Thrifty Spending Issue 98: Feature Article

Have you ever wondered if the expiration dates on foods are simply a marketing ploy or if they really mean something?

The expiration date on foods is not exact science. If you want to know for sure if you should throw food out, you need to use other senses; smell it and taste it.

 Most likely, the items in your freezer have maintained well enough to eat. For example, if the ground beef may be too old, use it in chilli, no one will know the difference. If the frozen chicken produces enough pan juices, you know it’s not too dry to eat. If the freshness of the frozen vegetables may be questionable, mix them with fresh ingredients, such as in a stew or a dish that does not make the vegetables the main focus. By no means should you let your food get too old, but your goal should be to create a better system so that you are not wasting money on foods that you are not eating.

We live in a nation that throws food out based on the expiration date, without even checking to see if it has gone bad. We also tend to throw leftovers out just after two days. Cooked food will not go bad in two days, unless it’s been left out of the fridge. Why not freeze things? Why are we so quick to waste? The expiration date doesn’t mean much of anything. The federal law does not require manufacturers to put one on packages (except on infant formula and certain types of baby foods).  The expiration dates on dry or canned goods, mean the end of peak flavor. It’s basically a quality issue. If whatever is in the can smells fine and the can is not bulging, it should be edible.

By all means, if the food has mold, then you know not to eat it. Although during the WWII, people ate around the mold and survived just fine. This lifestyle may not be for everyone, but if you find that your budget may need a trim, perhaps looking through the freezer and pantry may be a good idea to make sure you’re not overlooking foods that should be eaten – at least one week out of the month. A good rule of thumb is, if you have too many take out containers or you find yourself throwing fruit and veggies out, change your practices to finish food that you already have before buying more. You could even learn basic cooking techniques to spend less – leftover rice is perfect for stir fry dishes.

Do your budget a favor, eat what you already have first and remember there are starving people all over the world who wouldn’t even check the expiration date before eating what we consider “old.”

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