A Few Thoughts on Expiration Dates

Psst.  Can I tell you a secret?  Promise not to tell??  Double promise?  I, um, well… [clearing throat], um, I regularly keep and use food and medicine well beyond their expiration dates.  There, phew, I said it.  Are you completely shocked?  Hey, and I’m still alive and well too!!

Most expiration dates are an indicator of quality and, shall we say, full nutritional value (for food) and full effectiveness (for medicines).

I do can my own food.  I would like to say it’s from my own garden, but maybe that will happen one day.  No, I buy in bulk and process it according to the tastes of my family.  One year, I think it was 2006, I made so much jam that I still have a few of those jars on my shelf today!  Do I use it and feed it to my family?  Yes.  It tastes just as good as the day I canned it.  One caveat though.  If you decide to go out on a limb and make some ‘exotic’ flavor of jam, say blueberry with lime, I have to warn you.  The lime zest starts to overwhelm the blueberry and it does become inedible for that reason.  It hadn’t gone bad, just very lime-y.  Very.  Ask me how I know.  I have also canned tomatoes, green beans, and applesauce to name just a few.  I keep those for longer than a year and we still eat them!  I have not canned my own butter or cheese, and being dairy free I probably won’t either.  I will be trying my hand at ghee.  I’ll post my results on that another day.  I promise!

If it does not smell bad & does not have any of the tell-tale signs of spoilage.  Than I figure it is alright to eat.  This is not a blanket statement for you to eat any ol’ thing on your shelf.  This is simply a statement of what we have chosen do in our home, but with intelligence.  Your family’s safety is your own responsibility!  Make sure you know the signs of spoilage in home canned items.

Canning: Signs of Spoilage

  • Jar seals have bulging lids or the seal is broken
  • Jar is dirty on the outside (a sign of food seepage)
  • Liquid is cloudy or bubbling/fermenting or foaming
  • Liquid is seeping out from under the sealed lid
  • Contents spurt out when the jar is opened
  • Mold has grown on food or under the lid
  • Food is slimy or mushy
  • Food smells off or unusual
  • Food is discolored (usually darker).

If a jar is showing signs of spoilage, throw it out safely so that no children or animals can get at it.

Does commercially canned food ensure food safety?  Don’t make me laugh.  How many food recalls can we think of in the last 2 years?  Far too many for me to trust commercially canned items implicitly!

Here are the terms used in the food  industry to describe canned foods with signs of spoilage:

  • Soft Swell: A can that is bulged on both ends, but not so tightly that the ends can’t be pushed in somewhat with a thumb press.
  • Hard Swell: A can that is so tightly bulged on both ends that the ends can’t be pressed in. A can with a hard swell will generally “buckle” before it bursts.
  • Flipper: A can whose end normally looks flat, but “flips out” when struck sharply on one end.
  • Springer: A can with one end bulged out. With sufficient pressure, this end will flip in, but the other end will flip out.
  • Leaker: A can with a crack or hole in the container that has caused leakage.

How can we protect ourselves? One important way is to look for signs of spoilage and to immediately discard any canned foods that are suspected of being spoiled.

Excalibur 9-Tray

I also dehydrate many of the things we eat.  I like dehydrating for many reasons.  One is there are no jars to potentially break in an earthquake and an even longer time for the nutritional value (at least what’s left of it) of the food to remain intact.  But keeping these things free of moisture is key.  That is one reason why we found viable grain in the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs!!  Dry, dry, dry.  It’s the word of the day.  Mold needs moisture to grow.  If you have dehydrated it well enough there will not be any moisture for mold to grow!

Dehydrated food is also lighter in weight making it easier to transport whether you are hiking, biking, or bugging out.  I am experimenting with making my own ‘instant soups & meals’ using my own dehydrated foods.  I will keep you posted on my progress in that.  I am also using lots more ‘leathers’ for a wide variety of uses.  No, not all fruit leather.  How does mushroom leather sound?  Or spaghetti sauce leather?

We purchase very little processed foods.  I make the bulk of our food from scratch.  With that said, even boxed cake mixes (for an example) would last for many years beyond their expiration dates!  Especially if they were also stored in 5-gallon containers with oxygen absorbers.  Water and air are food storage enemies.  Heat isn’t a helper either.  The cooler the storage temperature the better.

What about medicines you ask?  I do not take any medication on a regular basis.  I am attempting to get healthy by loosing my excess weight, exercising and eating a healthier diet.  All that is for a completely different post than this one!  lol  So if you do regularly take any medications you will have to judge for yourself whether any of this is for you or not.

Once long ago I passed a kidney stone.  OK, truth be told more than once, but we don’t need to get into that here do we?  Not drinking enough water, a significant increase in my black tea intake and celiac were my undoing.  Let me just tell you that passing a kidney stone is far more painful than giving birth!  I have given birth & with NO pain medication more than once.  This kidney stone thing was FAR worse.  Far, far worse.  I’m starting to sweat and shake just thinking about it.  I was given Tylenol with codeine for the pain.  But one whole pill sent me on ‘a loopy road’ and unable to function.  Who can do that with a small child in the house?  So I cut those big pills into quarters and took them that way.  I was able to take just enough to stay on top of the pain yet remain functional.

You can well imagine that those pills lasted quite a long time.  I have taken some of these that were well over 5 years old and closer to 10.  They still worked, but not like a ‘fresh’ one.  But at least they worked!  If you do choose to store extra medicines make sure they are stored in a way that an unauthorized person can’t gain access to them.


~Mrs. R

Disclaimer: The information available through this blog is  for educational purposes only.  All efforts have been made to ensure the material in this post is accurate and up to date.   However, Honey From Flinty Rocks cannot be held responsible for any circumstances resulting from its use, unavailability, or possible inaccuracy.


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