Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Food and Expiration Dates

When we were cleaning out the in-laws house in Cleveland several years ago, we came across a lot of food in their basement.  They didn't have a lot of storage room in their kitchen, so a corner of their basement was the surplus area for food.  My father-in-law called it the "fruit bin." The hubby and I are of two different minds about food and expiration dates.  He thought since there were no expiration dates on a lot of the cans and boxes of food that it was fine.  I tried explaining to him that if it didn't have expiration dates, then it's because it was made so long ago they didn't put a date on!!  To make him happy, I called a few of the manufacturers and gave them the codes on the cans or boxes.  Most of the customer service reps I talked to said something like, "we don't suggest you eat that."  That was after they kind of giggled at me!!  I recently read an article in Cook's Illustrated magazine about canned food's "real" shelf life.  They were saying in theory, cans that are in good shape (not punctured or bulging) and have been stored at the correct temperature should remain safe to eat indefinitely.  They went on to say a study conducted by the National Food Processor's Association said 100-year old canned food was found to be well preserved.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I would want to eat canned anything that was 100 years old!!  A few years ago, I was looking through a box of some old things of mine and found a piece of Easter candy from one of my first Easter baskets.  I thought that was old until I read a story around the holidays, about a fruitcake that had been in someone's family for 134 years.  It was baked on November 28, 1878!! It has been passed down from generation to generation and has become a family heirloom. That's a pretty old fruitcake. When I go to the store, I like to buy reduced meat that is getting ready to expire in a day or two.  All you have to do is toss it into the freezer.  Just be careful with the "sell by" and "use by" dates.  I cook like we are a much larger family than we are, so we almost always have leftovers.  Dominic and I are big fans of cold meatloaf, so that doesn't last too long around here! On average, we have a leftover night at least three times a month. I actually have found some foods get better with a day or two in the fridge, like lasagna.  One week is our limit with a leftover, though :) I like to do a thorough cleaning out of the contents of my fridge weekly and the freezer about once a month.  The pantry also gets reorganized about every three months. Sometimes the older stuff tends to get pushed to the back. How often do you clean out your fridge/freezer/pantry? What's the oldest food item you've ever found?  My philosophy is "when in doubt, throw it out!"

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