Best by, Use by, or Expired

I recognise I have a problem.

I do.

Like the Yin for Yang, the black for white, my natural orderly personality that craves neatness and uncluttered areas has a secret obsession.

I am addicted to pantry items.

Larder loot.

Prada for the larder.

I have 2 large pantries that are filled to the brim. Chock-a-block with pickles, jams and chutneys that are made from exotic ingredients. Asian sauces with unpronounceable names. Sachets of hairy basil seeds and Argentinean high altitude Juniper berries and activated charcoal snowflake salt. And yes, these are real ingredients.

They are arranged beautifully and stacked  with labels facing forwards. That satisfies my OCD. Most of them are unopened… because they will be useful someday… should the perfect occasion arise.

Can’t waste a hairy basil seed.

So this year, when I commenced my foodie project of becoming as self-sufficient and natural as possible, I began making great pickles and jams and chutneys from exotic ingredients. I began making my own Asian sauces. I gave them unpronounceable names. And yet the stockpile still grows.

Enough is enough.

My mission is now, to slowly use every open, unidentified or out of date product before the end of the year.

Starting from open and oldest.

The snack food section is first.

I didn’t even realise we had an abundance of snack food, since it’s not something I ethically support.  Or purchase.

Yet, over time, I’ve acquired almost one entire basket of oddness.

The lucky recipient of stage one, are the boys. Specifically, the boy’s lunches.

A little addition every day.


My first offering was from a cute little container of chocolate coated sunflower seeds called ‘Sunny Seed Drops’  that an online contact sent me from Missouri. In 2008.

Yes, they were 5 years old. The candy colours were faded, but I pressed on.

My instructions were clear. 1 centimeter each day from the tube to be consumed.  After all, everything in moderation.

The 16 year old balked and gave them to his dad. Since The Sparky eats practically anything, that worked fine.

He’s still alive – so I pressed on.

The next challenge lie when I re-discovered 3 packages of commercial biscuits. I *never* buy shop bought biscuits. But each year, a school parent gave me a hamper and each year, a little box of biscuits were included. And filed in the ‘just in case’ portion of the pantry, just beside the tin of condensed milk. Just in case I ever needed ‘Gourmet Hamper Cookies’.

I decided the logical thing to do here was go oldest first. That would be the shredded wheatmeal from 2011. It became apparent that  these were not of sound biscuit body when the taste testing teen spat them back at me.  So we moved on, to English shortbread,  circa 2012.  They went into circulation today – 2 per lunchbox per day – which should knock them out in a week. There’s still the  2013 milk arrowroot to cover and that will be the end of the hamper biscuits.

The upside is, the terrorists are being well fed and I will slowly regain my pantry… that is, assuming I can refrain from the next providore that carries super interesting products.

Highly unlikely.


What’s the most bizarre thing in your pantry? Do you need to join me as I FOOD* food?

*Free Out Of Date food

27 thoughts on “Best by, Use by, or Expired

  1. Judging by the fact that I too own juniper berries…and nobody can actually find any ‘food’ to eat in either of my pantries…..I might need to join you in FOOD food :-)

      1. Yes, it usually translates to ‘There are no snack foods/lollies in here’. There is yellow rock sugar…surely they could just suck on that!

  2. I love this post. Largely because I just found 3 jars of tamarind paste in my pantry. And I don’t ever cook with it. On my last pantry clean out I found 11 tins of tomatoes and 27 small tins of tuna. Along with many other jars, tins and bottles of miscellany.

  3. Who puts milk arrowroot biscuits into a hamper? Or shredded wheatmeal for that matter? Glad I don’t know those people. Hampers are for chocolate covered biscuits. Caramel filled biscuits. Decadent yummy things…

    How come your condensed milk is in the “one day maybe” category? I always make sure I have some on hand in case I want to make a caramel slice or white chocolate fudge…

    I’m showing my unhealthy food obsession here…aren’t I.

    Leaving now.

    1. Aunty E: The condensed milk cans were holding up the rolled packets of biscuits so they could stand upright and not roll all over the place. Condensed milk can bookends ;) And yes. Caramel filled biscuits. Please. Now.

  4. Love this post, Shirley… our larder is a disaster… I take everything off the shelves once a year, during my January vacation, wipe down the shelves, sort and repack or discard. We still have large cans of soup (of kinds that I don’t like) that Peter insisted we buy when the Swine Flu hit!!! Great post, very entertaining.

  5. I’ma join you. I have old bhan pho noodles, and a box of panko (WHY?! When homemade is so much nicer!) My issue is the pickles and jellies. My mom makes them by the gallon and gives us jars and jars and jars for Christmas,Lovely stuff too, like ginger-fig preserves and pickled jalapenos and blueberry jam, all from her garden. But,we are not sweet eaters, much, and the jellies stack up. Unfortunately the local food bank doesn’t accept home-canned stuff.

  6. I don’t have too much of an issue with overstock supplies, mainly because our storage is very limited and I am required to rearrange it on a regular basis as others in this house (not looking at anyone in particular) have a “chuck it in” habit that doesn’t work.

    When I left school, my parents gave me a week of housekeeping in lieu of schoolies – i.e. they both went out to work and I stayed at home, so I fixed my mother by cleaning out her pantry – there was stuff that was PRIOR to use by dates in that pantry (and some “Bjelke Blue” cheese well out of date in the back of the fridge)

    1. Jeanie, my family have a “chuck in” habit too. Not so much in the cans and jars section but down where there are packets and boxes and sachets, it gets way out of hand. I am going to work my way through those, too :)

  7. I think we’re all guilty of this to some extent aren’t we? I’ve certainly curtailed my purchases and activley suppress my desire to buy! buy! buy! yet, I still have that bloated pantry feeling.

    Use by dates? Bah! Unless it’s got something perishable in it (and I can really only think of dairy), my pantry is a shrine to food fads, celebrity chefs and hilarious foreign grocery purchases. I have been very good of late, using and adapting but I too seem to end up with many gifted food items that far outstrip my ability to consume.

    My mum is the same. Though there is a time to draw the line – we decided the Cottees lime topping lurking in her fridge that had a price sticker on it was probably past it’s best given Woolies hasn’t been using stickers for several dozen years!

    I think Rhu that this post will get many responses from kindred spirits. ‘My name is Fiona and I’m a pantry hoarder’

    1. Oh my goodness. You made me gag a bit when you mentioned lime topping.

      My mother used to give me this in milk and I hated it so much.

      I have no idea why anybody would want lime topping…on anything.

      You know the feeling you get when you remember how you felt when you were seasick? That’s how I feel right now remembering lime topping.

      Thanks for that. :)

    2. Fiona, I love the expression ‘Shrine to food fads’. I may steal it. Although I don’t think I have ever had lime green topping in my fridge, I have discovered several packets of WW jelly crystals in a rainbow of colours. I have no idea what to do with them. And yes, they include lime green…

  8. since my last reply, I’ve realised our fridge is far worse than our pantry – at least relative to size. Two whole shelves are taken up with condiments. Condiments that none of us eat I should add! That will be next on my chuck out list

  9. Well done you for being bold enough to own up to your aging pantry items – I’m not game enough to let people know how old some of the stuff in mine is. And my fridge – well that is another matter! Just how long do anchovies last anyway?

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