. Their recommended shelf-life is 12-18 months of storage unopened and up to 7 days in the refrigerator once opened.
The low acidic foods are the rest of the canned foods which don’t include vinegar, citruses, or tomatoes. These foods, according to the USDA, have a longer shelf-life of 2 to 5 years.
This makes commercially canned foods like peas, squash, corn, vegetables, non-citrus fruits, meat, poultry, soups, and more highly suitable for stocking up your emergency supply or for your long-term pantry storage.
If you prefer freeze-dried foods for your emergency supply, then you are on the right track, because according to the guidance by the authorities, these foods have a very long shelf life, which can range from 10 up to 30 years.
Thankfully, there is a variety of long-lasting and best quality freeze-dried food options on the market, which you can choose to stock up your emergency supply or food pantries by specialized manufacturers like Mountain House, Wise Food Storage, and others.
The other type of food which some preppers use for their emergency supply home storage is dried and jerked food. But the truth is that the commercially available jerked foods have a shelf life of just about 1 year, and the home prepared ones are safe to eat only for up to 1-2 months after they have been made.
A way to increase the shelf life of your home prepared jerky is to dry it completely, and then to freeze it in order to preserve its qualities and to reduce the risk of premature spoilage.
Should you throw all canned food with an expired date?
Experienced preppers and experts claim that you shouldn’t go ahead and simply toss away any canned food which has expired. The rule of the thumb is to open the can first and take a look, smell, and taste the flavor of the food first. This can prevent costly and non-ecological food wastage.
If the can itself is damaged, swollen, or rusty, then you can assume that the food inside may pose a health risk and is not safe to eat. Also, if an acidic food can has a flaking lid inside, then it is better to discard it.
Also, if the liquid or brine in the can spurts out as soon as you open it, then throw it away.
Look for mold or other scum on the food surface, and check for an unpleasant odor before consuming expired canned food.
If stored properly and in good condition, commercially available low acidic canned goods can last much longer than their “best before” expiration dates. Even though over the years, the food in the cans may lose its great taste and may lose some of its texture, but it is probably still safe to eat.
The problem is when the food loses its nutritional value after years of being stored, which is why the labels read “best by date,” so you know that you are consuming the nutritional value as listed on the can. So, keep in mind that this expiration date is a warning by the food manufacturer for the overall quality of the food inside the can and not whether the food is safe to eat or not.
According to Statista, the expiration dates of canned foods, jarred sauces, and honey are inaccurate by +1 year, similarly to the expiration dates on dry pasta, rice, or coffee.
Some of the actual problems which can occur when you store canned goods inappropriately are that the cans may rust and corrode, they may start leaking for one reason or another, they may start swelling, or they may be exposed to dangerously high temperatures or have seal breaks. Any of these factors can lead to food safety issues.
This is why the way you store your emergency supply is vital. It is also essential to examine the cans for any dents or bulges or signs of rust before buying them at the grocery store.
The proper way to store canned, freeze-dried, and other emergency food is in a place that is cool (with moderate temperatures of up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and dry.
So, keep your food supply away from areas where the temperatures are high, form direct sunlight, or from wet areas like underneath the kitchen sink or in an overly damp basement.
Also, once you open the can of food, make sure that you store the leftovers in a plastic or glass container, rather than putting the open can in the fridge.
So, how long do canned foods last?
Overall, if you store the canned goods properly, they will last for at least a year after their official exp date and are safe to eat for much longer.
Canned ground beef, bacon and other canned foods can last for 5 years in your emergency storage. Canned tuna has a shelf-life of 4 years, and foods like Spam, corned beef, chicken chunks, Hormel chili, green beans, kernel corn, pineapples, sweet peas, and others will last for up to 3 years.
Apart from the canned, freeze-dried, jerked and other conserved food which you can safely stack up and keep in storage for years, the best foods to add to your emergency supply also include – honey, rice, salt, sugar, cornstarch, white vinegar, and hard liquor, which have nearly infinite shelf lives.
But overall, even if your expiration date list says that the canned food has passed its best by date, you should double-check it first before throwing it away.
Trust your instincts when opening an expired can of food, and you can save money and stay safe while eating your emergency supply food, especially in extreme survival situations.