Armageddon Pantry Challenge: We haven’t expired, even though some of our food has

We’re 30 days into the Armageddon Pantry Challenge, and I have a few confessions to make.

Eating only the stores from our pantry and freezer has been both easier, and harder, than I thought it would be. I’ve learned a lot of lessons already, and surprisingly, my husband and I are still plowing through this food together, despite the dust pudding incident (see below).

The hardest part of the challenge so far has been planning meals and trying to even out the different types of food over time. The last thing I want is to finish the challenge eating a can of olives, beans and cereal.

I’ve already learned an important lesson: Check expiration dates.

Last week, my husband was lamenting the fact that we didn’t have anything laying around for dessert. Yeah, that stuff was gone in the first few days. He also was upset that we have a container of gelato that he claimed was “legal” in the challenge because it’s in the dairy group (remember, he picked dairy as his cheat food), and I claimed it was cheating.

I contended that, yes, while gelato is composed of dairy ingredients, gelato itself is NOT a dairy item and that he was stretching the intent of the cheat food, which he originally claimed was milk. This is the same guy who claimed that eggs were part of the dairy group as well, because of their proximity to milk in the grocery store.

Hmmm. Milk comes from cows, and eggs come from ... Yeah. I rest my case.

Back to the gelato debacle. Not being able to buy candy, ice cream and potato chips has been the biggest challenge for my husband in this experiment. He brought home the gelato after a really rough day at work, under the pretense that I deserved my favorite gelato, presumably thinking that I would give in because it’s my favorite.

Nuh-uh. I called him out on the contraband frozen confection, relegating it to the garage freezer until we could figure out what to do with it. Said gelato remains unopened, for your information.

Yes, I felt a little bad about having such a hissy fit over the gelato. But I was intent on following our challenge agreement, so I decided to find something dessert-y to make around the house. I scrounged around and found a box of instant pistachio pudding in the cupboard.

Minutes later, we were ready to enjoy our delicious pudding. I took a bite, and immediately knew something was awry. Ugh. This pudding tasted like dust. Like the smell of a dank basement. Like how I imagine spider webs would taste. The texture was right, but when I bit down on one of the few nubbins of nuts, it exploded with a rancid battery-acid flavor.

“Don’t eat it!” I warned my husband. “It’s disgusting! Something’s wrong. I think it might be expired.”

“Oh, I’m eating it,” he said with determination. “I’m desperate. It’s pudding!”

He took a few bites and then paused. “It tastes musty,” he said, and kept eating for some weird reason. “How old is this?”

I had no idea. He dug the box out of the trash can and started laughing maniacally.

Turns out, the pudding expired in 1998. The same year the two of us met. I couldn’t believe it. If I had really kept that pudding this long, that means I moved that 39-cent box four times. Seriously?

I called the Kraft Foods hotline to make sure we read the expiration code correctly. Yep. We had ingested 15-year-expired pudding. Actually, it was older than that, since the hotline told me that all boxed instant pudding expires two years from manufacture, so that pudding was actually made in 1996. The same year I got my driver’s license.

Don’t ask me how I even got that pudding or why I had it so long. I have no idea. I don’t even buy pistachio pudding.

I will tell you that we survived the dust pudding incident, with a few stomach grumbles. From now on, I’ll be scrutinizing every expiration date to make sure we don’t eat food that’s been around longer than we’ve been married.

I’ll be checking in with periodic pantry updates for the next month or so, since I think we can probably last until May with our food stores.

If you want to know the latest, check out the Armageddon Pantry Challenge blog at

Erin McIntyre is a writer, master gardener and owner of the gourmet pickle company, Yum Pickles. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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