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This will be the 3rd - 4th year we'll be giving out candy canes, using last year's after Christmas sale candy. The expiration dates on the boxes are late October 2015 -2017. And in 2012 we bought the canes for 25 cents for a box of 12. Last year we went early and paid 50¢ a box. We get them in several colors/flavors and let the kids, even teenagers chose the ones they like best. All the children have loved getting them. I taste tested them and they are just as good as when they were first bought. We normally have between 80 and 90 children.
And I can use them also for this year's peppermint almond bark. Also, I look for the expiration dates on Valentine's and Easter chocolate candy packages that can be cut/chopped up to use in baking cookies, etc. Hershey's chocolate kisses/bars can be microwaved and used in hot drinks and for icings, etc. Last year I bought a couple of bags of Smarties for 40/50¢ and they are still good for another 6-8 months. I also had just bought 2 bags that didn't have Easter wrappers and they were close to $3.00 a bag; same dates. LOL By the way, just store in a cool dry place, not the freezer or fridge.
Another tip, buy oatmeal, corn meal, cake mix, flour, rice, macaroni, etc. and put in freezer for a week or so. (I leave 10 lbs ahead in the freezer most all the time.) Cake mix over two years old might need an extra teaspoon of baking powder added, when you mix it though.
I also keep sugar in plastic tubs, with lids, in the pantry. I only buy it on sale and keep it ahead because it is one of the things that doesn't go bad. I bake on the holidays and we feed hummers all year, so we go through a lot.
The day after Easter is a good day to buy discounted Easter chocolate and candy for future baking projects. Just store the candy in the freezer if you don't plan on using it in the near future.
You were looking for Valentine's tips and here is one for saving on Valentine's (and St Patrick's day or Easter) candy and other goodies. When you go shopping on Dec 26 and thereafter, check out the candy markdowns at the discount stores and drug stores, because a lot of it is perfectly good for Valentine's, St Patrick's Day, and Easter, but priced 50-75% cheaper. For example, the holiday bags of Hershey Kisses contain kisses wrapped in red, silver, and green foil. I'll buy several bags and sort the red and silver for use in Valentine's Day gift bags, and save the green and any other colors for Easter baskets.