Should I Move Food or Donate it?

Wondering what to do with uneaten food before you move? Here’s why, in most cases, you should donate rather than moving it.

It can be tough to decide what to do with canned goods and other shelf-stable food items, especially if you have a well-stocked pantry. And if you buy in bulk and freeze items, you have an additional set of food to decide what to do with.

We have found that an ideal solution is to use up as much of your pantry staples and frozen items in the month leading up to the move as possible. You’ll want to inventory what’s on your shelves and in your freezer and plan meals around what you already have. If you tend to buy six pounds of butter when it’s on sale and freeze it, or stocks up on canned soup by the dozen, skip the sales in the month or two leading up to your move. Even so, you may find you have more food stored than you can eat before moving day.  

The problem with moving food long distance is you’re paying to move items that are easily replaceable. For the most part, canned goods and shelf stable items are affordable, so the cost of transporting large amounts of canned goods may be more than the amount to replace them. (Small, light and relatively expensive items like tea, coffee or spices would be an exception.) For items in jars, breakage may be an issue, and the last thing you want are jars leaking food in a hot truck for two or three days. 

So in most cases, it’s more cost-effective to donate food rather than move it. You don’t have to pay for transporting it, and you may be able to take a deduction for the donation. However, food banks have rules and guidelines for what they will take. Food must be in its original container and unopened. If you bought a giant package of chicken, divided it up and froze it, food banks are unlikely to accept it. Additionally, whether fresh or packaged, canned or frozen, food must be unexpired. Perishable items that you purchased and then froze would also need to be unexpired.

If you decide to donate food, you should call the food bank or charity you are donating too. Ask what they will and won’t take, and set a time to drop off your donation. While your local charity probably needs donations, they may have set times to receive them, or require that they be received by certain officials. And you’ll want to be able to collect a receipt for tax purposes.

If you decide to move food items, package breakable items carefully. Do not pack frozen or perishable food on the truck, even in a cooler with ice. Load these into your own vehicle where the temperature and conditions can be monitored.


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