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The expiration date dilemma

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The refrigerator needed to be cleaned out, and as long as I was at it, the pantry needed a good cleaning too. I had put it off for too long; the time had come.

OK, I’m not talking about the basic concept of throwing out the lettuce that has wilted or the leftovers from a week ago that never got reheated. I’m talking about picking up each and every item, checking out the expiration date and then making a decision as to whether it stays or it gets dumped in the big black plastic bag abyss that laid next to me on the floor.

I started with the salad dressings that live on the top shelf in the door of the refrigerator. I try to keep a fairly large variety of bottled salad dressings, so when company comes and I’m serving a salad, everyone will be able to choose something they like. While I won’t bore you with all the details of how many bottles had expired, let’s just say the bag was filling up quickly.

I moved on to the other shelves in the refrigerator door, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Had this stuff really been in there that long? I had no idea mustard had an expiration date, though now that I think about it, I can’t tell you when that mustard came home with me from the grocery — obviously too many years ago. Pickles, olives, sauces, jams ... some stayed, but there was plenty that met their demise in the black abyss.

From the refrigerator door, I moved on to the shelves — not too much to discard there, primarily because cheese, salsa and applesauce have a fairly decent shelf life. OK, the vegetable and fruit drawers did require some attention, but I hate a jam-packed refrigerator, so the shelves were already relatively bare.

Next stop: The pantry.

Wow! Cake mixes, spaghetti sauce, cereal, canned vegetables, soups, spices ... nothing got ignored. While some of those expiration dates were written “in code,” I attempted to decode each one. I couldn’t believe the things I was throwing away. While I’m sure I probably bought two or three of an item when it was on sale, it had all been for naught, since the money I saved was offset by the money I spent — which was now in the garbage bag.

Struggling with the weight of the bag as I took it to the garbage can outside, I heard my grandmother’s long ago words remind me about all the starving kids in China, who would jump at the chance for the food I was scraping off my plate. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would say about this bag of food I had allowed to expire right before my very eyes.

And then something else hit me ... and I don’t mind telling you, it hit me hard. Aside from the hard-hitting fact that I had wasted all this money on food that had expired and was ultimately headed for the curb, the idea of an expiration date became somewhat personal. I’m not sure why the analogy even crossed my mind, but it did. After all, each and every one of us have our own personal expiration date. And while I have no idea what my expiration date might be — I still have one. You do too. And I couldn’t help but wonder if my own personal expiration date would arrive before I had the time to use up as much life as I could ...

I must have a bazillion things on my to-do list — things I want to do before ... well, before that ugly expiration date arrives. I could write page after page of all the things I want to do, but somehow, I don’t seem to be crossing many things off that list. As a matter of fact, there are days when I can’t even find the dang list because of all the other stuff that needs to happen. I guess I worry most that my expiration date will arrive, and like the food in that black garbage bag, I’ll have wasted so much time that my to-do list will expire right along with me.

Moral of this proverbial story? Do it now before that dreaded expiration date dilemma arrives ...

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com or you can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bcrnews.tsimon.

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