Honey, Is this OK to Eat?
My original intent when I popped the above title on the blank white screen a while back was to provide an helpful article about how to read the dates and notes on various food items – and translate those into appropriate actions that would minimize the possibility of hurling into the porcelain receptacle and/or making trips to the emergency room. I did a logical amount of research and have all the material I need tucked away neatly in an appropriately labeled folder.
However, after spending all of seven seconds rethinking this plan I’ve decided this is not rocket science and devoting more than two paragraphs to this subject would be boring and a total waste of time. So here are the important two paragraphs:
1. A “sell by” date simply means your friendly neighborhood grocer should probably think about rotating his stock and put some effort into sliding this product out the door by the designated date. It’s still good to eat.
2. A “best if used by” date is our consumer guide to tell us that this food may start to slide down the Really Tasty Scale sometime after that. And yeah, depending on the product, it may be OK to consume for some time.
That said, how can we REALLY know when the time has come to toss out our food-type goodies? Here are some guidelines I use that I’m sure you will find helpful.
I’ll always throw out:
Sliced cheese that has the look and texture of a miniature shingle.
Block cheese with more than a half-inch of fuzz growing on it.
Tie-dye colored bread
Chunky milk – or milk the cat absolutely refuses to drink
Anything (other than honey) more than seven years old. I understand honey will last practically forever – similar to some of today’s margarines.
Lettuce that looks like toad snot
Dropped food that has remained on the floor for more than 30 seconds - providing the dog doesn’t get it first. (Most of the cat hair will wipe right off…)
Products in cans now in the shape of a shoe.
Anything scraped from the underneath side of the dining room table.
Cottage cheese (it really is spoiled milk, right…?)
Biscuits that can shatter a plate
Green/white grape jelly
Bearded apples, oranges and other fruits
Anything the dog brings to me
Lunchmeat that keeps sliding off the bread
Green grapes that have turned a slimy purple
Raisins the size and consistency of mouse turds
Peanuts that taste like they may have been stored in the dirty clothes hamper
Ham slices that are turning brown and crispy – in the fridge
Saltine crackers that sag when picked up
Tomatoes with the consistency of a fresh cow pie
Anything that smells like a fresh cow pie
Anything I find under the couch cushions (unless I’ve just dropped it within the last hour)
Anything I can’t identify – or at least make a reasonably good guess as to what it might be
Spices purchased before 1970
Food stored in Tupperware that has become brittle with age
Bananas with the consistency of pudding
Brown chocolate bars that are now mostly white
Anything after the cat sat on it
Any marshmallow that can be used as a weapon
Cereal that is soggy before you put the milk on it
Pancake mix that has morphed into concrete
Hot dogs with the label “Contents Unknown”
Hot dog buns that shatter when I try to open them up
Mustard that I can’t easily chip out of its container
Potato chips that have been open more than three months
Anything in the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets that is moving
Tacos purchased from a roadside vendor in
Oh yeah… and cottage cheese…
I hope this has been helpful to you.
One more note: If you really want factual information on food storage and use, you might take a look at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Food_Product_Dating/index.asp and/or http://www.foodsafety.gov/
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