Is your old food storage any good?

Old Food Storage – Did You Try It? Was It Still Good?

Do you have some long term storage foods that are old, or really old? Have you thought about whether or not it’s any good any more?

It depends what it is, right? The type of food. How it’s packed, the storage environment, expected normal shelf life…

Plus, we all know that we “should” be consuming from our LTS, first-in first-out (FIFO), so it doesn’t get too old. However, we’re all guilty of letting that concept lapse from time to time…

If you have been into the preparedness-mindset for many years, well, you likely have some long term storage foods that are getting pretty old.

There was a comment the other day over on the open-forum about experimenting with some old food storage. It inspired today’s topic. I thought it would be interesting to toss this question to the group…

What are some of your examples trying some of your old food storage? How old was it? What type of food was it, and how was it packaged? Were there any surprises (good or bad)? Any preparation tips & tricks in this regard due to its age?

Here’s a related comment from “Mrs. U”,

Experiment under way on pinto beans from 1995 and 1987!

25 pounds of beans in heavy paper bags – like seed might come in. Mr. has been thinking the food saving thing for a long time and kept some of the food for A LONG time.

The size of the bean is about 2/3 the size of a fresh dried bean. So, I am soaking some beans to see how long it will take. Some whole, and smashed some with a hammer, and put scalding water over them.

I ground some beans in the Grain Maker and got some bean flour, added water and made a paste. Fried in some oil. Tasted ok. Could add onions, peppers and such to make a type of refried bean patty or maybe soup. Edible for sure.

So, beans are now in buckets. Not sure but I suspect some of the vitamins have dwindled, but the protein should still be the same.

Now for the 1982 ziti pasta test. It was still in the cellophane type bag. Cooked up like a fresh bag and tasted the same. These food items were kept in a large plastic tub in their store-bought bags in a house. Now some of the plastic bags were decomposing some, and the food was sticking to it. Those were trashed.

~ Mrs. U

This is a reminder to check your food storage inventory from time to time. Look for oldest foods and evaluate.

Become familiar with the various general shelf life expectations, which vary, sometimes widely, depending on what it is, how it’s stored, etc. Although many ‘old’ foods are still fine well beyond these general guidelines.

[ Read: Use-by, Best-by, Sell-by | Food Expiration Dates ]

Inspect all of your food storage for physical abnormalities. Bulging cans. Rust. Rodent intrusion. Odors. Visible issues.

Try to get in the habit of regularly consuming from your inventory, oldest first. Then replenish where applicable.

A good general guideline — buy what you eat, and eat what you store. (Though there are some reasonable caveats to that for various long term food items).

Another good “rule-of-thumb”, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Again, looking for your stories of dealing with some of your very old foods, and what you discovered… Did you try it? Was it still okay or good?

[ Read: Food That Lasts Forever – Indefinite Shelf Life ]

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76 Comments

  1. We are eating dried peas in pea soup from the 80’s. The peas were stored in a glass jar. The taste was not very good but they were edible. I have since stored my dried peas in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and the peas from 2008 were as good as the day we stored them..

  2. I’ve mentioned this before in the past, but since you brought it up again :
    Way back in ’61, in Vietnam, I was given a military can of bread that was stamped June 1944.
    Opened it, smelled it,tasted it, ate it.
    No after effects.
    17 years and still good !

    1. Yep, Mr. talks about eating WWll C rations in Vietnam. Said they were better than MRE’s.

      1. You know, there was a time in America where mass manufacturers had pride in their product.

      2. Mrs. U
        the VN era “C” rations were actually pretty good, then they came out with the “lurps” which were the predecessor of the MRE, and they SUCK’d. But then again they were intended for use with folks doing long-range mission, so it was something to stuff in you belly.

        1. Hmmm… I had LRRPS when I was kid. Best ones were beef and rice, chicken and rice, chili mac, spaghetti with meat sauce, beef stew. Chicken stew and escalloped potatoes were nasty.

    2. I used to hunt for the WWII canned Brownies w/Nuts at the Surplus Stores, in the 1970s. I would eat one of them even today…if I had any.

  3. I talked to a friend a few weeks ago and she said “You know everyone is coming to your house if there’s a real emergency, right?” I told her they would get very tired of 10 year old bottled peaches and tomatoes.

    Mom always bottled everything she could get her hands on. We’ve cleared out everything older than 2012 (I think) but still have something like 80 bottles of peaches and tomatoes. I haven’t bottled either since 2016, and we’re still working on the residue. So we’re talking a minimum of 5 years. Bottled halved tomatoes are still good. Bottled juice is OK but not ideal. Could still be used for tomato sauces and such.

    Bottled peaches are brown where they’re sticking out of the juice, and all around soft, almost mushy, but the flavor is still good. Bottled nectarines…not so much. They don’t seem to handle bottling as well as peaches.

    1. Lauren , replace now if available. and use the old ones for hand pies or cobbler, that is what i have done/.doing w/ oldest.. string beans old and still taste ok- dehydrate.store w/ oxy absorber

  4. Went through my pantry and discovered some commercially canned items from 2015. I normally would have eaten them but on some of the cans the metal had “degraded”. Black, crusty areas. They were tossed.

    I also found a #10 can of freeze-dried eggs. Expiration date Jan. 2021. Stored in the house, so not worried about climate. The can had 6 mylar bags, each held a dozen eggs. It worked well for making scrambled eggs. Have not used them in baking yet. Going to try a pound cake this weekend.
    luv ya’ll, Beach’n

  5. The old beans, peas and pasta have been sealed in 5 mil Mylar. I did not use any O2’s or desiccants. At this point I consider these to be the last resort food or maybe trade. Will enjoy the fresher food first. He also had a bag of confectioners sugar, age unknown/old for sure, which is just the same. Transferred to containers.

    The other day I posted part of an article from AARP. The USDA says,
    “low acid foods such as meat and most veggies can be safe to eat “indefinitely”, if the cans are not rusty, swollen or dented and stored in a cool dry place. Quality will decline within two the five years.”

    White sugar, no expiration date. White rice 25 to 30 years.

    1. Mrs. U,

      In your earlier comment you mentioned you have a Grain Maker. Which model, 35, 99, 116? I’ve been dithering about whether to order one since it’s a significant investment. I’m leaning toward the 99. Did you order any additional replacement parts to have on hand? Do you recommend it?
      Thanks!

      1. Model 99 is awesome, best mill hands down,
        I got rubber burrs to de hull oats,
        Electric motor would be a nice add on

        1. Mrs U & Kulafarmer,

          Thanks for the recommendations, the 99 sound like “the one”! (And I rea;;u like the blue color, tho’ the other attachments would probably be red?)

          Kulafarmer – did you have to buy the huller attachment to use the rubber burrs, or do they attach directly to the main unit? Huller attachment is $$.

          Apologies is this is a duplicate, something went wrong the first time and I apparently didn’t recover correctly…

          1. Finally outta Ca
            Just burrs that install in the 99, were not too expensive but been a while since i got em

      2. The 99. It now comes in a nice blueish color too. Love It. Grinds corn with the larger auger and peanuts too. I have not made peanut butter. The off set handle is nice. Designed to keep from whacking your hand while grinding and it is ergonomic. Can be attached to a bicycle or motor for grinding also. Nice people too.
        Have not ordered any parts. The burrs are life time. Just saw Kula’s post and will looking into the rubber burrs.

  6. They say brown rice will go bad after about 6-9 months. Currently eating bags that are at least 2-3 years old stored on a shelf in original package it is fine. Just opened a 5 gal bucket of old fashioned oatmeal I packaged about 5 years ago with a bottle of cinnamon and 4 pounds of brown sugar. Again no problem though this was stored in Mylar with o2 absorbers.

  7. I have been steadily going through my dehydrated vegetables. They taste fine, however I notice that I have to soak them for at least three days before cooking with them. Otherwise I still end up with some chewy bits. These foods are at least 25 years old. i don’t seem to have this problem with the freeze dried.

    1. Peanut,
      TRY adding very warm water to them, and reheating 2x, over few hours..If putting in a soup partially crush.
      i did have some sweet peas took a long time to rehydrate…Is one of the veggies we love and can both eat…will be glad to have a pint or two when times get tough to add variety to recipes…

  8. We are using home canned tomato juice from 2017. They were pressure canned. I pressure can everything except pickles. DW was hesitant to take excedrin migrane that was 2 years out of date. She did take it with no ill side effects. I told her the worst that would happen is it would loose some of its strength. I think almost every thing is good for at least 1 year past the expiration, maybe much longer.

    1. The US government/military did study the effectiveness of medication past the “expiration date” and found that it was still pretty effective years (up to 15 years) after date —-the key ones that do have a true “shelf life” nitroglycerin/insulin/certain antibiotics ( esp if it’s mixed at time of dispense)

      As long as you keep the meds dry and away from light ( away from extreme temps- just like food storage too) it should still be effective- overall potency may diminish somewhat but it should still help ( not harm)

        1. Tetracycline is one of those antibiotics that should not be used past the expiration date as it can cause kidney problems (Fanconi syndrome)

    2. Car guy,read somewhere have stopped making Excedrin.Have not validated. get ingredients separately…

      1. Excedrin should still be available
        There was a recall years ago due to possible contamination ( that’s how I know Costco really keeps track of items you buy because the letter announcing the recall came to my home address and the only place I bought big bottle of med was from Costco)

    3. Car guy, I have taken Excedrin for Migraine that was five years out of date and was fine. My BIL (pharmacist) told me to take it with a Sudafed and it works every time. I buy in the very large bottles to always have on hand. I have tried other herbal remedies and even drinking vodka, but the first didn’t work for me and the second only works for about an hour.

  9. We are on a camping trip this week. Eating home-canned chicken from March 2017. Good. Home-canned tomatoes from 2016 in soups are still good. Just had some home canned seedless grapes from 2019. And will have some home canned cherries from 2014. The cherries are a bit mushy, but still yummy. The cherry juice is a great flavor enhancer for ice tea.

    Have not had a problem with any of these making us sick.

    Good article. Good reminders too.

  10. Fray Bentos Corned beef from 2009 tin looked good, meat looked good and smelled fine. Tasted fine and didn’t get sick. Stored in a dark, cool basement area. However a newer tin had bulged very slightly so didn’t even bother to open. Corned beef goes well with lots of stuff.
    Best to check carefully and rotate. If you have to pitch anything with a tin that opens with an attached key save the key before pitching the can, they have been known to break with stubborn cans.

  11. Nutella, 2 years past best by date. I only have one old one left.

    Dunkin Donuts whole bean coffee, stored in 30 cal ammo cans, 3 years past best by date. Only have one old can left.

    Noticed that Light Miracle Whip does not hold up well. Light Hellman’s mayonnaise doesn’t either.

    My goal is to get to 3 years of things I can’t easily make. I’m pretty much there. I figure if I can’t get after 3 years it probably doesn’t matter anymore and I’ll have to deal with the new normal.

    Kind of pissed they don’t make Nestea anymore. Soon going to run out.

  12. In fighting fires in Cali during the early 1980’s we were given C-rations sometimes as old as 1965. Most were made after 1965 that we ate. We never got sick off those rations.
    In the mid 1980’s somebody located an old CONEX container out is the desert somewhere and the fire camp in Riverside was issuing C-rations that were pre-1965 some as old as Korean War. We did not drive into that fire camp. I was flown in by helo with a bunch of other paramedics. Our packs were filled with IV kits and Lactated Ringers to start and maintain IV’s on sick firefighters that were puking and pooping themselves into a state of dehydration. We could smell the sickness in the air before we landed in the LZ.
    Ambulances were taking people to the hospital, washing out their rigs and returning to pick up more. There was a big pile of green cans over 4 feet high and the few I picked up to test were all pre-1965 and they were “oil-canning” signs of a blown seal. The townsfolk knew something was wrong because they could smell the camp and see used toilet paper blown against the cyclone fence. The fires were burning closer and there were few able bodied people able to cut line. Most of the line was cut close to town using bulldozers that day. (Bulldozers – Big Yellow McLeod)
    That was the last fire I saw C-rations on in Cali. After that debacle, I saw MRE’s, little smokie snacks ( a commercial venture started by a former fire fighter in Bakersfield, CA.). In fire camps, we were fed by catering companies or convict crews serving up steak and eggs. These days, I do not eat 20 year old canned food and I write the date on top of the cans within my garage.
    We sure could have used NRP’s mountain of TP back then.

  13. Years ago, I used to get rid of food that was past its expiration date. There wasn’t a lot of info about what those dates really meant, and we just assumed it was iffy to far past the expiration date.

    When I started canning regularly, I didn’t worry so much about how old it was. It was fresh and good quality food when it went in the jar, was canned by the book, and got stored in a cool dark place. We’re still eating salsa from 2016, the year of the way too big garden of plenty. Oldest thing we’ve eaten was from DB canned goods. Beets from 2008. They tasted alright, though not as brightly colored. Also, some home canned potatoes from 2009 I think. A bit mushy, but still good. I’ll admit to getting a wee bit nervous about eating those, but if the seals are good the food inside is still okay to eat, though with a lot of nutrient loss.

  14. I have kept a few jars of canned meats to test at regular intervals and the 2016 date is still good on looks and taste. I have canned butter but I don’t like it at any date…I prefer regular butter.

    I generally can peaches to last two years so I didn’t have to do it every year. The one item that does not appear to store well long term is juice. It breaks down more quickly than other items.

    The FD veggies I have used appear to be fine but they are only 9 years old. I need to try a can of older eggs.

  15. I’ve eaten several “Compleats” (shelf stable meat and potatoes) that expired in 2015. Smell and taste fine, no problems.

  16. When Mr. and I married he had some stored food/OLD BEANS and such. The two large boxes taking up room in MY pantry, of dorito type corn chips were ‘discussed’ several times with my losing the ‘discussion’. Eventually opening a box and serving one to Mr. made my point. “Here Dear, Try One of These, Yum Yum”….. OIL goes RANCID in those type foods, even in a large plastic container of animal crackers from Sam’s.

  17. The meat in my canned ravioli was pretty dried out not too long after the “best by” date, but it was still edible. Cereal with marshmallows gets stale pretty shortly after as well.

  18. I had a few #10 cans of pinto beans that were about 4 years past the best by date. They were a bit mushy. I turned them into refries and then dehydrated them. Excellent!

  19. Use of 10+ plus dry beans…adding a bit (depending on quantity of beans cooked) of baking soda to water before cooking will help with softening the beans.

  20. 1995/1987 bean test. After soaking for 3 and half days, I cooked the beans for 6 hours and still are not very edible. Even the beans cracked into pieces with hammer did not cook up well. Would be too much fuel if shtf for most folks. Did not use salt in the water either. Sometimes salt makes a bean or pea tougher. So my opinion is use for ‘flour’. NH Michael mentioned a pressure cooker. Maybe would be better. I do not have a small one.

      1. Would be an interesting experiment to put 100 old dried up beans in a moist towel inside a take out tray.

        Personally I suspect less than 10 would sprout and would then plant them in a pot to see if they were actually viable.

  21. Just used a packet of quick rise yeast from Aldi with best by date dec 2018
    The bread rose and was delicious with dinner last night-no complaints from family
    For some reason hubby and daughter are fastidious about expiration dates ( ignorance is bliss because they’ve had boxed Duncan Hines brownies made 9 mos past the Best Buy date and they were perfectly normal)

  22. Yesterday we made some Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bars. Very excited to see that some oatmeal and chocolate chips I put up way back were still fresh as new. I packed half gallon Mason jars, added an O2 absorber and Vac sealed with the Food Saver. These were packed back in 2014 and the chocolate chips (Large bag from Costco), tasted like I just got them from the store.

  23. I just heated up two pints of green beans canned in 2010.
    Still good.
    Have lots more to eat.

  24. in the 80’s when we went camping a friend of ours would get us c rations from his fathers stash from the Korean war era, and they were still good to go. Never all that delicious but edible and a P 38 opener with each one!

  25. I have cans of soup, chicken, tuna, packs of tuna, and canned hams as old as 2016 and all still taste good. And the spam, well I think Spam is good forever.

    1. I heard they found Spam buried at Mesa Verde in the Four Corners. (Rumor has it they deciphered the script…….”bought by NRP, June 1275″.)

      1. Don’t know why but when I read that I laughed and what came to mind was Highlander, There can only be one. NRP armed with his sword and trusty backpack of TP……

      2. Minerjim
        That is hilarious…..
        Did it have the pull top lid, or the old fashion key one would use to remove the lid?

  26. MSB Experts, I have a question.

    I had a chance to buy #10 cans of crushed tomatoes for $1.59, and Van Camps Pork and Beans #10 cans for $3.99. So I bought a bunch.

    I want to re-can into qts for the tomatoes and pints for the beans. Can I just jar them, pressure can for 10 mins, since they have already been cooked and canned?

    1. Stand Why do you desire to re-can these?

      Old stock? Dented or rusty cans? Or just too big for easy small family use?

      If old or dented or rusty re-canning them will NOT improve quality, actually as your DOUBLE Cooking them by re-canning I expect pretty mushy “Food” at best. Van Camps Sweet Refried Beans and Pork bits anybody?

      Too big isn’t a problem just accept your group is going to be eating more than on day’s worth of Pork and Beans. Make several Tomato style meals. Nothing but preference is why America has “Breakfast Foods”. Most the rest of the world Including Germany and Japan eat last nights Leftovers for Breakfast.

      Do you have a refrigerator or ice box capability? That’s why I set up a dorm sized fridge with solar for the deer camp.

      As far a canning times, that’s for the experts but as I understand the process PART of the Time-Pressure is to KILL Off Dangerous Bugs so you don’t get food poisoning. The pre-cooked food is almost secondary.

      Maybe I need to check in with my Diner friends. I’d like to get some cheap #10 cans :-) for the price I see 14 ounce cans in Hannaford’s.

      1. NH Michael
        Current production run, perfect condition cans expire date (means nothing) 4-2023.

        105 fl oz is a lot of tomatoes, just wondering by breaking them down it would most likely cut waste. The 15 oz can right beside them was $1.29. Soccer moms do not know what to do with 105 oz of tomatoes, (actually neither do I) so, they went on close out. Being the “hoarder” I am, I bought the inventory.

        105 fl oz of pork and beans? Now, I like them, but not for 3 meals a day for a week.

        I think I’ll try 1 can of each and see what it looks like

        1. SMG, tomatoes can be re canned n jars. they can be processed in hot water bath i f placing hot product in hot /sterilized jars, add lemon juice. the juice inside should be cooked down by 1/3 volume.can have onion powder and celery powder added for a cheap veg juice for soup base or for drinking. i have several and re -containerize them one or two at a time.. if hot water bathing can use spaghetti sauce jars….. i think beans can be repackaged as well – they would require pressure canner, might be mushy- would beat NO beans, could be used even double cooked for BBq beans etc..

        2. SMG, Great find! you opened up space for them to place another product , taking care of their problem…Great service!

        3. Stand my Ground
          The Pork & Beans can be changed up from the stand fare after consuming as regular meal. Ladies at the VFW post years ago added brown sugar/brown mustard/catsup or BBQ sauce and onions to the these beans. Oh, my,,, those were the best P & B I had ever eaten. It was paired along side their smoked barrel chicken which was cooked in 55 gallon drums. If you want a mix with an oniony bite try purple onion in the batch but add towards the end so that the onion is still crunchy.
          This is the way to use up an opened can in 3 or 4 meals. Be sure to place the left over P&B in to glass jars & lids for the fridge, divide them up equal so you can experiment with each jar. Glass will keep them colder & prolong food stability. (don’t forget to write down what you use for spicing up each concoction)

  27. Stand My Ground,
    I think if you “re-can” them in jars you will have tomato “puree” and “refried beans” or frijoles. If it were me, I’d leave it in cans and eat em up over the next 3-5 years. Just my 3-1/2 cents.

    1. Minerjim it is a good opportunity to concentrate the tomato diced or whole in to chopped/.Use only enough juice to cover the concentrated tomato in jar.. The juice will be 1/3 clear if processed straight out of #10. to save jars just cook the extra water off. If you wish puree you can get that..I can’t use a number 10 can in a month/ of either of these products.. this saves product..have not done my beans yet.but we eat few of them, intolerance…. the issue. i do have a can of them.. string beans i dehydrate. if i come up on them cheaper…

  28. I have some canned meat that started to develop black spots on the can. I coated all the cans in wax to keep the air and moisture off them. Do you think this will work?

    Stay frosty.

    1. if it keeps air off the dark spots ..it should. i would use those first. i have been putting light oil coating on outside edges of home canned goods.. to stop any rust before it starts..

  29. I pressure canned 1% milk in quarts and heavy cream in pints two years ago. Opened a milk lat week and it was fine.

    1. S. Lynn
      Can you tell me how you did your milk & cream in the pressure canner. Especially the heavy cream, I would be interested in your process.
      It is nice to see you post again.

      1. AC/DOUBLE TAP,
        I remember reading that milk was carried on ships in glass bottles and would last 18 months without refrigeration. It was “ultra pasteurized “. Found it in one of my old books in my library. From the early 1900’s.
        Not sure what that entails though. I guess its the same principle used for the cartons of shelf stable milk they sell in quarts at the stores…

        1. BJH
          Book sounds interesting. Do you recall the books title? Also who produced it and the authors?
          I wander around the Good Will every so often & find books that we lost in the fire years ago.

          1. AC,
            M grandson( thank God for a young brain) believes its in a book called
            “Household Cyclopedia of 1881”.
            I just checked online and it can be downloaded from public domain.
            It has alot of formulas/info in it.
            A good PDF book to have in your personal library. I think a friend sent me the book years back when he sent me books he thought I would be interested in.
            I’m going to download it on a storage device today myself. Need to look for the book in the library…lol

          2. BJH
            Be sure to tell your grand son I said ‘thank you very much’. When I locate my special medical book, simple to read & understand ‘how to care’ & searching for illness. Will post the title for you(and anyone else). It was written by a University medical school, and can not tell you how many times it came in handy with ACDH over the years.

          3. Yes, thanks!! Opened another rabbit hole while looking at that one. Kind of reminds me of the book Lucifer’s Hammer where the Scientist sealed books in Ziplocs and hid them in a septic tank to be retrieved later. So much info, so little time…..

  30. Agreed!! I’ve seen some info on canning milk & cream but would love some real world experience & tips. Thanks!

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