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DEAR ABBY: My mom and many others share this problem. She refuses to throw away expired food. I'm not talking about something a few days past its "best used by" date; I'm talking years.

Yesterday, I found a box of bread crumbs that had expired in 2001 (I took a picture). Mom insisted that they "never really go bad." I told her she had better hope she isn't the beneficiary of the life insurance policy of anyone who eats them or she could end up as an episode of "Snapped."

Seriously, though, this is a huge problem for the elderly. I hope you will encourage your readers to help their older friends and family members by cleaning out their fridge and cabinets. I always check the expiration date before eating anything at my mom's. Thank you! -- DATE CHECKER

DEAR DATE CHECKER: Your mother is mistaken. While it is safe to consume some foods a few weeks past their expiration date, other items begin to lose their nutritional value or spoil.

I'm glad you wrote. I'm printing your letter for other readers whose older relatives think the way your mother does, so they can check the expiration dates on packages in their relatives' cupboards (and remove any bulging or rusted cans that could cause botulism, a fatal illness)."

This is so true. I found this with my MIL. She tended to "stock up" just in case family visited last minute. She lived in Fla, one son NJ, one Miss and one Ga. None of us close enough for a last minute visit. She had water crackers that I ate and spit out. They were rancid. Checked the ex date and they were a year pasted the ex date. After that I checked the box. We were there earlier in the year and came for TG. She had Bagels that I checked before I ate. The pkg was from when we were there before. There were other outdated pkgs and rolls. I took them out and told her none of it was any good. But she was told they would stay in the frig. I said maybe longer than on the counter but even refrigerated bread molds. She was not happy with me. What got me is nothing I thru away was anything she normally ate. When we cleaned her pantry out after she passed, most of the food was no good. She had a pork roast in the freezer that was 2 yrs old.

Pretty sure we are all aware of this but then some may have never thought about Moms pantry. Where I worked had a food closet. We were obligated to get rid of expired food. Anything with flour should not be used past ex date. Flour goes rancid. Jelly gets moldy on top but there are spores in the rest of the jar. Canned goods are still good past ex date but quality maybe compromised. Like said get rid of bulging tops and rusted cans. Frozen food only lasts a few months, check the internet for ex dates.

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TN, I never realized this. My refrigerator is a manual defrost and so was the previous one before that. Wondered why my meat didn't keep as well as my sm chest freezer. I had read that freezer temps need to be 0 or below to keep meat long. But, never thought of the manual defrost effecting it. Glad I stopped using the frig freezer long ago. I have also read that chest freezers are better for keeping things frozen. TU.
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Just want to make a comment about the dates on food in the freezer. Depending on the type of freezer, food that has been in there two years can be perfectly good. It wouldn't be in an auto-defrosting freezer because food thaws slightly with each freezer defrost, but if you have a manual defrost freezer, then properly sealed food stays good for years. I have a manual defrost freezer for just this reason. I freeze fruits and garden vegetables for winter consumption and would not dream of throwing out any strawberries or corn that manage to survive over the winter. I also stock up on meat when it's on sale, sometimes it's 5 or 6 months before I use it all - and the last pack is as good as the first. I also freeze hot dogs and sandwich meat because depending on the number of grandkids (and their friends) that come to visit or how long they stay I can run through multiple packs per day (particularly now that the older kids are teenagers). So if you looked at the "use by" date on my sandwich meat, it might be 2 months back, but it's been in the freezer since the day I brought it home from the grocery. I start counting days from when its thawed.
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I liked the post about people losing their tastes and smell goes with this. More reason to go thru their food.

When it comes to expiration dates on food, there is "best if used by" which mean it will be OK after that date just may have lost some quality. "Use by" usually means that is the last day it should be good. When it all comes down to it, if the taste or smell is off, don't eat. But if elderly have lost there smell and taste they won't be able to determine bad from good.

Did you know the loss of smell can mean the onset of Dementia?
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My dad is a hoarder, but late last month he let me go through one cupboard in his kitchen. It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but I filled two gallon pails with old, rancid and congealed food stuffs.


He had recently heard that spices lose their effectiveness after a year and was complaining that his Paprika (8 years old) didn't have any flavour. There were rancid nuts, coconut, seeds, raisins that were grey, garlic powder that was a solid mass etc.

I think in part Dad is losing a bit of both his sense of taste as well as his sense of smell, but I was happy to get the cupboard cleared out and cleaned out too.


He did not let me toss the 25 or 30 year old container of dried mashed spuds, not the 50-100 foil containers from his local 'meals' program. But it was a start. And I was able to put food away on the vacant shelves.

Hopefully when I go over later this month I can toss the 2 10kg bags of rancid whole wheat flour.
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Right now my mom is hoarding oyster crackers. the ones that you get when you order soup
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tacy, I had to laugh at the toilet paper stockpile. My mother was doing that, too. It seemed that EVERY trip to the store she was buying large packages of tp, whenever they were on sale.

One time I asked her why was she getting it again, because she just got it last time. She informed me that she had a stockpile of it (no kidding). And then she said, "When I die, don't go taking all of it!" I just said, "Put it on the list." This is what I say to her when she starts making demands of what should be done after she's gone, things like how the master bathroom door needs to be CLOSED during condo showings when it's for sale, etc. She is already trying to control things beyond the grave!

I was telling one of my brothers about this, because he doesn't realize what she's like, because he rarely talks to her on the phone and hardly ever comes down here. (It's going on 1.5 years since he's been here; one time he didn't bother to come down for FIVE YEARS; this is why I call him Sonny No-Show.) Anyway, when I told him about the toilet paper, he has the nerve to say, "I will take some of that." I said fine, but I'm not shipping it.

Maybe he was joking, maybe not. When he found out our mother gave me her car to drive her around, he said, "I wish someone would give ME a car." (He'd just crashed his.) I said, "Fine -- her car is YOURS and YOU can drive her around." And then she'd have to live near him! Haha.
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My grandma didnt stock up food instead it was toilet paper. Charmin from the 1950s before the baby was on the label. It just grosses me out.
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Daughterof1930, thanks for the smile :)) That was funny.
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I have learned in my short time here....clean out the fridge while grandma is watching soaps or Westerns...I do what I must and replenish​ promptly! There's only been a few times she has noticed....she does seem hurt, for a split second...as long as there's another she can eat, she's over it.
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to pebbles2014 depending on what your clients issues are - dementia? or maybe something else? if it is bad food, then you are just protecting them. right? toss the bad food out when they are not looking. if you feel uncomfortable about that. maybe keep a record of what you toss and why.(or ask who ever employs you)
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I'm a caregiver my client gets mad if I throw bad food away but what can I do
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Sorry, I was being argumentative because this is a hot button topic in my world. Too many of my younger family members think they are going to die if their yogurt has gone watery or the salad dressing has expired last week, I think we've taken things to ridiculous extremes.
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Bleached white flour doesn't go rancid, biscuit mix has shortening in it so it can get rancid, whole wheat flour can also get rancid because it still contains the germ. I stock up when things are cheap and being single some items inevitably don't get used up as fast as they should, I routinely eat items that are past the best before date.
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Shad, if you find outdated food in any store selling it, report it to the office. It is illegal for them to sell it past the date stamped on the pkg. I had this with a biscuit mix. Flour does not last forever. It gets rancid. In our local grocery store a manager was fired because outdated items had not been removed. As a food closet we were not allowed to give out expired food. Canned goods and pasta were given to a Church that used them for a soup kitchen.
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I was tasked when my mom died with selecting the inscription for my parents gravestone. It was a bittersweet assignment. As my dad’s still alive it also felt very strange to be selecting what to have written on his side. I got it accomplished. However, our whole family has often commented that dad’s ought to be changed to read “I shouldn’t have eaten that!”
Take that in the lighthearted way it’s meant. We do regularly throw out food from his fridge and pantry. But the way and time in which he was raised, one just didn’t throw away food
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This can be a very serious issue...Eating spoiled food, especially very perishable meat, dairy etc can result in food poisoning which leads to diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration, electrolytes out of balance, falls, broken bones, hospitalizations, rehab...it can happen. When my mom's dementia crept in, I wound up keeping better watch and she was not distressed at throwing things out especially when I did it once she was in bed...it's better to not throw anything out, but better yet to throw it out when in doubt. I will never forget joining a supervisee for housekeeping where it was going to be an all day or half day project to clean out the fridge of a couple. A patient and adoring husband who took his wife with dementia grocery shopping because she "liked to shop". The fridge was literally packed from the back to the front so that it just closed. We had to buy more trash bags. All that was left when we finished were some condiments. Don't let it happen.
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The link between food expiration dates and food waste has been a news item lately, many foods are perfectly safe years beyond their best before date, some foods can last almost forever. Obviously spoiled foods need to go, as well as bulging cans or things infested by bugs or rodents. And I do question the value of keeping something that has languished in a cupboard for years (or decades!), if it hasn't been used by now it likely never will be.
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I went to grandma's house in 2011 for the purpose of cleaning up and cleaning out. I found food as old as 2000, 2001, and the occasional jello or pudding box from 1990, lol. It was mostly condiments and boxed goods. I kept some of the spices that were past date if they seemed ok.

My dad has this horrible habit of letting bologna and cottage cheese and things like that go weeks or months past Best By date, and still insisting that they're fine to eat. Maybe they are. I figure he's made it to 80 eating this way, I'm not going to fight with him about it. I would throw away things when he wasn't looking, though. :-) I think this is extremely common, that caregivers have to get rid of long-expired food.
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Some stores sell items at or past use sell by date.

Parents can buy honey, it never spoils
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Yes I have a bread box. Its a pine one and keeps my bread pretty well.
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I have just given up trying to throw old food out at my parents
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This brought back a memory:
My uncle was going through some jars of canning his mother had put down in his cellar, checking to see if they were still edible. He mentioned that some of the pickles were "d***ed good". This was in the early 2000's. His mother died in 1974.🤣
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the other day I bought a bag of 3 color coleslaw. green and red cabbage w carrots. and i always check the dates at the store. its only me and husband. so we don't use stuff up very fast.
so the date was good for a week. i opened it and looked inside (habit)but something seemed off. i poured some in the bowl. (i was mixing with other stuff)
it looked a little off. so i smelled inside the bag. BLEH

sour. gross.

i noticed before my mom and dad went to AL. they weren't SEALING product well after use. (no clippy thing)

my mom so meticulous before ---just cant anymore.

in AL she leaves her cookie/cracker packages wide open (and gets ants sometimes) and i have to double check stuff like that all the time.
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When I first went to mom's to care for her there was flour infested with bugs. Of course many things in the fridge. The worst was two cans of stewed tomatoes that had stewed way too long. The cans had exploded in the cupboard. 😵
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JoAnn, I think when it become an issue with an elderly Mom what happens is the adult/child dynamic kicks in. Mom is the adult and you are the child, and what do you know :P It's a fighting battle that cannot be won.

I think it is how one was trained or learned on their own. My own Mother was one when shopping would dig to back of the grocery shelf for an items with the most far-out expiration date :) I learned that, too. It was a feel good moment !!

My sig other never learned that, so it was a struggle to get him to toss out expired items. I even tried to teach him to use the sniff test for lettuce and other greens. Same with milk. With this hot weather, even with A/C I will find loaves of bread will deteriorate quicker. That just reminded me, does anyone use a "bread box" any more?
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