Did You Check the Freshness Date?

trashMy wife scowls whenever I pluck something off the supermarket shelf.

“Did you check the freshness date?” she asks.

She knows I never do. Those dates rarely make sense to me: at least on things that are not perishable.

Milk? Sure. Eggs? Sure. But they put them on everything. They put them on cans.  They stamp them on boxed cereals.  They even date Mac & Cheese. Seriously? You could eat that Mac & Cheese out of King Tut’s tomb, it is so indestructible.

But freshness is the law for my wife. She picks through vegetables. She eyeballs the meat. She blocks the supermarket aisle to scrutinize the label on water softener salt.

At home, she is just as fanatic. I once watched her check the expiration date on a bottle of water. It was past due. so she chucked it.

That is what bothers me the most about those dates. Throwing things away.

It seems everything must have a mortality date. Clothes go out of style. Cars are built to fall apart. Appliances break down. Even attitudes age. Everything must make way for the onrush of the new.

I guess the reason I never got into the habit of checking expiration dates is that I never had to. I grew up in a large family where nothing went to waste. Our clothes came from our older siblings which in turn came from older cousins. (It is scary to think where the cousins got them.) The same went for bicycles, baseball gloves and board-games.  Everything, absolutely everything, was handed down. If it could not be eaten, it never left the family.

Who knows? Most of that stuff is probably still in circulation.

But my wife was raised differently. Her family had only four kids and not nearly as many cousins, thus she does not understand how the world works. Which is strange because her father is like me. He grew up poor and never got into the habit of checking dates.

Once when we were making toast at his house, I went into the cupboard for preserves and I found what looked like a treat. Blackberry jam.

Of course, my wife had to ask, “Did you check the freshness date?”

“Yes,” I said. (I lied.)

“Gimme that,” she said.

She twisted the jar this way and that, until she found the expiration date then she almost fell over.

“This isn’t blackberry jam,” she said, “it is ten year old strawberry jam.”

That cured me. Now I check the dates on everything.

Author: Almost Iowa


25 thoughts on “Did You Check the Freshness Date?”

  1. I’m like your wife, mainly because of the danger of food poisoning. I keep chucking out-of-date things out of the fridge which my husband would gladly consume. What’s wrong with men? Anyway, you’ve come to your senses by becoming a checker!

  2. Why bother with dates on anything but dairy and meat? I gently handle and smell produce and bread–that tells you what you need. Medicine is typically good for at least two years past its date. (Generics not always.) When not sure, you can google to find out.

    So…big fuss about “eh”, to me. I hate waste. Although upper-middle class, grew up the recipient of twice- and thrice-worn clothes. (Nice clothes, mind you.) Didn’t like it, but it didn’t kill me, either. People just didn’t believe in waste back then. They shouldn’t now.

    1. I agree with you, Outlier Babe, our entire neighborhood passed clothes around – we all wore them. It got to be like going shopping without “having to get dragged into a store” and missing a day outside.

      Wasting isn’t right to this day, to me. If you cannot use something or wear it, and it’s in good shape, at least donate it so someone else is able to – side benefit, they don’t know who it came from.

  3. I shared this on facebook…but neglected to comment on how much I enjoyed this story. Food poisoning isn’t fun.

  4. I see a not-too-distant future, in the nexus of dwindling family size, high divorce rates, and corporate carelessness, in which freshness date non-checkers become like dinosaurs…extinct. I’m with your wife on this one!
    A happy Monday chuckle, once again! 🙂

      1. Where I come from, we see medicine ads all the time that go something like this. “Side effects are, nausea (keep in mind they’re talking about a medicine that will stop a stomach ache), vomiting, rash, blindness and in some cases, death. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.”

  5. My hubby is the date checker. I assume (!) that grocery stores are up on their game and there is no need to confirm the date.

    I had a similar upbringing – nothing went to waste. As for food, mom was constantly bemoaning the fact that she just baked 6 dozen cookies yesterday and now only five cookies remain. She kept the pantry shelves full of canned cherries, rhubarb, peaches, pears. If a canning jar should lose the seal, well then. No problem. Dad made wine. To bad he didn’t master that particular skill!

        1. Why compare paint remover to vino when you can use it as a vital ingredient in wine-making? I have often found that a good way to add zest to meals is the liberal addition of toxic chemicals. It also, may I add magically, excuses me from meal preparation.

  6. Crikey when I read the title I thought you were talking about my wife – you see she’s not that fresh with the passage of time! But yes, having once insisted a yogurt was – indeed must be fresh because I’d kept it in the fridge – taken aback when it basically exploded when I took the lid off. It was 2 months out of date!

    1. Yikes! You want us to write about that? I check all of them – even read labels, too. Just shoot me now.
      Your wife is a smart woman – you….are getting there, both of you! 🙂

    2. Aged yogurt should only be handled by professionals. Several years ago, one of our evidence clerks discovered a quart of yogurt that was left unrefrigerated in an evidence locker for two years. We had to call in the bomb squad to dispose of it and just the paperwork alone cost millions.

Comments are closed.