Thursday, July 8, 2010

IMO: Expiration Dates

Sales are a great way to stock up on extra items from toilet paper to ketchup. However, there's really one down side that I think a lot of people overlook when it comes to keeping products around and that's the expiration date. Some consider it a hard and fast rule, others refer to it as a guideline (these are also usually the drivers who consider posted speed limits a suggestion). I used to be one of those in between folks who would keep an eye on the dates on dairy and meat, but that's about it. In fact, I actually silently (okay, maybe not so silently) made fun of the people who were downright religious about checking dates. Granted, I still do that with people who refuse to eat something because the sell-by date was three days ago or the use by date was yesterday. After all, most food banks take day-old or nearly expired products and you can buy day-old bread discounted at the grocery store.

The truth is, being mindful of the dates on our food will prevent us from getting sick and make us enjoy the flavors of the food products less. With a tight economy, everyone is buying bigger and using products longer than is healthy in some cases.

I used to assume that the grocery store would keep an eye on these dates and act accordingly, however I have since learned that it is up to each of us to make sure we don't buy out-of-date products that could make us sick and why pay full price for something that may not taste as fresh?

The thing is, humans are the ones in charge of checking for and pulling bad dates on products (whether it be at a grocery store or a restaurant). And, of course, humans are inherently flawed be it a simple oversight, not enough employees to cover everything, or sheer laziness and a lack of enforcement on management's part.

My other half diligently checks over expiration dates each time we buy groceries. This is a habit he's developed not just because he has worked in the grocery industry, but because he's had more than one unpleasant experience with expired food. The awful taste and feeling cruddy because you've had to throw out food that was (at one point) perfectly fine and now it's been completely wasted.

The point of my rambling, I think, is to take responsibility for your food! Check those dates when you pick the food off the shelf before it goes into your cart. We, as individuals, must be responsible and we can't just assume that someone else has already done it for us. If we do then we'll be the ones wasting both food and money.