Almost every prepper will rely on rations of one form or another. Typically kept in vehicle go-bags, bug-out bags and squirreled away in various other places to help sustain activity during or after an emergency, one of the most popular sources of calories in this category is the energy bar, and among energy bars Clif bars are one of the most popular.
Clif bars come in many varieties and they taste great, in addition to being found virtually anywhere. Unfortunately plenty of folks see energy bars and other meal replacement options as some sort of pseudo-food that will not expire, and it is not uncommon to encounter someone who has a collection of fossilized Clif bars in their go-bag or BOB.
So how long do Clif bars last? They have a best-by date of about a year from your date of purchase. This is not the expiration date, but merely the manufacturer’s recommended date to consume the product by, and enjoy the best flavor. The ingredients can spoil and go rancid but, in my experience, are still edible and safe anywhere from a year-and-a-half to two years after purchase if their packaging is not compromised.
There is more to it then this simple explanation, obviously, so if you want to know more read on!
Clif Bar Ingredients
Clif bars can be had in more than 30 flavors, and that makes for some pretty varied ingredients lists. That being said, most of these bars contain the same core ingredients that are spiced-up with various additives and other specialized flavorings depending on the flavor of the bar itself.
Taking one bar, chocolate brownie, as an example we find they contain the following, obtained directly from the manufacturer’s official ingredients list:
|Organic Brown Rice Syrup||Organic Rolled Oats|
|Soy Protein Isolate||Organic Cane Syrup|
|Organic Roasted Soybeans||Rice Flour|
|Cane Sugar||Unsweetened Chocolate|
|Cocoa||Organic Soy Flour|
|Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil||Organic Oat Fiber|
|Alkalized Cocoa||Natural Flavors|
|Cocoa Butter||Sea Salt|
|Barley Malt Extract||Soy Lecithin|
Reviewing the list, we see a lot of natural ingredients and really nothing in the way of serious preservatives. That means that spoilage might be a concern, especially if you are storing the food in an environment that is going to put its packaging to the test.
That being said, the high-quality ingredients found in Clif bars do make them suitable for long-term storage of at least a year if kept in a cool, dry location.
This is in keeping with the typical best by date that you see on the packaging, but chances are if you are like me and most other preppers you are not keeping your emergency calorie rations in cool, dry conditions.
They will be pounded inside your bags, roasted inside vehicles and half frozen if kept in a hidden cache. Will these conditions affect the edibility of the Clif bar?
Effect of Ambient Conditions and Time
As a general rule, any food that is exposed to high ambient temperatures and is otherwise vulnerable to spoilage will go bad faster due to heat. Clif bars are no different, although they hold up remarkably well in my experience through repeated cycles of high temperature.
Conversely, food that is kept at or exposed to lower temperatures will typically last longer, even if the texture and taste changes.
Clif bars contain sugars, oils and other ingredients that can and will spoil over time. Oils especially are known to go rancid. The longer you wait, the greater the chances that your Clif bar will spoil.
I would say that so long as the packaging is intact and not punctured you will have at least a year to safely eat your Clif Bar pretty much no matter what conditions it is kept in.
Taking some care to store you Clif bar correctly will significantly extend its shelf life.
How Will I Know if My Clif Bar is Bad?
While it is true that every once in a while your food will be bad and give you no sign before you eat it, that is atypical. Typically, food that has spoiled, or gone rancid will let you know with a change in appearance, smell and, assuming you make it that far, taste.
Generally speaking, you can trust your nose to let you know if the food you are eating is going to make you sick.
Before you ever open your Clif bar, check to see if the packaging is puffy. Assuming the seals are still intact, any puffiness (or springiness like a balloon) is a warning sign that the bar inside has spoiled, and the package is inflating because bacteria inside are chowing down and releasing gases.
Assuming this is not your first Clif bar, after you open the bar visually inspect it. Do the textures and colors look normal? Most Clif bars have a soft satin sheen, or even appear slightly glossy. A Clif bar that looks very dull and desiccated or has a gelatinous glossiness to it is probably not safe to eat.
Of course, a visual inspection might not be necessary if you get hit with a blast of noxious fumes as soon as you crack the seals; rancid food never smells good. If your Clif bar smells sickening or just odd, don’t eat it.
Assuming your Clif bar passes the sight and sniff test, break off and eat a tiny bite. A change in flavor is normal assuming it doesn’t taste too God-awfully funky.
You can expect most flavors to dampen down or dull after a long time sitting in your bag or on the shelf. If it does not taste too objectionable, your Clif bar is likely still safe to eat!
I have personally eaten several Clif bars that were rolling around in one of my go-bags that were about 2 ½ years old from the date of purchase based on their sell-by date.
While they were by no means as yummy as they would be if they were eaten fresh, all of them were completely safe. I didn’t get sick, or even get an upset stomach.
Considering their ready availability, low cost and good taste I rely on Clif bars as a regular part of my ration component in all of my emergency supplies.
Clif bars are made from a variety of natural ingredients, and very little in the way of preservatives. Most Clif bars have a sell-by date that is around a year from the date of purchase, but this is not necessarily when the bar expires.
So long as you take a little bit of care in keeping the packaging intact and limiting repeated exposure to high temperatures, you should reliably be able to get a shelf life of at least two years from your Clif bars, making them a solid choice for portable emergency calories.