Home Garden Harvest – Grandma said “Waste Not – Want Not”

Source document: Five Different Shelf Life Studies: Two on Canned Food and Three on Dry Food by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.

Studies in the U.S.A. and the UK have found that the average family sends up to 1/3 (33 percent) of their food budget to the land fill needlessly. The main cause is people in general don’t understand what that little Best used by date stamped on food packages really means.

Best if used by date Does Not, let me say that again, Does Not mean that the food has gone bad and is unsafe to eat after that little ‘Best used by date. What it does mean is the Length of time food retains most of its original taste and nutrition.


Recent scientific studies on dehydrated food have shown that food stored properly can last for a much longer period of time than previously thought. This research determined the “life sustaining” shelf life to be the following:

Dry Food Item Shelf Life
Wheat, White Rice, and Corn 30 years or more
Pinto Beans, Apple Slices, Macaroni 30 years
Rolled Oats, and Potato Flakes 30 years
Powdered Milk 20 years

U.S. Army study. If a product is correctly processed, it should remain safe until opened or the seal is broken. The U.S. Army has found that canned meats, vegetables and jam were in “excellent states of preservation” after 46 years. However, long storage is not recommended. For high quality (versus safety), the broadest guideline given by the U.S.D.A. is to use high-acid canned food (fruits, tomatoes and pickled products) in 18 to 24 months, and low-acid (meats and vegetables) in two to five years. Information developed by Carolyn Rude, Retired WSU Extension Faculty.

Oscar Pike a food scientist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah said “It (canned foods) lasts a lot longer than we thought. Certain foods like sugar and salt can be stored indefinitely. In one study, researchers taste tested rolled oats that had been stored in sealed containers for 28 years. Three-fourths of tasters considered the oats acceptable to eat.

It is important to first identify what is meant by “food storage” and “shelf life. Best if used by date “Length of time food retains most of its original taste and nutrition. Life sustaining shelf life – Length of time food preserves life, without becoming inedible.

Food storage Hints:
Temperature: Excessive temperature is damaging to food storage. With increased temperature, proteins breakdown and some vitamins will be destroyed. The color, flavor and odor of some products may also be affected. To enhance shelf life, store food at room temperature or below; never store food in an attic or garage.

Moisture: Excessive moisture can result in product deterioration and spoilage by creating an environment in which microorganisms may grow and chemical reactions can take place.

Oxygen: The oxygen in air can have deteriorative effects on fats, food colors, vitamins, flavors, and other food constituents. It can cause conditions that will enhance the growth of microorganisms.

Light: The exposure of foods to light can result in the deterioration of specific food constituents, such as fats, proteins, and vitamins, resulting in discoloration, off-flavors, and vitamin loss.

It is important for you to keep food stored at as cool and steady a temperature as possible (below 75 degrees but not freezing). This is the best and most important thing individuals can do to keep their long term food viable. If done, your storage could last 20-30+ years, depending on the product and storage conditions.

Not from the USA. Please leave me comment about your home town and country.

Why is common sense so uncommon?
Don’t be Shy. Leave me your Comment(s)


5 responses to “Home Garden Harvest – Grandma said “Waste Not – Want Not”

  1. Simple Farming

    And just a tad of common sense, really. If you open something and it doesn’t look or smell right get rid of it.. Otherwise, give it a go. Doesn’t matter what the expiration or sell by date or anything else.

    By the bye, my mom made peach jam one year. We had those jars for 7 years (it was quite the harvest that year) and no one died or got sick. (We may have been sick of peach jam, but that’s another story.)


  2. Great post Po. We have had many discussions here about this very topic. It’s really a crime the amount of food that get’s thrown away. Now what about home canned food? Would the same apply, or would there be different use-by suggestions?


    • Re: Libby Keane – Thanks for you visit to my tiny blog
      I think it’s a Jedi mind trick! It seems that for most people, if they have gone to the trouble to preserved their garden harvest by, canning, freezing or drying they are far less likely to waste it. Also if they don’t see that little ‘best used by or sell by’ date printed on the food package they are much less likely to send their food to a land fill.
      Then they fall back on the old tried and true smell and taste test. Besides, if people will use common sense when cooking, all common food bacteria is killed at at 160 to 165 degrees temperature.
      Happy gardening


  3. The terms, “Best by”; “Use by”‘ and “Sell By” are interchangeable and are employed by the food’s manufacturer by their choice. You are so correct in pointing out that, with the exception of perishable things such as dairy, most products continue to be perfectly safe and usable well beyond the dates stamped on their packaging. Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention!


  4. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    It’s nice to know that my dried beans and rice are good for 30 years or more, because I’m like my “waste not” forebears.


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