Friday, May 6, 2011

Pay Less but Eat More

Seen these before?  Of course, the "Best if Used By" date is on most food items now.  Some also have a "Sell By" date on them.  Of the two the Sell By date is more important but only from the seller's perspective.  None of these dates is magical; the product doesn't suddenly become toxic at mid-night of the date.  In fact, most foods like dried pasta, dried beans, and bottled or canned goods will last nearly forever if kept out of the sun and are stored in a cool dry place.  That is as long as the package remains completely intact.  I read a report many years ago about a community college ecology class that went digging in a landfill to see how degraded the trash was after twelve years.  They intended to calculate the rate of decay of various trash items.  What they found was very surprising.  Nothing was decaying in the landfill due to the high compression and lack of oxygen.  They pulled out cuts of meat that were a little dirty but otherwise could have been cooked and eaten.  Modern food processing adds all sorts of chemicals to "Preserve Freshness", the foods are pasteurized, and they are packed in sterile containers under vacuum.  Dried foods are naturally resistant to decay; ever eat deer or beef jerky?  It is raw meat, seasoned with flavoring, and then dehydrated; it is not cooked.  But it will last for a long time.  In the days before refrigeration and freezing, salt and vinegar were used to preserve foods.

So don't panic if your food is approaching or has just gone over the Best Used by date or the Sell By date; they are still good if they are unopened or were properly stored (under 40 degrees in the fridge).  You should get in the habit of rotating older foods to the front of your cabinet so that you eat them first and they don't go  wasted.  Every bit of food that you pay for but don't eat raises the price of your food.

I don't knowingly steal other author's material but I do use them for information.  While doing research I came across this site that explains the different "Dates" really well, so instead of trying to say it all in my own words I've just attached a link to the site.

So what about those stores that sell food items that have passed their Best Used by date?  Are they legal?  The short answer is yes but baby foods may not be sold past their date.  States are free to establish their own laws and their own policies.  My home state obviously allows it because there are two stores within ten miles of my house that sell out of date items at very reduced prices.  On a budget?  See if you can find one of these stores and check out what they sell.  Everything in the store is required to be safe to eat but the few times I have been to one I've restricted buys to dry goods and canned goods.  Use some common sense and you should be able to save quite a bit of money or buy more food with the money you have, whichever is your goal.

Happy shopping!

1 comment:

  1. Funny that this is your topic today. I keep a small food pantry at school for our families. Just today my boss mentioned that the PB expires in June 2011 and the saltines were expired in April 2011. So I told her okay the PB is good until June 2012 and the saltines were good until forever, didn't she know there were saltines in the Egyptian tombs that are still edible. While that may or may not be true the point is what did people do before they started marking foods. Now they even tell you your soda expires. Huh? I am cautious with canned foods that contain meats and gravies. But most everything else is a go. Just stock only what you need and will eat.