20 April 2008

There is but one frugal nightmare ...

... and it's wasting something, especially food.

Now, generally, I try to use every last bit of every single thing in this house. This is not a perfect frugal utopia, though, and sometimes we lose some of the leftovers to the compost pile. It could be that I made too much. It could be that I couldn't get creative enough to make them look less like leftovers the second or third time. It could be that my family hates eating leftovers in general.

Today was not a leftover loss day. Nope, today I got this brillant idea to empty, deep clean, and totally rearrange my upstairs pantry. It seemed like a much better idea when I started than once I had everything emptied out onto the kitchen table ... and counters ... and floor. I enjoy organizing things, grouping them, putting them in little lines, labeling. I'm nerdy like that. I let that love of OCD blind me to the actual amount of work emptying and restocking ones pantry might actually be. Alas, I trudged through, and I must say it's pretty gorgeous looking right now. I haven't done the labels yet, if that's any idea of how tired I must be. Labels are my favorite part. (sad face)

The nightmare part comes in realizing there are items in the pantry that have made it not only past the expiration date (which bothers me less and less) but have also outlasted the 'last possible second I will consider putting this in my or my family's mouths' by considerable margins without me noticing. Those items, of course, have to go in the trash or the compost pile, and that tears a little at my soul. Every can or box that hits the trash is like an actual dollar bill in my head. Goodbye dollar bills. I'm so sorry I wasn't a good enough steward to keep you around.

Before it gets too melodramatically parsimonious in here, I only ended up pitching like six or seven items. That's pretty miniscule in comparison to my huge stockpile of food. I had to part with a can of crushed pineapple that expired in 2005 (um, 2 years before we MOVED it to this house, fyi), two boxes of crappy assemble the pieces oven meals that none of us liked (and which should have gone to the food pantry, but didn't make it), and a handful of oatmeal packets from 2006. I'm pretty sure that oatmeal is still ok, but it had little apple pieces in it and they weren't so great looking and ... well ... for peace of mind, I suppose, in the compost bucket they go.

There is still, of course, expired food in my pantry. There always will be. Do not let this be some kind of educational tutorial on food safety, though. There is no safe set standard for eating food past it's expiration. I've just figured out what I am and am not comfortable with over time. I used to dump the milk two days before it expired, for the record, because the thought of turned milk (which I was convinced happend at 12:01 on the expiration day, if not before) makes me want to hurl. I just try to use my best judgement. I don't risk things that could probably kill us, like poultry or dairy, but I regularly open a new box of cereal or granola bars that were 'best by' 2007 and are doing just fine in 2008. Don't follow my rules, though. I don't want a bunch of comments about how you spent the weekend chained to the toilet because you ate rotten hoisin sauce or some such thing.

Throwing out food will always bother me. It's probably that "There are starving kids in Africa" thing that my parents pulled on us 20 years ago. They were right, though. There are starving kids in Africa, and South America, and Iowa. That's part of why I live the way I do, and blog about it (the other part is pure self indulgence ... lol). I don't ever want to be ok with wasting resources. I want to feel bad about it. That's what keeps me true to the mission at hand.



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