Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sell By Date

There is a reason that manufacturers put sell by and use by dates on food.

If you eat it past that date, you will die. 

It's really very simple, and it's a rule I strictly adhere to. After my weekly shopping trip, I go through the fridge and throw out anything that has gone past its date. Once a month, I go through and really get crazy, finding any errant pickles or salad dressings that may have been missed in the weekly purge. With a family of five, there isn't much that doesn't get used unless it's been lost behind leftovers, or was a suspect purchase to begin with.

(Not once has the Husband consumed more than one of a six pack of V-8s, despite claiming to "absolutely love them!")

I also hate wasting food, so if I see something is coming up on a use by date, I do everything I can to make sure it gets eaten. I currently have two days to eat 3 quarts of Greek yogurt. The rare exception is cheese - I will absolutely not eat or serve cheese that looks even slightly fuzzy. I was a victim of my mother 'just cut off the green! It's perfectly fine!' and the thought of moldy cheese is a grossness surpassed only by cheese that has gotten wet.

I would rather shoot fireworks off out of my asshole than eat wet cheese. 

Unfortunately, I've passed this peculiarity on to Katie, who was asking "What's the date on that?" to just about everything I pulled out of the fridge by the time she was five. She is a pathological milk-sniffer, and will no doubt grow into one of those annoying women who pull all the milk out of the dairy case to get to the one in the very back with the latest date on it.

Not that I do that.

My fear of expired goods extends to non-food items, as well, and especially medication. There is not a vitamin, aspirin, eye drop or stool softener that is safe from my scrutiny.

"I swear we had some Neosporin in here." the Husband said.
"Yeah, it expired." I sighed. "Sorry."
"Neosporin expires? Are you sure?"
"Of course it expires! Everything expires."
"Fine, I'll just put a Band Aid on it. Where are they?"
"Oh, they expired."
"Band Aids DO NOT expire!"
"Umm, yes? They do? The adhesive breaks down and they don't perform as well."
"Seriously? This cut is going to get infected and they'll have to amputate it, all because the Neosporin and Band Aids were 'expired'. I hope you remember that when I'm walking around with 9 fingers and I'm unable to pick my dirty clothes up off the floor and always put the toilet seat down, like I do now." *
"Well, I guess we could whip up some penicillin, I just tossed some moldy cheese in the trash..."

*This is where you realize the conversation is a total fabrication.


  1. I was baking with my daughter this afternoon: "Mom, this milk smells like blue cheese." The date on it is just a general guideline in my book.
    Wet cheese, however... guh.

  2. Husbands eXpire too, especially when bandaids are lacking. The organic chemist math guy in me gets suspicious of product eXpiration dates that happen to be eXactly a year in the future, adjusting for the manufacturing time and delivery. Exponential growth and decay calculations are interesting. My favorite thing that I learned in Differential Equations was that tricky time math equation you see on CSI-NCIS teleBision where they measure the liver temperature and knowing the ambient temperature, are able to determine TOD. Spooky.

  3. In 2006, my then boss called me and asked how long I thought home-canned sloppy joe sauce would be safe to eat. I asked her what the canning date was and she said, "1993."

    I immediately hung up and called a Haz Mat team.

  4. Those dates are on there to make people throw things away that last forever and buy more- kind of like how light bulbs are made to break so that they can sell more.

  5. In the ever-wise words of Steven Wright - how do you know when sour cream is bad? My mom LOVES to empty out her cupboards to me but I've learned to examine the contents of the bag after the first time when she gave me items with expiration dates in the 90's. I'll admit that I still rely on the old sniff test for some suspect items but I'm with you on pushing the limits on expiration dates.

    Not sure if you'll be able to access this but my bestie has the BEST pix of cleaning out her mom's cupboards and the dates she found..

  6. kelly,

    Once again: you are me. I take this expiration date fetish a step further and examine all the things in my mother's fridge when I am visiting. However, she will NOT allow me to throw anything away, so it is just for my general knowledge. When I go visit her, I eat out. A lot.

    As for the part of your story with the * where I realize it is a complete fabrication-- no. I realized it was a complete fabrication on the second line where you said "sorry" to your husband. If you did in fact actually utter the word "sorry," then it was clearly code for "Why don't you go to the store and buy us some current Neosporin and Band-Aids yourself, what do I look like-- a doctor's office?"

    ps--tell your husband that extra finger is overrated and he can totally get by fine with just 9.

  7. I agree with JRose, a lot of expiration dates are stupid. There are expiration dates on bottles of water, cans that actually last more than 10 years, etc. etc. Even dairy is fine after the "use-by" date if it smells / tastes OK. And a trick I love with eggs is if they float in water, they are bad, but if they sink, they are good, regardless of expiration date.