Last night at dinner, I was having a conversation about not being wasteful, mostly with food, but really anything else. In efforts to not be wasteful, the conversation quickly lead to the subject of expiration dates.
Expiration dates are helpful in many ways, but also used for control. I’ve had this conversation a few times with my friend E, who gets rid of everything the moment it expires. I’m quite the opposite, so for her birthday last year, I found the most expired thing I owned and gave it to her. It was a tube of Coppertone sunscreen that was 10 years expired. Would I have still used it? Yeah, probably, however it might not have worked, but it wasn’t going to kill me.
I watched an episode of Hoarders a while back and the lady was arguing with the guy about him throwing away her food. She had a 4 year expired carton of soup, her argument being that it wasn’t puffy yet, so it was still good. Then she tried to pull a package of something out of the refrigerator drawer, unrecognizably rotten by every stretch of the imagination, and wanted to keep that too. I don’t think we need to go to this extreme, but at what point is something really bad?
Many expiration dates, especially on food, are there for health and safety reasons. I can respect that, but I also know that using common sense with them is important too. I have eaten stuff that was, well, we’ll go with very expired, but it was a well sealed, non-perishable item. I didn’t get sick or anything, and I’m still alive. If not, everyone should take the zombie 101 class from my blog a couple of days ago.
Now this one really gets me going. “SELL BY” dates. So… I’ve bought it. It’s sold and now it’s mine. So it must be good forever? Eggs mostly have ‘sell by’ dates, so exactly how long can I assume they’re good? Maybe the chickens know.
These dates are important for FIFO (first in, first out), but I think ‘sell by’ dates are a liability protection mechanism for retailers and food companies. Just give us the bottom line here. We don’t care when you want to sell it, how long it it good?
Before I get into this point, you need to know I have been guilty of this. Donating unwanted (expired) food. I worked in the food pantry a few months ago, and you want to talk about some expired food? One bag came in where all of the food in it was 8 years expired. They do not keep expired food. I don’t know where it goes, but they can’t use it at the local food pantry. It’s great to donate food, but donated good stuff, and also food that you would like to eat, not the 4 year old can of hominy.
Something that’s sometimes better when expired is film. Photographers sometimes look for this or shoot a roll of expired film just to see what they’ll get out of it. Now that we have digital, this isn’t the craze as much since anything can be photoshopped, but it does bring up a good question. If something is expired, depending on what it is, is there someway to repurpose it?
- On sale. Don’t buy a lot just because it’s on sale unless you know you’ll use it.
- Fruit and veggies on sale. These are on sale for a reason. If you plan to eat them quickly, then buy them. If not, plan on lots of fruit flies and a moldy mess in your fridge drawers.
- Buy for donations. Either buy food specifically for donating to your local food pantry, or at least check the dates before you give your stuff away.
- Common sense. Use common sense with ‘sell by’ and expiration dates. It’s a guideline. Use it as such.
- Spend a little time. When you get home from the grocery store, pull out all of the stuff from the back, figure out what you need to use right away. FIFO.
- Repurpose. If your eggs are bad, throw them at that person you’ve been wanting to get back at. Okay, I’m kidding, but seriously, if there’s a way not to waste something, think about it.
- Learn a lesson. If you do have to waste something, how can you keep from doing it again?
I was going to give you some links on this subject, but they’re all expired. 😉