What to keep when you move

When moving a household, what food should you keep or throw away.

The Muskegon County Michigan State University Extension staff recently moved our office from one location to another, after many years of accumulating educational materials, supplies and food used for our various programs. Needless to say, we had some things that definitely needed to go!

Papers, files and notebooks were altogether different from the goods needed for nutrition programs, like food and demonstration supplies. Files older than seven years could be shredded or recycled, notebooks could be donated or tossed, papers or copies could be recycled. Everything else had to be re-packed and taken along.

Kitchen supplies could be donated or kept. One rule of thumb you can use is to ask yourself if the item has been used within the last year. If not, it can be donated to an agency that could use the supplies for their families. If items were damaged, they were discarded. The same can be done if you have to move your household. It’s important to ask yourself, “Why move something that you don’t use?

Food, however, is another story. Here are some points to keep in mind if you have to move and you want to take some food with you:

  • All cans should be discarded if rusted, bulging or badly dented – don’t take something that may be dangerous for you!
  • Throw away any out-of-date infant formula.
  • If items have become contaminated throw them away – that includes contaminants from insects or water damage. Flour bags come to mind – if they have been wet and then dried, they should be discarded.
  • Pay particular attention to items that have been opened, as they may have become rancid or buggy. Oils and nuts can become rancid quickly, so check them. If a product has nuts as an ingredient, check for rancidity there as well.
  • High acid foods like tomatoes, pineapple or citrus fruits have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months – check them to make sure they are still in good condition. If containers are starting to rust, throw them away.
  • Low-acid canned foods like vegetables, meats and fish will keep two to five years. Check for dents and bulges.
  • Fresh produce should be transported in a cooler or thrown away if you won’t be able to eat it right away. Some produce keeps better than others, so you can keep potatoes, apples and the like, but transport gently.
  • Frozen foods need to be kept frozen. Try to eat up anything frozen before the move. If you still have frozen items, beware of thawing during the move and eat immediately if it begins to thaw. 

Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about your food. MSU Extension recommends checking with one of our food safety educators if you have questions about the safety of your food.

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