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Emergency Supplies: What to Do with Them When They’re Expired

During National Preparedness Month in September, we encourage our readers (and clients) to stock up on emergency food, gather first-aid supplies, and establish a strategy in place if the worst scenario occurs.

Even though this information might be valuable to you, it’s likely that you already know much of it–since many of you are already prepared.

What do you do with the things you can’t use? What’s to be done with those long-standing emergency provisions?

What do you do with your emergency food supply if your family can’t finish it before it expires? Are there any special considerations for medications or gasoline cans?

The ability to reuse emergency supplies is what separates a beginner prepper from a professional.

What to do with Expired Emergency Food

For many families, stocking up on nonperishable food items such as canned goods is a way to be prepared for emergencies.

However, many canned goods have a “use by” date. The good news is that the “use by” date isn’t the same as an expiration date.

The “use by” (or “sell by”) date is simply a symbol for when the food is at its best quality. You can eat canned goods far past these dates without risk of getting sick. They won’t taste as good, but you won’t be harmed.

Even the government advocates not adhering to the “use by” or “sell by” date.

“Dates on cans indicate peak quality as determined by the manufacturer. So don’t immediately toss a can with an expired date. Low-acid foods (such as canned meat, poultry, fish, stew, soups, green vegetables, beans, carrots, corn, peas) may be stored for up to five years.” According to the USDA , “ commercially canned goods may be kept for two to five years without opening them”

Even if you’re emergency food stockpile is full, it won’t last forever. However, that doesn’t mean everything has to go to waste.

Here are a few ways to best utilize no longer edible emergency food:

Compost: Canned vegetables and fruit can be added to your compost pile in the same manner as fresh fruit and veggies. Before adding them to your compost pile, drain off any excess liquid and wash them thoroughly. However, avoid including any canned food containing oil or grease, such as canned meats.

It takes a long time for canned goods to go bad, but they do lose quality after the “use by” guideline. If you don’t want to eat food that isn’t as good as it used to be, offer it to your pets. The key is to ensure that the food hasn’t deteriorated. It’s quite simple to tell if something has gone wrong; it’ll look and smell unpleasant, with a misshapen can.

Host a Party: When the time comes to replace your food supply, hold a party with like-minded friends. Enjoy your emergency rations and request that people bring recipes they had planned to use in case of an emergency. Share ideas and discuss what you should eliminate and add next time. Just keep in mind that you want to only invite individuals you can trust, since you don’t want everyone to find out about your emergency food pantry.

Create a Decoy: You need to keep your emergency food a secret in order to prevent theft. If people know you have food, they will try to take it from you. One way to protect your food is to keep some of it in a key location that is not easily accessible. This way, thieves will be fooled into thinking that this is all thefood you have and will leave you alone.

Before we discuss other emergency items, it’s worth noting the importance of long-term emergency food stockpiles. Long-term emergency food, unlike canned goods, is intended to last for ten, twenty-five, and thirty years. You may buy it, store it, and forget about it for a decade or two…or three.

Repurpose Gasoline

While gasoline may degrade over time, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be used. If you think your gas has gone bad, there are a few ways to tell for sure. Try smelling it or checking the color against fresh gasoline. If the gas is darker in color or smells sour, it’s probably expired.

Fortunately, you don’t have to get rid of it. You can invigorate it by adding fresh gas.

The procedure of combining the old gas with the new gas should get the engine restarted.

Working with both old and fresh gasoline outside is the best approach to stay safe.

How to Repurpose Food Containers

If your emergency food has expired, don’t discard the containers! You can use them for other purposes.

#10 Cans: Emergency Essentials provides long-term emergency food in #10 cans. Once you open and consume the food inside, the #10 cans can double as storage containers for supplies, trash cans, and rocket stoves on an open fire. They can also be used to collect rainwater, and you can even bake bread in them!

Regular Tin Cans: Reuse the cans for keeping little items if your food pantry is mostly comprised of canned goods. Make candle holders or luminaries out of them.

Food Storage Buckets: Food-grade buckets that are often used to store bulk emergency food can have a new life after their contents are removed. Their large size and durability make them convenient for collecting rainwater, anchoring a boat, hiding items, washing clothes, and more.

Expired Medicine and what its good for

You might not be aware, but some states demand that pharmacists put an expiration date one year from when the prescription was written—even though there is no indication the medication will actually expire.

According to one scientific research, “The majority of drug expiration date information is derived from a study commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration on behalf of the military. The military was concerned about tossing out and replacing its medicines every few years after discovering that 90 percent of more than 100 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, were still in good working order after 15 years.”

Many of the items in your first aid kit can still be used safely long after their expiration date. They may not work as well, but it’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them!

In addition, research shows that solid tablets are more stable than liquid medications.

Although medications do have an expiration date, they can last much longer than the general public thinks. For example, many antibiotics that are stockpiled for civil defense purposes can last over a decade – even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Even though something like epinephrine may turn brown and degrade over time, it is still usable in emergency situations.

Don’t Throw It Away!

Before you toss anything out, think hard about the food, containers, medicine, or other resources you have in your stockpile. You might overlook a potential source of assistance in an emergency or waste an opportunity to repurpose the item into something more useful.

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