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By Kellene Bishop
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What you don’t know about expiration dates may cost you a bundle. Even more importantly, it may cost you your survival. Millions of pounds of food are thrown away all throughout America every year simply because the expiration date says that the food has gone bad. Well, you need to know about the truth on expiration dates, because the prevalent thought is costing you lots of money. Expiration dates exist for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s to protect the legal backsides of the manufacturers. They rarely have anything to do with the quality or taste of the food. Just because an expiration date has come and gone does NOT mean that your food has suddenly turned poisonous, ineffective, rancid, tasteless, or lacking in nutrition. It only means that their insurance or legal liability extends to the date printed on the package.

Examples: I’ve had spices in my cabinet for 5 years and they STILL season my food sufficiently. I’ve used cake mixes over a year past their expiration date and so long as I’m using fresh eggs, oil, etc., the mixes have never let me down.

Taking a few step simple steps towards extending the life of your food storage will help you significantly.

Keep in mind that in ALL instances, storing your food items in a cool, dry place is the optimal condition.

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Did you know that sugar is a preservative? Think about it. How many fruits do you buy that come packaged in a syrup? That’s because syrup preserves items. So purchasing fruit in a syrup base will actually ensure that they last longer than a water base. If an item has sugar in it, it’s going to store a heck of a long time longer than its expiration date. Don’t throw it out willy nilly.

Items which contain oil as one of its primary ingredients will go bad shortly after the expiration date. This includes salad dressings, mayonnaise, and meats stored in oil. So pay attention to the ingredients of items which you intend to store long term.

When your stored food requires the addition of other products, such as pancake mix, cake mixes, soup mixes, etc., they will usually taste just fine so long as you add fresh ingredients such as oil, eggs, milk, produce, etc. (I mean really, just how bad can anything taste with fresh grated cheese melted on top? :))

Oats are also very hard to store long term, even under ideal circumstances. I recommend storing groats instead and then use a flaker. Groats will store almost indefinitely in a sealed container in a cool, dry environment.

Canned goods are an ideal way to store items. Number 10 cans are common for just about any food product being stored long-term. Boxed items or items in large paper containers are more challenging to extend. They get wet easily, they are porous, and they are easily infiltrated by “little critters.” While they can go as much as a year longer then their expiration dates, care must be taken to preserve their taste and overall makeup. You can seal boxed items via a Food Saver (sealer) and with an oxy packet and doing so can literally double their shelf-life.

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The use of oxy packets in your food storage will also extend their life well past their expiration dates. But when storing food items in a 5 gallon bucket don’t use an oxy packet. Since the plastic is porous it’s essentially useless.

Don’t fall for the myth of “not placing your buckets on concrete.” That’s only applicable if the concrete gets heated. If you’re storing anything on concrete/cement that gets heated, such as with the heat of the sun, then yes, the chemicals from the concrete will leech chemicals from the buckets. However, if it’s in your cool, dry basement, you don’t have to worry about putting the storage containers on the floor.

Ultimately storing foods that you eat and rotating them is the best way to ensure they’re edible and enjoyable. But if you’re storing enough for a year, that’s not always realistic. Appetites, convenience, busy lifestyles, and restaurants come into play. I mean really, I could have a years worth of groceries, but unless the electricity is out and all hell has broken loose, I’m definitely going to make my husband take me out to dinner occasionally.

And that’s the truth about expiration dates.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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