Getting Creative with Almost-Expired Food

mayo Using what you have in your pantry is important when food prices have risen so much. Creating meals from your pantry can reduce your weekly food budget or allow you to skip a shopping trip or two. It also prevents food waste. Sometimes you are faced with just a few strange items to use up before they expire or go bad. This is where you have to get creative. I’ll offer you some tips, as well as links to a couple of recipes that will help you create real meals from a collection of end-date food.

This post is part of the Ideas for Cooking from Your Stockpile series.

Last week, at the end of our vacation, we stopped by for an overnight stay at my husband’s parents home. It was a late night, and we were all hungry, so my mother-in-law generously started pulling out some things to feed us. My father-in-law retreated to the basement to fetch some of the stockpile. There was a lot of juice for the kids (something they don’t normally get at home very often) and Miracle Whip for my husband (for a sandwich), as well as some other things. As the jars were being opened, my husband noticed that most everything had a past due expiration or best by date. So guess what? She was about to call for more items to come up for the stockpile. I quickly stopped her on anything that had a “better by” or “best by” date. These items may lose some of their flavor, color or nutrition, but they wouldn’t kill us. The dairy-based Miracle Whip, though, would probably have to go.

My mother-in-law is wiser than I am in many ways, thanks to her experience in the world, so it was nice to be able to share some of my advice to her. I explained how rotating your pantry items is so important–first in means first out. Organizing the pantry or having some sort of list that tells you exactly what you have will also prevent the expired food. Your list should make note of the frequency in which you use items until it becomes natural to know when to restock. You may not need to stockpile five large jars of mayonnaise if it takes you three months to use one up and the jars generally have a six-month life span, for example. I’ll get to the organization a little later. For now, see if you can take the time to review your pantry and pull out any food that is at the end of its date. Then we will meet back here, and I’ll share some ideas for using up these items and turning even a strange collection into a meal or two.

Click here for more articles by Mary Ann Romans.

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About Mary Ann Romans

Mary Ann Romans is a freelance writer, online content manager, wife and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods but close enough to Target and Home Depot. The author of many magazine, newspaper and online articles, Mary Ann enjoys writing about almost any subject. "Writing gives me the opportunity to both learn interesting information, and to interact with wonderful people." Mary Ann has written more than 5,000 blogs for since she started back in December 2006. Contact her at maromans AT or visit her personal blog