10 Things You Can Do With Expired Food
As a prepper, there have been times where the food I have purchased has expired. It seems like a waste of money to just throw out expired food, especially when you are preparing for any kind of SHTF scenario. Instead of just throwing it out, there are other ways you can use it.
What is Expired Food?
For this post, we are going to discuss expired food, but not rotten food. Expired food is food that is past its expiration date, use-by, or sell-by date. Keep in mind that there is a certain amount of time between when food expires and when it actually goes bad. This in-between time is the perfect window of opportunity for you to put expired food to good use.
Is Expired Food Usable?
You are going to have to trust your senses a little bit to determine if food is old but still usable or just downright rotten. If the color or texture is drastically changed, just throw it out. If it smells bad or rotten, then you need to throw it out too.
Things You Can Do with Expired Food
Obviously, knowing what to do with your expired food depends on what kind of food you have that is expired. Most people are taught that when something is bad to pitch it in the trash, but a prepper knows there is always something you can do. Here are 10 ways you can still use your expired food:
#1 Use it as Fertilizer
One thing I highly recommend is that you are self-sufficient. This means that you have a garden of some kind. When we are solely reliant on the grocery store for our food, we won’t know how to make our own if there is no grocery store. When you have a garden, you usually need fertilizer, but instead of buying it from the store, you can make your own. Start a compost pile where you can put scraps such as eggs, vegetables, coffee grounds, and other organic materials.
#2 Feed it to the Animals
We used to always give scraps to the pigs, chickens, and dogs. Food that was in the fridge a little too long but wasn’t rotten was given to the outside dogs. Keep in mind, you don’t want to give rotten meat to your dogs or cats since it can make them sick. You will want to check the food for mold or bacteria before giving it to any animals.
#3 Turn it Into a Cleaner
Some foods, such as Mayonnaise, actually make good cleaners when they are expired. In fact, mayo has an oil content that really shines up stainless steel. Additionally, lemons and limes make excellent garbage disposal cleaners.
#4 Use it as a Cosmetic Face Mask or Exfoliant
You may not want to eat expired food, but some foods can be better on your face than a face cleaner. Here are two things you can use as a face mask or exfoliant:
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is full of lactic acid which helps exfoliate dead skin cells. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of yogurt and 1 tablespoon of honey in a bowl. Then, apply it to your face. Let sit for 15-minutes and wash it off.
- Coffee: In addition to putting it in your compost, you can use coffee as a face exfoliator, too. It is packed with antioxidants. Simply mix stale coffee grounds with a little bit of milk to form a paste. Then, apply it to your face. Let it sit for 20-minutes and rinse.
#5 Use Spoiled Milk in Baking
So, instead of chucking your spoiled milk, use it in baked goods such as making bread, muffins, and cakes. In fact, spoiled milk can be used as a buttermilk substitute. Do not use it past 1-2weeks expiration. Here are a few recipes where you can use your spoiled milk:
- Texas Chocolate SheetCake
- Soda Bread Recipe
- The Best Cornbread Recipe
- Overnight Hawaiian Bread Egg Bake
For more information on Sour versus Spoiled milk check out this link: Healthline
#6 Revive Brown Sugar
How many times have you opened your brown sugar only to find it hard and unusable? Don’t throw it out! Instead, revive it with a blender. You may need to add a few drops of water to help break up the clumps, but even if your brown sugar is past its expiration date, you can soften it up in the blender.
#7 Keep Stale Bread
Obviously, stale bread isn’t very tasty to eat, but it is great to use as bread crumbs. Instead of buying bread crumbs at the store, make your own. Simply pulse a few pieces of stale bread in your blender, add a bit of salt and pepper, and use it as a breading or in your meatloaf. You can also make bread crumbs with stale cereal or crackers.
#8 Turn Your Avocados into Shampoo
Nobody wants to eat an avocado past its expiration date, but you can use it to clean and moisturize your hair. Smash up the avocado into a bowl, apply to wet hair, and then wash it out like you would your normal shampoo or conditioner.
#9 Turn Expired Veggies into Vegetable Stock
Wilted vegetables can be placed in the freezer until you can turn them into vegetable stock. Once you make them into a stock, you can then can them for a longer period of time.
#10 Keep Your Canned Goods
Most canned goods have an expiration date for the quality of the food, not necessarily the safety of the food. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture says acidic foods have a good quality for 18-months, and other canned foods can be good for 5-years. Basically, canned foods are fine to consume even after their expiration date. They may not always taste the greatest or have much nutritional value after the expiration date, but in most cases can be safely consumed up to 5-years after the date.
Botulism in Canned Food or Expired Food
One concern with canned food is botulism. We typically see this in home-canned food, not what is bought from the store. Please follow the USDA guidelines for home canning. When in doubt, throw it out! Here are a few reasons you should always throw canned food out:
- The can is leaking, has bulges, or is swollen.
- It looks damaged or cracked.
- The container spurts liquid or foam when you open it.
- If the food smells bad, looks discolored, or is moldy.
10 Things You Can Do with Expired Food
Rather than throw expired food out, see if you can use it in another way. If it is rotten, please throw it out! What other ways have you found to reuse expired food? Please share with us in the comments below! May God Bless this world, Linda
40 thoughts on “10 Things You Can Do With Expired Food”
We’ve used expired, but still good foods, in soups and stews and such.
Hi Deborah, me too! I try to keep on top of rotating but life happens. Linda
Yes, life does happen. Too often.
When it comes to brown sugar i keep a piece of bread in my container. The bread goes stale but the sugar stays soft.
Thanks, Barbara, I love this! Linda
You are so right Linda! Just this morning I made breakfast using a can of whole potatoes that was 5 years past date, they were fine. It’s the same with other canned food as well. As you said if the can is not oozing or bulging open and inspect the contents. If there is not a bad smell or off coloring then it should be good to use. With food dollars the way they are I can’t afford to throw away food just because of a date.
Hi Bob, the price of groceries is way out of sight! I need to pick up some canned potatoes, I never think to buy those. We cannot afford to waste any food that’s for sure. Linda
Fresh produce culled by the grocery store because it is past it’s prime or blemished is sold at great discounts & is great for dehydrating. I routinely purchase colored peppers, bananas & apples for this purpose.
Hi Gwen, great tip on the discounted produce! Linda
Canned beans and veggies that are longest on your shelf or past their BBD are perfect to use in soups, chowders, stew, chili, and shepherd & pot pies! The combination of several ingredients, herbs & spices and slow simmering mask any “can” flavor or mushiness. Winter is the perfect time to use up older FIFO storage that slipped under the radar during warmer month’s fresh food bounty!
Hi Bernie, I agree, I love making soup, chowders, chili!!!!! Bring out the cans and simmer some soup on the stove. Life is so good with a full pantry! Linda
What I do is stop calling it expired. Most dates on cans and boxes are “best by” dates. Just like I might have been at my “best” in 2011, I’m not calling myself expired in 2020.
I suppose my Spam story prompted this post. LOL!!! Here in the Texas Hill Country, we have plenty wild critters to take care of disposal of food stuffs that are REALLY past usability. Between the white tail deer, gray foxes, squirrels, racoons, opossums, skunks and armadillos, they take care of almost anything that we throw out. Of course, you know that I don’t toss anything before making sure it is actually inedible. As you said, store bought canned goods seldom go bad within several years beyond the date on the can. Great posting that I will share with several folks that I know who throw out perfectly good food. Makes me ill when I hear of them doing that.
Everyone stay warm. It is getting chilly even here in central Texas.
Hi Harry, oh my gosh, that’s right you talked about a can of Spam you found!! LOL! I grew up on Spam, although I liked mine really thin and crispy! Stay warm, Linda
I saw your comments 5 & 7 and I had to smile. For one I always use soured milk (not milk that stinks) and us it in place as buttermilk which I use a whole lot of and for bread. When my bread is past it’s prime I dry it out in the oven and then either make bread crumbs which I put in plastic bags and remove all the air and then put into containers or I cut it up in squares or strips and dry it out and save as I do my bread crumbs and put them up for holidays when I am making dressing and use them instead of white bread itself. They soak up the broth from the Turkeys and make the best dressing in the world
Hi Jackie, we know how to save money! No waste! Life is good when the garbage can is not full. Love it! Linda
Back in my “bush” days we used to rinse slightly green tinged meat really well with vinegar then boil it up with some strong flavourings to make it edible. Not always successful but more often than not. I think we had pretty tough stomachs back then though. If I’m not going to use up a whole container of yogurt or milk before the expiry date I usually freeze it in pre-measured batches and label it for baking. So far I’ve been successful in my food stash rotation and rarely end up with anything too far past it’s date. It helps if you have things you actually use regularly. I usually buy discounted meat that needs to be cooked right away, then cook and freeze it that day. Roasts can be sliced then frozen so you can use it for sandwiches.
Hi Alice, I always check the discount meat section! I learned this year I can freeze whipping cream! WOW! I bought like 4 cartons and froze them! Life is good when we get stuff on sale! Linda
I guess this is why I rotate religiously! I know that not everyone does, however. I think some of the terminology in your post should be changed! LOL! For example, “spoiled milk” – I would never use spoiled milk! Milk past its “best by” date, yes but not spoiled milk!! Just me perhaps!
I would also caution about feeding animals old canned goods – when I was a kid, we had several cans of peas that were well past their prime and Dad said to take the peas out to the chickens. Well, the next day, we had a number of dead chickens – sure glad we humans didn’t eat those peas. The peas were not moldy or otherwise suspect but that was the only thing that was different so we laid the blame on the old peas. After that, Dad made sure that any old veggies had to be put into a pit and covered to keep from killing anything else! BTW, we rarely had this issue as we also rotated our food so not often had old cans/jars of anything. In fact, we really ate well just before putting new fruits and veggies up for the fall/winter to make sure that anything from the prior year was used up.
Also, when going through your pantry, discard any canned good that shows any bulging or severe denting. I just wouldn’t trust anything that has either of those 2 things going on.
So, I had an interesting thing happen early this week – one day, I think it was Tuesday, my door bell was rung. I opened the door and there were two people there delivering 2 large boxes of food to me. They were from the local food bank and said that I had signed up for deliveries – monthly. I had NOT signed up for deliveries simply because I can afford to purchase food and felt that the food bank was for people who had challenges to being able to buy their food. Well, they told me that they couldn’t take the food back to the food bank so I accepted and dispersed the food here at the senior apartment complex where I live. One of the disappointing things, however, – several cans of veggies and fruit were severely dented AND most of the products were well past their best by dates. In fact, there was a frozen whole chicken with a best by date of January 1, 2020. Now, if I had purchased the chicken and knew how it was treated by me, I wouldn’t have an issue with it. But, since I have no idea if the meat was frozen/thawed/frozen, I am inclined to just toss the bird. I wouldn’t want to get sick from eating something that was so outdated or give it to someone and them get sick.
Take care when eating or using old food!! some will work well and some not so much.
Hi Leanne, I wouldn’t feed anything to an animal that I wouldn’t eat myself. I should word that differently. When in doubt throw it out is my motto. I’m not sure I would eat that canned chicken either. Yikes! No dents in cans for me. Wow! Linda
What an excellent article. We as a nation, throw away entirely too much food for no good reason. My wife and I have always used stale bread for bread crumbs–and we also feed it to both our chickens and wild birds.
“Expired” milk is useful for making pudding and things like chocolate cream pies.
All veggie scraps either go to the chicks or the compost piles.
Before they got picky, we used to donate expired canned goods to food banks, but they don’t accept such goods now.
One of the other things you can do with expired foods is get together with your neighbors and throw a block party–at least you could do that in the pre-Covid days.
Just last Tuesday some people brought by 2 boxes of food from the Food Bank – most of it WAS past the best by date – some was pretty severely damaged as well. But the one thing that bothered me the most, not knowing how it was handled, is the frozen whole chicken – was it frozen/thawed/frozen? I don’t know and the best by date was back in January 2020. So, 11 months old and not knowing how it was handled by the donating party then the food bank, well, I am simply not going to take my or anyone else’s health into possible harm’s way. It, along with the dented cans of products are going in the trash.
Hi Leanne, this is a shame that dented cans were donated. That is not good. Linda
Hi Linda, a couple things; mayonaise is also a great treatment for lice. Worked on my kids when all the meds did not. About sour milk–pasturized, homogenized milk does not sour, it spoils or rots. Cream top milk or raw milk. on the other hand can be used for a long time for baking and such( it does eventually go bad). Watch out for botulism in canned meats– home or store bought as it has no bad smell or taste, and you cannot see it either… stay safe!
Hi Jan, thanks for the heads up on head lice with mayo! I’m a Master Canner Preserver so I’m all about canning safety! Great comment! Linda
Anyone who wants to use Mayo to cure head lice, needs to know that they have to absolutely “smother” the head with the mayo. Then place a disposable shower cap on the head and wait for 6-8 hours. Remove the shower cap, shampoo the head, probably more than once and you’re good to go. The whole idea behind this is that the Mayo “smothers” the living lice as well as the nits and thus you are rid of the nasty buggers.
Hi Suzanne, thank you for this tip with the mayo and the shower cap!! It seems like every September when school would start one kid would come home with lice. It’s a fact of life. Thank goodness we can use mayo and a shower cap! Great tip! Linda
The shelf-life of canned vegetables that are either at or past their expiration date, can also be extended by dehydrating them and storing them in a jar until you are ready to use them.
Hi Deatra, oh my gosh!!!! Why didn’t I think of that! LOL! Oh, how I love my reader’s ideas! Love it! Thank you, Linda
Yes, you can dehydrate your canned vegetables. That’s how you can make instant beans. When you’re ready to use them, all you have to do is rehydrate them. They can be used for soups and stews. You can also dehydrate leftover cooked rice.
Here’s another little tip: Once you’ve put your dehydrated vegetables in the jar, you can either vacuum seal or place an oxygen absorber in the jar to keep the air out. This will also extend the shelf-life of your food.
Hi Deatra, I have heard of people dehydrating their cooked beans, I have never done it. There are so many wonderful ways to preserve our food! Thank you, Linda
Linda, I’m so glad I can be of some help. The name of the game is to preserve the food for as long as we can, and not throw any of it away. I’ve been prepping now for over 10 years and I’ve learned a whole lot of my prepping from the preppers who were on YouTube ten years ago.
I refer to these individuals as the “First Group” of YouTube preppers. I consider these as my mentors.
When you get a chance, check out these channels
Our Half Acre Homestead
The Homestead Honey Hour
I’m still working
Noreen’s Kitchen (Atticus 9799)
Not sure if anyone already said this, but I check my pantry every 6-8 months. Any about to be expired/out of date cans, I make a large pot of (as my mother used to call it,) slumgullion stew, with any vegs, canned meats, and and newer fresh veggies. After simmering, then letting it cool down I can it in pint or half gallon jars. Since I have a lot of guests, this is great for when they come. My niece and nephew want all my recipes, and helps me do some of the canning. I have 6 freezers, and I also have about 2 yrs worth of food back stocked. Both frozen or dehydrated. I live on almost 3 acres in city limits, and do not raise any chicks, goats or any edible stock. I’m too old, and I used to live on an 800 acre farm in PA, so I’m done with all that. I purchase foods at my local grocery store, ( especially when on sale.) I teach my neighbors how to preserve foods, and I have even taught a class to a lot of kids in my town. I LOVE canning, whether it be a hot water bath, or pressure cooker. I like passing on the “old ways” to newer generations.
H Linda, oh how I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment! I had to giggle in a good way about having 6 freezers! I love it! You have learned so much in your life living on an 800-acre farm, wow! Oh, the experiences you would have had! I applaud you for preserving food and teaching your family and others to preserve food. Oh, and I love your idea of the expired/out of date cans that make your slumgullion stew! People can learn so much from you! Keep it up! Linda
I realize this post is from 2020, but I also realize I still have a lot to learn…… like don’t put orange juice in the pop cabinet and forget about it…… Six months past expiration date it is brown….yuck….and I feel guilty since I try very hard not to waste money.
Hi Chris, it’s called a learning curve. We have all done it, once, maybe twice. It’s okay, you have other food, and one bottle is one bottle. It’s frustrating, but luckily you didn’t six of them go bad! Linda
………actually it was 12 bottles, in a cabinet I seldom go in. I’m just glad they didn’t leak, and you are right…..it’s a learning curve. On the plus side……I got that cabinet cleaned out…… I did take 18 pounds of Angel Hair pasta out of their cardboard boxes and into Tupperware Modular Mates…..onto the next lesson.
Hi Chris, yikes! I’m glad they didn’t leak too!!! It’s all good, Linda
Hint for hardened brown sugar. Place a piece of bread in the package with the hard sugar. It will soften everything within a few days. Eventually the bread will have all the moisture extracted and become hard, and it can be used for bread crumbs.
Hi George, thank you for the great reminder on hardened brown sugar and a piece of bread! I love it! Linda