General Question

jca's avatar

When is the last time you went through your kitchen cabinets and discarded out of date spices, cans, condiments?

Asked by jca (28605 points ) February 9th, 2014

Have you looked through your kitchen cabinets lately? Do you discard or have you recently discarded out-of-date stuff?

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46 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Yes I did this yesterday and finding cans dated 2009 tells me this task was way overdue.

Pachy's avatar

I did a massive clean-out very recently, actually. I was appalled by how far out of date so much of the stuff in my cabinets and refrigerator were. I don’t mean just months—I’m talking years!—and that included Rxs.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I try not discard food. Instead I will do my best to use it up even if it is years out of date.. Unless cans are bulging (I have never actually see that) or if stuff is totally the wrong color, I will do my best to eat it.
Just last week I made a pumpkin pie from an ancient expired graham cracker pie crust expired 2012, a can of condensed milk, expired 2102, and a can of pumpkin pie filling expired 12 or 13, I can’t remember. For spices I used old nutmeg , cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice that was at least 10 years old.
It was delicious. It took be 4 days to finish it off. The pie got better with age. Coffee and pumpkin pie for breakfast. Mmm! Good!

If I won’t eat it and it is not poison, I will put it out back for the critters to enjoy. That is where I discard turkey carcasses and bones.

I recently cooked a frozen turkey from 2012. It was delicious.

gailcalled's avatar

I do pay attention to foodstuffs and toss bits and pieces regularly. It is the aging products in my medicine cabinet that frightens me, when I bother to notice, Recently I found a Fleet enema from my most recent colonoscopy prep. It was due to expire in Sept., 2007.

Smitha's avatar

I tackled my kitchen cabinets last week. The top shelf was full of expired items and unused mugs and cans. Cleared all the clutter and finally happy to have more free space!

ibstubro's avatar

I’m with @LuckyGuy – if it’s not bulged or totally discolored, it’s not bad.

Bulged means the existence of bacteria (fresh, refrigerated or canned) and if there’s no bacteria, it should be good to eat if it passes the smell and taste test. A good part of our food intake it ‘clearanced’ food discounted because expiration if imminent. Our running joke is that we fear fresh food because of it’s potential to shock our systems.

I have 5–6 households that I supplement with free or -same-as-free food. Yesterday on my way home I dropped off a gallon of (vacuum packed) lettuce at the neighbor’s for $1.50, but I forgot to buy the ginormous baking potatoes @ 10¢ each.

Thrift is my hobby and waste my enemy.

keobooks's avatar

I am very careful about checking the dates. But these days I tend to use everything I buy. Usually, canned food has an expiration date several years ahead. If I haven’t used a can by the expiration date, I’ll probably never use it. Because almost all the cans in my pantry get used. I usually give away my unused cans to charity several months before they expire. Yes, I am one of those people who gives away pickled beets and squid parts for people to enjoy for the holidays.

I am really paranoid about expired pasta and other grains. I’ve had weevil infestations before from letting them go too long., The reason why my pasta kept going bad was because I kept forgetting I already had pasta when I was at the grocery store and I had WAY too much.

WarmFuzzies23's avatar

I do it for a living so they get cleaned and organized at least once a week. I learned at an early age to keep my kitchen and pantry organized thanks to a grandmother and mother who we’re constantly in the kitchen.
Although throughout high school I lived with my Dad and he taught me less quantity and higher quality ingredients makes everything better. So Yesterday was the day for checking dates and today will be the cleaning and restocking day.

keobooks's avatar

@WarmFuzzies23—Are you a professional organizer? It not, what exactly is your profession? I’m just interested—not interrogating.

I just saw the condiments thing—unfortunately, my fridge is where good food goes to die. I keep up with it about once a week or so, but the condiments.. I always forget until the mayonnaise is about to crawl out of the jar on its own.

ibstubro's avatar

Weevils, @keobooks can be indicative of Indian Meal Moth infestation, and if you do some reading about them on-line, you will buy pantry-pest traps and keep them fresh. I was keeping bird seed in the house during the winter and I was actually in the early stages of the ‘larva dropping from the ceiling’ infestation when I learned about them. The foodstuffs are usually tainted at the store, and if you see a moth in your grocery or farm store, they’re carriers.

I worked in a food plant and they had an Indian Meal Moth infestation where the corrugated cardboard, when peeled back, looked like a bee hive. It was taken so seriously that they closed the plant so they could fumigate.

Oddly enough, my aunt taught me that red pepper is one of things most likely to be/get infested with bugs, and it’s true

keobooks's avatar

I blame my grandmother for the initial infestation. She can’t bear to throw food out but she buys way too much. She once gave me a ton of pasta and rice. I didn’t check the date but they were probably 3 or 4 years expired. I took them just to be polite and I stupidly put them in my pantry but didn’t use them. A few weeks later, there were weevils in everything and my husband said he could hear the rice crackling—bugs were crawling around inside.

bolwerk's avatar

I generally just use my spices and condiments until they’re gone. I use so few condiments I can barely justify having them if I just throw them away at “expiration.”

I don’t eat canned food except tomatoes, which I buy only as needed.

filmfann's avatar

Next week.

We are in the middle of moving, and can’t avoid this

WarmFuzzies23's avatar

@Keobooks, I do Pantry Interventions, grocery shopping field trips and cooking classes that help people reshape their food relationships.

gailcalled's avatar

Keep ziplolck bags of rice,oatmeal, dried beans, grains,and pasta,sugar and flour in their original packaging in freezer.

hearkat's avatar

We moved in here just over 3 years ago, so nothing is older than that. We try to keep stock rotated, but I’m sure there’s stuff in the pantry that has been pushed to the back and forgotten about. The kitchen is his man-cave, although I am involved in most of the grocery shopping, so we both have a sense of what we have. I am solely in charge of managing our health and grooming inventory, and I am quite diligent about rotating stock there. Sometimes things like Neosporin or Cortisone cream goes past expiration because we don’t use it very often.

ibstubro's avatar

I swear, @gailcalled Jiffy cornbread comes with a percentage of weevil eggs mixed in, and I always keep mine in the freezer.

However, there is a big debate about freezing deteriorating the nutritional value of grains. I know this from my Indian Meal Moth research. The easiest way of ridding wild bird seed of moths it freezing, but some people say that robs the seed of nutrients.

WarmFuzzies23's avatar

@ibstubro, It is with anything you purchase in a box, you should expect to use it within two weeks. Buying your grains fresh and storing them in the fridge is a good idea for many whole grains.

Freezing does damage the life of your grains, just think about plants that grow in the winter, not many are edible.

ibstubro's avatar

In the fridge in a glass container is a good idea, @WarmFuzzies23.

Buying food only when it’s on sale at a high-volume retailer is the best way to avoid food bugs, in my experience.

keobooks's avatar

One thing I think is important is to have everything visible and within reach. If I can’t see it, I will forget its there. If I can’t reach it, I won’t use it. I am very short. So I keep the top shelves empty or reserved for stuff I don’t want, like my husband’s cookie supply. He’s tall and puts them up there. I don’t want to eat them.

ibstubro's avatar

Now, I think having an empty shelf is heresy.

Human’s are meant to hoard.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

A couple of months ago I started a new eating program and tossed out practically everything. Can goods, processed food, sugar items, coffee,and anything with preservatives. I also had tons of outdated spices.

jca's avatar

I went through cans and other foods a few months ago and either gave stuff to my coworker, who takes and eats anything, or threw stuff out. I had some canned soup on hand for rainy days, and I never ever eat canned soup because I think of it as purely fat and salt (which it is, which I need like a hole in the head).

I just went through spices a few weeks ago and got rid of old stuff and organized. Spices, they say, lose their taste and potency in a few years. I know baking soda and baking powder lose their potency, too, so I threw them out and got new ones. Things like cinnamon sticks I kept, but things like nutmeg, I know the fresher the better. Better yet, buy whole ones (allspice too) and use a grinder or little grater.

LuckyGuy's avatar

^^^ You guys are killing me! You should at least keep the food in the basement in case of a major disaster. If you have the room, just put it in a box put it on a shelf in the basement and revisit it next year. You can always throw it out later.

Outdated, canned veggies are great if you fry them in a little olive oil. You can make crock pot meals from freezer burned items you discovered. If it is really something you can’t eat give it to the birds.
.
Old, inedible stuff in your kitchen cupboards can be the source of all kinds of science experiments. (They don’t call me MacGyver for nothing.)
Baking soda and vinegar make a neat volcano. Or you can make a rocket. Other chemicals do other things. Old canola oil burns and can be used to start a camp fire. Have you made “oobleck” from cornstarch and water? Try it.

The absolute best solution is to not buy the stuff in the first place. Think about what you could have done with the money you wasted.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Here is a site which shows you a little Kitchen Chemistry .
Doing an experiment two gives kids an appreciation for science and chemistry.
(Don’t worry. They don’t mention anything dangerous.)

Try microwaving a grape if you’re bored. Your kids will love it.

ibstubro's avatar

Careful with the basement hoarding, @LuckyGuy.

Last year I found an empty can of lychee fruit in the cupboard. It had developed a hole, spewed black sticky stuff in the cupboard and run out the back. Not a pretty site.

Our local metal buying outfit is very lenient…if I feel it’s necessary to get rid of unused can goods, they just go into the scrap metal bin.

keobooks's avatar

When my granmother died, I was given the glorious task of cleaning out her basement pantry hoard. Not pretty at all. My aunt who was with me was a total packrat too. She kept picking up rusty dented cans of peaches that were almost as old as me, and saying “Maybe we should give this to the food bank”

LuckyGuy's avatar

Let’s be clear about something. I don’t hoard old food it. I use it up. I try to never buy something I don’t need and eat older stuff first.

@keobooks How did the peaches taste? I would have opened at least one.

ibstubro's avatar

“put it in a box and put it on a shelf in the basement and revisit it next year…” was my point of reference, @LuckyGuy. Better, to me, to just call it.

I’m a cheap hoarder. I have enough food, dishes and flatware in my house to feed Fluther. Maybe for days. But, re-sale is my livelihood.

Clouds Peaches Taste Metallic.

susanc's avatar

I really dislike throwing out spices and herbs – they cost the universe. I keep them in a drawer, alphabetically labelled on top, a few feet away from the stove so they won’t cook – many people display their spice racks right over the stove, but heat decreases potency. As they age, I find that just using bigger pinches of them does the job. Also I always roll anything leafy, like sage or rosemary, in the palm of my hand to crush out the essential oil. Right? You do that too, right?
I keep flour in the original paper bag with a big clip on top, in a dark place. I think white flour is essentially filler anyway, and so is white sugar. I use them very seldom so they last for years. I can’t remember ever seeing dry pasta change in any way in the cupboard. That too is practically chemically inert. I never eat up all the green vegetables I determinedly buy, though I try, I try.
Do you think half full cartons of ice cream are okay in the freezer? I find the texture gets nasty. Kinda gummy. ew.

Nullo's avatar

Never, in fact. I sort of presume that they’ll last forever, I suppose.

LuckyGuy's avatar

^^ Both are reading from the same playbook I read.

@susanc gummy ice-cream goes into a blender with milk, malt powder, maybe a banana and a teaspoon of freeze dried coffee. That makes a breakfast for me.

keobooks's avatar

I didn’t eat those peaches, but I DID eat the peaches that my other grandmother found in a glass jar that her grandmother had canned probably 50 years earlier once. They were still good. You’ve got to love Ball jars.

LuckyGuy's avatar

^ @keobooks You are my hero! What a gift!
I saved some spices from my grandmother’s house and have them on display in my kitchen.

keobooks's avatar

There were several peach jars. The others are all stored away for future generations, but grandma said we HAD to eat one just to see if they were still good.

She also has a deep freeze that is deep enough to store two or three adult bodies in and she has never cleaned the thing out. Once she dug up some 30 year old frozen apples. They had no taste, unfortunately.

My grandmother lives in a house that has been in our family since 1820 and there were several generations of pack rats (not hoarders) that house is a treasure trove jammed full of stuff that is probably valuable, but definitely sentimental. How many other people have seen their ancestors’ civil war uniforms?

LuckyGuy's avatar

^ That is magical! I am so glad you value it. So few things get passed down from generations. I would love to have food canned by my grandmother and would be honored to pass that down to my grandchildren. It is family history.

I have some firearms and a sword that was passed down to me from multiple generations. The other “kids” (in their 60s) had no interest in these items. I think they are precious pieces of the past. They do not. Of course their houses are modern and pristine while mine is, um…, not so much.

A friend of mine was redoing the windows of a house in Connecticut. When he removed the original windows he found that they were held in place and nailed to black powder muskets that were likely considered junk in the mid 1800s.

ibstubro's avatar

@keobooks & @LuckyGuy. thanks for bearing the torch of past generations.

The saddest thing about having an auction house is the really super cool stuff we get that is no longer treasured by a living human. Special event (wedding, funeral) photos and certificates (wedding and birth) can me particularly disturbing. That the pinnacle of someone’s life will now go in the dump if someone won’t spend $1 to prevent it.

Sadder yet, I guess, is that I am the heirless end of my father’s line, and have a large pile of stuff that will eventually be cast into the sea of unwanted junk.

We ultimately own nothing, but are just temporary custodians. Thanks to all the conscientious custodians of family lore.

keobooks's avatar

That’s all well and good, but I still don’t think the pantry should become a shrine to your ancestors. I see my pantry as a tool that helps me cook. I want to keep the tool in fine running condition, so I tend to it regularly. I make sure everything is in order and I make sure it’s not expired—especially the canned food. The longer food is in a can, the more it ends up tasting like the can. Something expired has been in a can for a long time and likely tastes like aluminum more than whatever it was.

It’s funny. My house is a total messy wreck, but my pantry is sparkling. It’s saved me time and money to keep it that way.

ibstubro's avatar

My biggest problem with the kitchen cabinets is that I like innovation and variety.

I always say that I’ll buy nearly anything, once. So I inevitably end up with crap I never get around to using.

I like being prepared for nearly any eventuality. I’ll make something that we like a lot and replace the ingredients, then not get around to making it again.

The flip side is that I never pay full price for anything. So if I have a little waste, I still have not spent as much as just going to the grocery and buying specific ingredients for a specific meal (or so I like to delude and enable myself).

keobooks's avatar

Someone posted this article on my facebook feed and I thought @ibstubro and @LuckyGuy would approve.

ibstubro's avatar

“If there’s any fish left in the can, I’m going to eat it,” he added.

“There’s no danger of food poisoning, because it will come back up faster than it went down.” I added.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@keobooks Hilarious. I would have put the can out in the woods and shot it from a safe distance.

gailcalled's avatar

And surely surströmming is much more beautiful, vocabulary-wise, than fermented herring. Trust the Scandinavians to come up with this…a victimless crime, similar to catapulting a piano.

jca's avatar

To add to this discussion, I just saw Cooks Country Test Kitchen and he did a comparison with biscuits made with baking powder. The biscuits made with 10 month old baking powder only rose about half as much as biscuits made with newer baking powder. The conclusion is that baking powder should be thrown out after six months.

My mom told me something similar about baking soda. For that reason, I now only buy the small size, since I never bake enough that I use up even a small box by the time it needs to be gotten rid of.

ibstubro's avatar

Any word on whether keeping any of this stuff in the freezer/refrigerator prolongs the life of this stuff, @jca?

10 month old baking power? I’d have to buy a new can every time I needed it. I’m probably using 10 year old baking powder, and I’ve not had a recipe fail. I’ve never known someone that baked enough that they used a can in under a year, and I’ve never known a person that threw a can out 9/10 full.

I found a can of evaporated milk in the cabinet this week dated 2009. I opened it and it appeared fine so I flushed it down the toilet, rinsed the can out, and tossed it in recycling.

jca's avatar

@ibstubro: That’s a good question, about putting them in the freezer. It’s probably something someone with a chemistry background would know, or maybe @LuckyGuy.

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