What To Do With Expired Canned Food ( Top 7 Options )

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As a prepper you will have a lot of expired canned food sooner or later, for the most part, these expired canned foods will be edible. Most beginner preppers make the big mistake of hoarding a lot of canned foods and then they let the canned foods just stay on the shelf, only to find that when they want to use them they are expired. Expired canned food doesn’t necessarily mean it is not edible, although this mostly depends on what kind of food is in the can.

To properly dispose of expired food items, it is recommended to open the cans or bottles, empty the contents into the compost bin, clean the containers thoroughly, and then place them in the recycling bin. It is important not to discard unopened cans of expired food directly into the bin.

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Ideally, you should rotate the canned foods, this way none of them will expire, simply place the freshly bought canned foods at the end of the shelf and bring the oldest canned foods up to the front. Although you can rotate canned foods as much as you want but if you do not actually consume any canned foods then all of them will expire sooner or later. The more expired canned foods you have the more headaches you will have in the long run.

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Expired canned food is fairly easy to dispose of if you notice it, but far too many people are just storing as many canned foods as they can and never actually eat any of the canned foods. Once the canned foods expire the actual cans might start to bloat and deteriorate, once the can is bloated it is no longer safe to eat. This bloating effect happens if the canned food has expired or is not stored correctly.

The actual bloating and deterioration of the can is due to bacteria feeding on the content of the can and multiplying, while they are feeding and multiplying they will produce a lot of gas. As this excess gas doesn’t have any place to go it will increase the pressure of the can which sooner or later will start bloating. Opening up a canned food that is bloated will result in a lot of mess, as the added pressure can easily catapult the entire content of the can outside and onto your walls. If you want to know how to store canned foods safely then check out my recent article How to store canned food after opening? ( Safe and Easy ).

What To Do With Expired Canned Food

When faced with expired canned food, it’s important to prioritize safety and make informed decisions. Start by checking the can for any signs of damage, such as bulging or leaking, as these indicate spoilage or bacterial growth and should be discarded immediately. If the can appear intact, assess the expiration date and consider the type of food inside. Some canned foods, such as acidic fruits and vegetables, may lose flavor and quality over time but remain safe to consume beyond the expiration date.

However, for high-risk foods like meat, seafood, and dairy products, it is generally recommended to err on the side of caution and discard them after the expiration date has passed. If the expired canned food is still within a reasonable time frame and appears to be in good condition, you may choose to use it in non-consumable ways, such as animal feed or compost.

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Expired Canned Food Is Safe To Eat

For the most part, canned foods are safe to eat even after they have expired, provided that you have stored them correctly and the cans have not deteriorated. You should definitely make a taste and smell test before you start eating, our nose is very sensitive to foul odors and this way it protects us from eating food that has gone bad. Open up the canned food and if the contents start to bubble up then it is not safe to eat, in addition to this if it smells and tastes bad then you should not eat it.

Most canned foods have a “best by” or “sell by” date on them, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that the food will be inedible after that date. Take it as quality assurance, the manufacturer promises you that the canned food consumed before the “best by” date will taste the best. If you want to know which canned foods last the longest then check out my recent article Longest lasting canned foods ( Up to 30+ years ).

Throw It Away

For the most part, you should throw away expired canned food, simply place them in a large garbage bag and toss them into the trash. The main reason why you should place the expired canned food in another garbage bag is that some canned foods tend to be under a lot of pressure once they have expired. This added pressure will blow up the can if the can is shaken too much or the outside temperatures are fairly high.

I know that most people do not like throwing away anything but if the contents of the can have gone bad then you do not have a lot of options. In addition to this, you should also throw away canned food which hasn’t expired but has started to leak or is bloated, as these are clear signs that the food inside the can have gone bad.

Using Canned Food For Compost

Depending on what kind of expired canned foods you have you can use them for compost. Generally speaking, canned vegetables and fruits can be used as compost, and canned meats, and other mixed canned foods are not ideal. Canned meat is especially bad for compost as it tends to contain a lot of oil and grease which will not be broken down, but it will most likely contaminate your compost pile and in the worst-case scenario it will attract rodents.

Canned vegetables and fruits have to be washed before you use them in the compost, and always throw away the liquid from the cans. The liquid in canned vegetables and fruits contains a lot of sugar, salt, and preservatives which will ruin the entire compost. In addition to this if you have a lot of expired canned fruits and vegetables you should first test it out if the compost will be able to break it down before you add all of your canned vegetables and fruits to the compost.

Feed Livestock With Expired Canned Food

For the most part, if the canned food is expired but it hasn’t gone bad you can still feed it to livestock. For the most part, if the canned food has expired only a couple of months ago it should be still safe to eat but it will probably not taste the best. Before feeding any livestock expired canned food you should check if the contents of the can have not gone bad. If the canned food has expired and its contents have gone bad then do not feed your livestock with it.

On the other hand, if the canned food is expired but it only tastes a little bit off then it is safe to feed the livestock. Just keep in mind what kind of expired canned foods you feed to your livestock, canned meats should not be fed to livestock as they contain a lot of oil and grease, and a lot of herbivores will have a difficult time digesting it.

Recycle Canned Food

No matter what kind of expired canned food you have you can still reduce the actual cans. So rather than throwing out the canned food, you wash and rinse the cans and recycle the cans. The problem with this is that cleaning expired canned foods can be messy and in some cases, it can also be fairly dangerous. Expired canned foods that have been overrun by bacteria tend to be extremely dangerous so wash and rinse with care.

If you are at the point where you have a lot of expired canned foods and some of the cans are bloated then you should probably just throw them away and not risk your health just so you can recycle a couple of cans.

Keep Expired Canned Foods As A Decoy

Most preppers will have a fairly large stash of food in their home, but if a lot of people know that they have a lot of food they will start knocking on their door once the SHTF happens. In the worst-case scenario where looters will break into a house for food then you could use the expired canned foods as a decoy. Most looters will simply not check the expiration date, so you can take advantage of this.

This way the looters will have some easy pickings and most of your food stockpiles will be safe. Just place the expired canned foods in the kitchen as looters who are looking for food will start in the kitchen, and they probably don’t know that storing canned foods in the kitchen is a bad idea. Just make sure to check the expired canned foods from time to time, the ones that have started to leak or are bloated should be thrown away. If you have a small business and you want to protect it from looters then check out my recent article How to protect your business from looters ( In 13 Easy Steps ).

Do Not Donate Expired Canned Food

Donating canned food is not the best way to help others, even if the canned food is not expired they still have to be categorized, stored, and so on before it reaches the people who need it the most. On the other hand, there are some people who will simply donate expired canned foods, and at that point, they would better be off just throwing it away. Most charities that accept food donations will check the expiration date of the canned foods, and if they are expired they will simply throw it away.

Rather than the charity workers feeding the needy, they will have to check every canned food and throw out the expired ones, so it is not a good idea to send them expired canned food as you will actually hinder their process of helping others. In addition to not donating expired canned foods, you should also not donate canned foods that are close to expiry, as these canned foods will stay some time in storage before they end up in the hands of the people who need them.

Key Takeaways

  • If you have expired canned food then, for the most part, they are safe to eat, if they taste and smell bad then you should throw them away. In addition to this, you can also use expired canned food for compost, feeding livestock, and recycling the cans. You can also use expired canned foods as a decoy for looters, this way your food stockpile will be safe. You should not donate expired canned foods as most of them will end up in the trash, even if most canned foods are safe to eat after the “best by” or the “sell by” date.
  • Inspect the canned food for any signs of damage, such as bulging, leakage, or foul odor. If you notice any of these, it is best to discard the canned food as it may be spoiled or contaminated.
  • If the canned food is still in good condition and has just passed its expiration date, you can consider using it in recipes that involve cooking or heating the food thoroughly. This can help ensure any potential bacteria or pathogens are eliminated.