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When my mother moved in with me over 4 years ago, some luggage from a set came along and was stored in the top of her closet. We didn't need the large or small roller bags until this summer when Mom spent 10 days with her sister. When I opened the small bag there were 2 cans of coffee in it. Mom needed to store some things in "hidden" places because as my father's vascular dementia worsened, he would go into the pantry and throw things away (because he thought there was too much) or tell my mother she didn't need any grocery money that month because there was so much food in the pantry and freezer. Before his dementia, Dad has never said anything about how Mom managed the kitchen and afterwards he couldn't understand Mom purchased most grocery basics on sale or that a freezer is always full in late fall with the food put up over the summer. Mom stopped growing gardens at age 78 but we still purchased produce from local farms to can and freeze. There's nothing like the taste of vine ripen strawberries or corn gathered and frozen the same day.


The best used by date on that coffee is 2 years in the past and logically I should just pitch that $20 of coffee right? As Mom (oldest daughter raised during the Depression) taught me, I hate "wasting" anything and particularly groceries. Those coffee cans have been sitting in my kitchen now for over a month and I found myself searching online this morning for how long coffee can last in the unopened can...


Anyone else have similar issues? Or am I a special nut case?

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Big hugs.

I have two first aid kits in my bathroom cabinet.

[which reminds me: Daughter 1, a couple of years back, came downstairs and demanded "WHY is there an IV giving set in the bathroom cupboard?" I remembered that Mother had travelled to Namibia at some point and travellers at the time were advised to take sterile equipment with them for fear of poor practices in certain countries. We must have kept it... in case].

Anyway, so that one was duly returned to a safe clinical disposal unit at D1's hospital; but the first aid kits are still there. I do not travel. I wouldn't go out of the house if I could avoid it, to be honest. And besides they must be museum pieces by now - they've probably got gutta percha and gentian violet in them.

But. But.

Oh nuts to it I'll go and throw them away!

The coffee's probably fine, just not something to serve to your dinner guests.
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freqflyer Sep 6, 2019
Countymouse, speaking of old first aid kits. Not long ago I peeked inside the first aid kit we have here in the office, I don't think it had been opened since the 1990's. Who would think band-aids would dry out :P
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Techie, you can always make coffee and put the grounds in your garden (I've never used uncooked grounds; not sure how they'd work).    I've even tried specialty coffees to give my worms a taste of Martha Stewart type gardening.  I've given them Hazelnut coffee occasionally.  

I don't think the worms would mind that your coffee is 2 years old.

I experience a similar issue, and I make no apologies for  it.  "Things" often develop special meaning, and also can connect us not only to our family, here or gone, but also to special times.

Thumbing through a women's clothing catalogue yesterday, I had a "deja vu" moment when I saw a yellow dress with designs (I don't remember which now).   Suddenly I envisioned myself as a toddler, wearing whatever was a kind of jumper - pants with a bib.   I don't know if that's what the material actually resembled, but it created a real flashback moment.    So, obviously, I clipped that photo from the catalogue and saved it.

Tap shoes and ballet slippers have the same effect.  I flash back to a lovely old Victorian house, to a room with wooden floors where we changed to get ready for class.   

Items can be associated with such intriguing and comforting memories.  I'll keep them as long as the memories appear and are inspiring, and comforting.

As I'm going through my father's possessions, I came across a letter my mother wrote when I was one month old.  It was so overwhelmingly emotional and inspirational that I was in tears by the time I finished reading it.   I'll never part with it. 

I'm hoping to find Dad's parachute; I remember it as being a yellowish orange silk, when last I saw it some decades ago.  Hopefully it's still hiding in some of the boxes I'll be going through. 

There will come a time when it naturally will feel right to discard items, even old coffee.   I think, especially given the turmoil these days, that we all need something to comfort us, and if your mother's coffee can do that, save it.
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susiemen Sep 7, 2019
Loved the comment, "I clipped that photo from the catalogue and saved it." I have hundreds of folders full of a variety of subjects in newsprint, magazine articles, etc.--environmental, religious, political, handicrafts, educational, LGBT, friends' obituaries, etc. Amazingly, somehow my brain at 78 still finds what I am looking for if I want to use it in a current discussion.
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I'm puttering around going through some things and purging stuff lately and I have the same problem.... so that box of jello expired 5 years ago, but does jello ever really expire? 🤣
I think in the case of the coffee there may be more to it because it is a powerful connection to your parents, and at some deep level letting go of the coffee is letting go of a physical connection to the past. If you're not ready then just set it aside until you are. Or just open it and give it a try, all you have to lose is a pot of coffee, right?
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TNtechie Sep 5, 2019
You are probably right. The last year has had some major changes; Dad died 6 months ago and Mom's health has declined significantly following a fall here in the house. Emotionally I don't want to toss the coffee in the trash even though it's too old.
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A couple thoughts on the coffee.

It is a best before date, not a spoiled after date. It is unlikely the coffee would go rancid, but it may have lost flavour. When we had a 90th birthday party for Dad earlier this year, I found an upopened tin of coffee. It was bought in 2015. I needed coffee for the party. I used it, added a bit extra per pot and a smidge of cinnamon it was fine.

How long would it take you to use up the two cans? If you will not use it up by the end of the year, ask a local church if they can use it, or a soup kitchen.

Here the food bank will take food with a best before date within the last 2 years.
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TNtechie Sep 5, 2019
Thank you! Just called the local senior center and confirmed they would be happy to take the coffee. Now I can let it go because it will be put to a good use.
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I love this story. I am in for testing that coffee!
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I say open the can and use it. Coffee is vacuum packed and unless there is rust or a dent in the can, it should be good.

This is funny because I still have to put aside thoughts before I toss things that my grandmother religiously recycled...and she could find a use for about everything. I now use coffee cans and dirty zip lock bags to put scraps of food or bones in, freeze them, and then put in the trash on garbage day. No smell and no flies around the garbage cans. And dogs don't smell it before it's picked up either.
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TNtechie Sep 7, 2019
I put the scraps that are not dog appropriate into used zip lock bags or plastic grocery bags and ice cream containers as available before placing in the trash and making sure I tie the trash bag tightly closed too. Dogs don't get into my trash but a family of bears will if they smell something good. Fortunately, the neighbors are not as careful so the bears usually get into their trash and not mine!
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Working as a volunteer at a food bank that gets a lot of donations from the public and especially homes of the elderly who have been placed in NHs, we were required to have at least one person with the knowledge regarding sanitation, how to decide if a dated item was still good for use, etc.
We found that canned foods with a Best By date were usually good for at least another 6-7 years! Cans with a small dent in the sides were ok IF the dent didn't extend to the rim. Rice has virtually no expiration date and can be frozen to keep weevils and moths out of it. Pasta also will last months past a Best By date. Again, it needs to be sealed and checked for bugs. Meats are harder to check. Freezer burn can ruin the taste but, it can be trimmed off. Fat will go rancid even frozen. I use a vacumn sealer and I have meats from 2016 that are as good as the day I bought them. Fresh vegies can be perked up with ice water. Mold on cheese can be cut away and stale bread is perfect for toasting. Home canned goods will show a lot of bubbles and rust on the lids when they are bad as will store bought cans. So home canned foods last for 6 - 7 years also.

The coffee should still be good.
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Coffee grounds have oil in them and will probably become rancid over 2 years but the only way to find out is to open it! In my family I'm famous for eating expired stuff and scraping off mold in order to eat something and not waste it. I ate some rancid mayo the other day (by accident) and I'm still alive. We Americans waste too much food. My mom grew up on the edge of the Depression and I grew up hearing daily about the famine in Biafra (Ethiopia?) and seeing pictures of emaciated children and people. Plus I grew up Catholic. A perfect storm of guilt. If there are 2 peas leftover i will save them and put them in the next meal. Open the coffee and let us know! We should have a reveal party! :-)
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jacobsonbob Sep 7, 2019
FWIW Biafra was in West Africa, and was a part of Nigeria that was independent for almost 3 years in the late 1960s, and is now back in Nigeria. Eritrea is what separated from Ethiopia and is (still) a separate nation, gaining independence in 1993 after various struggles over several decades.
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A bit of a nut case but I think not alone in the jar. I think there’s a bunch of us - children of children who were scarred by The Great Depression.

My mother was terrified of being poor again. She would come to tears telling my brothers and me stories of what it was like - growing up poor during the 1930’s.

As a result, my mom - both my parents really - were frugal. My mom - beyond frugal. I always said my mom didn’t just pinch pennies- she made them scream.

You know how you take a bottle of shampoo or lotion and turn it upside down to get the last little bit? HA! That was for amateurs. My mother had a sturdy pair of scissors and she would cut the bottles in half - then she would use a tiny little rubber spatula and scrape away until every last drop was gone. Mom could get an extra week out of just about anything!

Im not as bad as that but I’d wager I can get more toothpaste out of a tube than most folks - that’s for sure! And, I do turn my bottles upside down but I draw the line at cutting them open.

I do adhere to food expiration dates, however. Rainman has a really sensitive tummy and I’ve had one too many cases of food poisoning to mess around with that.

I have read that “Use By” and “Best By” mean exactly that. So, I’d imagine that the coffee won’t kill you if you decide to drink it - it just probably won’t taste very good.
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freqflyer Sep 5, 2019
Welcome to the good to the last drop club :) I do the same with bottles of anything, same with toothpaste. Always used Vo5 shampoo as for $1 it worked just as well as those $4 shampoos. I get every drop out of liquid detergent. It's like a game to me.

I also refuse to use anything after "Use By" or "Best By". Sig Other is always asking me to do the "sniff test" on lettuce, good grief can't he smell that the lettuce needs to be discarded.... [sigh].

TNtechie, find another use for that old coffee instead of drinking it. Like putting the ground coffee into your garden. Or use as an air fresher.
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If you’re a nut case, then we’re all nut cases! 🙂
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