As already written a few weeks ago on my author blog, there is quite a bit of frivolous, high-living-driven wastage going on in Canada because of the materialistic mindset that everything must look perfect or its not worthy of being consumed. Grocery store chains such as Loblaw’s family of stores are to be lauded for seeking to change this wasteful perception. As a result, I am pleased to see this article come up as well.
I was just talking to a co-worker at my church about “due dates” and “expiry dates”. She was sharing how someone she knows regularly tosses items in her fridge and pantry simply because the expiry date has come and gone. Both of us shared how we’ve seen milk last up to two weeks beyond it’s apparent due date, yet also seen milk expire well before its due date. Consequently, I am inclined to agree with the “experts” mentioned in this article that your own nose is a far better judge of the state of a piece of food than the dates given on the package.
The trick for those of us who live low-income, is to successfully judge when a given piece of food will go bad and when it will last. This is why the article regarding the verse in Proverbs where there is much wastage in the house of the poor is more accurate simply as written, than many “deeper” interpretations realize. Even going through international cookbooks in my cupboard reveal recipes for such things as German Chocolate Fingers, which are made from. . . sit down and take a deep breath now. . . stale bread! You read that right! The recipe instructs you to take several slices of stale bread, cut them into 1″ x 4″ slices, and carry on from there. Similar recipes for a type of bread pudding say to take those slices of the same stale bread, and soak them in milk before laying them in a pan as the base upon which other ingredients will be added. Stale bread is also great for crushing into stuffing as filler, or for chopping, seasoning and then drying for croutons. The concept of “bread sticks” that you now buy in carefully-crafted containers comes from this concept of “waste not, want not“.
The Germans weren’t just known for their precision and careful attention to detail. They were also known for being quite thrifty, inventive, and improvising whereever needed. These recipes involving stale bread are just a few of the kitchen examples I have learned thanks to these international cookbooks in my collection. Because of their example, I can no longer tell you when a cookie tastes stale, when crackers have gone stale, when dry cereal has supposedly gone stale, etc. My kids now fail to see the importance of keeping dry foods sealed because they can’t tell the difference either. When we hear of others complaining about stale dry goods, even within our own extended family, we find ourselves wanting to look at them strange while trying to remain polite.
Your dollar goes so much farther when you discover that a) food doesn’t have to look perfect to taste just as good as the so-called perfect versions, and b) just because a given item of food has outlasted it’s expiry date doesn’t necessarily mean it must be tossed. As the article shares, some foods will need tossing if smells and appearances confirm the food has indeed gone bad. Other foods however, will look and smell just fine, and might even be salvagable if bruising or mold is found on them. We pinch mold off of cheese all the time to eat what is left. We don’t have to, after all, people buy cheese deliberately allowed to mold in the stores every day. We call it “blue cheese”. But we aren’t fans of cheese mold in this house so we pinch it off. We pinch off bits of mold on bread as well, and we almost cheer if a loaf bought from the store starts to mold because we know it has fewer chemicals and preservatives than other brands! Penicillin originally came from bread mold, so we don’t have a problem with the practice.
Attitudes and behaviours affect how we spend our money greatly! Learn more about this kind of discussion during week 3 and during discussion week 5 of my course, “The Poor Man’s Budget: a 5 Week Course – Learning to Live within your means”. Ask when the next intake will be when you register.