Best before on dry goods?
August 16, 2010 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What's the best-before date on dry goods? Specifically: oats, bulgur, nutritional yeast, cocoa, whole wheat flour, rice and bread crumbs?

I moved out of the country for nine months and left stuff (including foodstuffs) with family. Now I'm back and have re-inherited a lot of jars of baking supplies and such, which have gone untouched while I was away. Since none of this stuff was purchased just before I left, I'm expecting most of it is a year old, if not older.

Is it still good? Or should I just throw it away? Jars are sealed tightly and I don't see any bugs or whatnot in anything. (With the exception of some flax seed, which looks odd and is getting tossed.)

To be clear, I don't mind buying new food. Just don't want to be needlessly wasteful.
posted by nicoleincanada to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Stuff that has been kept tightly sealed, in a dark/cool place, in whole form, with a dessicant in the can/jar? 10 years is what I use. I don't use anything that's been ground up after it's been canned for more than about 18 months, but I'm Mormon and have experience with Food Storage Gone Bad, and so am a little conservative.

It would help to know how this stuff has gone from the store to you. Is it in original packaging, for instance?
posted by SMPA at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2010

Still Tasty is the ultimate web resource for this.
posted by phunniemee at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

no bugs eat. If you bake with it be aware that the moisture content will be lower so you might need more liquid. It won't be as tasty but 90% of the time I bet you won't notice.

Check to make sure the whole wheat flour has not gone rancid, and I would probably toss the bread crumbs, but then I would probably toss a new can of bread crumbs,
posted by JPD at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2010

With rice, you can wash it before cooking and see if anything "weird" floats to the top of the water, which could include bug parts, etc. I've had old rice get "clumpy" from insect activity, too, but that's pretty easy to spot.
posted by gimonca at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2010

The whole wheat flour and the oats (assuming they're rolled oats) have probably gone rancid by now. It won't hurt you, but it'll impart a bitter taste to anything it's in (try tasting a bit to find out.) If the bulgur and the breadcrumbs are made from white flour, they're probably OK; the rice is probably OK even if it's brown, since it's a whole unprocessed seed.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:59 AM on August 16, 2010

None of the stuff is in its original packaging, though I bought all of it originally and transferred it to the bulk jars. Based on this I'll probably toss the bread crumbs (which I use rarely at best anyway), and probably the oats and flour, too. No idea if the bulgur is made from white flour but I'll keep it and give it a shot. Rice is white and I will following sifting suggestions if I use it. Thanks, all!

Incidentally, that Grain of Truth link is kind of bumming me out, since I don't see myself investing in a mill anytime soon and have never refrigerated flour in the past. (Though this does explain why the little organic grocery sells those little bags of flour in the fridge, which always mystified me a bit.)
posted by nicoleincanada at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2010

As a post-script, I can't attest to this stuff having been stored in a cool or dark place these past 9 months, and the flour and such is not in whole form (obviously). And since I had to look up dessicant just now - no, didn't use any of those, regretfully.
posted by nicoleincanada at 9:12 AM on August 16, 2010

You get to pick here between the Best Bread I Can Possibly Make and the economic benefits (including security) of buying and storing food in bulk. Don't sweat the lack of a mill (my mom has one, we've used it maybe twenty times,) toss anything you don't really want to use after looking at/smelling/tasting it, and get some dessicant packets for next time. They're cheap; I'm a fan of silica gel packets, at less than $.10 a packet if you get together with a group and buy lots of it.
posted by SMPA at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2010

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