If you are preparing for an emergency where resources such as fresh food might be scarce, then it’s vital to know what foods can stay on the shelf and what needs to be discarded. You probably know some foods remain fresh long after the printed date, and others don’t even seem to make it that far.
When formulating a plan for an emergency, stocking up on food that can stretch into multiple meals to feed your family and last through whatever disaster strikes can put your mind at ease. Knowing the answers to questions such as “Does vinegar go bad?” or “Do fresh eggs really last longer than store-bought ones?” can help you kick-start your food storage grocery list.
Why Should I Get Prepared Now for an Emergency?
Many people have the notion that planning in advance for an emergency is not only odd but also obsessive. This can’t be further from the truth. There are occasions that arise where being ready for the worst-case scenario is lifesaving. These situations include:
- Extreme weather (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.)
- Natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.)
- Road hazards
You may still be skeptical, but the following four examples further explain why being prepared can turn out for the best.
You have no doubt gotten your fill of disastrous weather coverage this past year. There were hurricanes, tornadoes, and snow storms that rolled in week after week. It seemed the news was plagued with nothing but one weather emergency after another. What did you usually hear from people who had lived through some of these extreme weather situations? You either heard that they were unprepared and grief-stricken, or that they were ready and kept their families safe in a devastating disaster.
You can never be too prepared in a weather emergency. When the electricity is out for days on end and you can’t leave your home because of downed power lines or lack of transportation, you’ll be thankful you took the time to stock up on essentials, such as food and water. You may even wind up being a lifeline for neighbors and friends, as well.
If you live in a forested area, you no doubt have been told to prepare for a raging, uncontrollable fire. Not only may you have to evacuate, but you also may not be able to leave your home for a period of time due to the fire cutting off an exit route or fire-devastated areas being impassable. Knowing that you have the necessities can help make this tense and difficult situation much easier to go through.
Much like fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters can leave you stranded and cut off. Depending on where you live, you may be unable to travel for weeks. If the disaster is bad enough and the roads have become too damaged, you’ll be happy you did your homework and have the supplies necessary to live on your own for as long as you may need to.
You may be wondering why you might need to be ready to handle a road hazard, which is an unexpected or unforeseen event that causes a road to become damaged and impassable. Some examples of road hazards may be:
- Flash floods
- Mud slides
- Rock slides
- Water, sewer or gas line breaks
If any of the above were to occur near your home, a vital part of the road might be damaged for an unspecified amount of time. Also keep in mind that in the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, evacuations will be ordered and traffic will be so heavy that roads may be untraversable. Sitting in traffic may be just as dangerous as being in the path of whatever is coming. If you are prepared well in advance, you can leave your home well before the traffic does more harm than good.
There are many events that might occur that would give you cause to panic. However, if you take the time now to prepare, you will benefit greatly from that forward thinking. Obviously one of the most essential supplies you need is food. But how long does non-perishable food really last? You don’t want to necessarily have to replace your emergency food kit every six months. What are some examples of foods that you should always have on hand? Taking some time now to compile a list and know what you can and can’t keep around for any length of time will help you through some of the most challenging situations you may face.
What Do All the Dates on Food Packaging Mean?
If you pull anything out of your refrigerator or pantry right now, you’ll see a date somewhere on it. It is either a sell-by date, a use-by date, or a best-by date. What does all this mean, and even if there is one on that 5-gallon jug of vinegar shoved way in the back, will that vinegar go bad?
The dates on the packaging suggest when the manufacturer guarantees the food reaches its highest quality. Contrary to what your mom may have told you, this does not mean the food will spoil by this date. Sell-by dates are aimed at giving retailers a guideline as to how long to leave the products on the shelves before they reach peak taste. Use-by and best-by dates are aimed at consumers and provide a timeline of when the food may start losing some of its taste. These dates are in no way indicative of when food might spoil. It is up to you to know what spoiled food smells, looks, or tastes like.
What follows are some general guidelines as to how far past a sell-by or use-by date staple foods may last. Again, common sense must kick in, and if a food smells bad or doesn’t look quite right, toss it. Better to be safe than sick.
Bread is a grain and one of the most popular and widely consumed foods in the world. The shelf life of most breads is a week; however, bread can be kept up to six months in a freezer. Consider throwing whatever bread you don’t consume in the first week into your freezer. Label it so you have a general time frame of how long it might last.
Dried pasta is one of the most versatile foods. If stored properly (in a cool, dry place in its original packaging or a sealed bag), pasta can last for up to two years beyond the printed date.
Worldwide there is no other more regularly consumed food than rice. It is one of the most important staples. Over one-fifth of the world’s population eats rice as part of a normal diet. The type of rice does affect its longevity. White rice can last for approximately five years past the printed date. This includes Minute Rice. Brown and wild rice last only six to eight months. Brown rice can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year. Oxygen-free rice, or vacuum-packed white rice, can remain viable for 30 years past the printed date.
Store-bought eggs need to be refrigerated immediately and are good about three weeks past their date. Farm-fresh eggs, on the other hand, can sit on your counter for 60 days before needing to be refrigerated. Once they are, they need to be consumed within five weeks.
Does Vinegar Go Bad?
Does vinegar go bad? There is, after all, a date printed on the jug. Is vinegar still OK to use beyond that date? The answer is undeniably yes. Vinegar has an indefinite shelf life. This means it will last longer than the shelf it sits on. Vinegar is important to keep on hand for cooking, baking, preserving, and disinfecting. It is an all-around pantry superhero.
The acid in vinegar is the reason for its extended lifespan. The more acid a food contains, the longer it stays edible. For this very reason, vinegar is used in pickling and canning other foods for long-term storage. Go ahead and stock up! You won’t ever have to throw it out!
When preparing your family for an emergency, food is a vital component of survival. It is important to be aware of how long you can keep that food around before you have to replace it. A good way to keep track of this information is with a checklist. Keep it displayed on the inside of your pantry or wherever you have chosen to keep your emergency supplies. This way you can see how long each item is good for.
You now know whether vinegar goes bad and also a few other little food tidbits. Get ready and stay safe. You’ll never regret being prepared for the unexpected.
Emily as an MFA in creative writing and a strong passion for cooking! She started trying out her mother’s recipes from a very young age, turning the time she spent in the kitchen into a career. She will soon publish her very first cookbook, and in her free time, Emily contributes to our blog with resources for all our readers, whether beginners or advanced chefs.