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Best Before

By Belinda

I grew up post-war Britain and rationing did not end until 4 years after I was born. I absorbed a sense of food's value, learned not to waste it and also love to cook. 

This combination of factors is my excuse for the fact that we have two fridges in our home--both usually packed to the gills with left overs from dinners I have cooked for family or friends. 

Since  I work full time, cleaning out both fridges usually only happens at crisis point, when food items begin to ambush unsuspecting people when the door is opened.

At this busy time of the year, fridge cleaning slides more than usual, but rose to the top of my To Do list on a recent Saturday morning when I could stand the food commando raids no longer.

This was just after I told a friend that there was some applesauce in the fridge that would go with the pork we were having for lunch and she asked, "Belinda did you want to serve this?" when she opened it. 

Let's just say, it must have passed its "best before" date long ago in the distant past. By the time she opened the jar it had the look of a science experiment gone horrifically wrong.

So as I emptied my fridge on the day of the massive clean out, I paid special attention to the bottled salad dressings and other sauces in jars, with "best before" dates. I have been shocked before to find that the "best before" date was years ago. How time flies in a fridge!

And this brings me to my point. What exactly does "best before" mean?

I mean it is so open to interpretation for someone like me who tends to push the boundaries of almost everything.

Just because something was "best" before a certain day, does not mean that it is inedible the next day, surely?

And therein lies my dilemma. What is a thrifty soul, who likes to use everything up to do?

My brother Rob is the exact opposite and throws food away with abandon at the slightest hint of being "off." He has helped me, but not enough, obviously.

So I am proposing that the Powers that Be in the food regulation world, get serious. People like me don't need the euphemistic suggestion of "best before." 

We need the dire warning of "ABSOLUTELY NOT TO BE EATEN AFTER," dates--perhaps with the addition of a skull and crossbones. 

Come on, how about it?


If it smells like it's supposed to smell, looks like it is supposed to look, then we eat it. Yikes. We think the 'best before' thing is either a suggestion or a lawyers approach to CYA for the manufacturer. This may be dangerous but it's what we do.
Anonymous said…
I'm more like your brother. If it is beyond the date - it goes. I find that many things, like salad dressings, do go off a bit. But then - I'm such a delicate flower. (Oh brother!). My biggest enemy is my nose. It is super sensitive to anything just a bit off. I can smell someone smoking a block away and bad fish from outside a store. So needless to say I'm "sherlocking" the fridge for anything off.

As to safety - well, most of the dates just mean the product is at its best by a certain date. The quality may not be prime after that - but few things will kill ya.

My mother in law, a wonderful Christian woman, practiced her believes in her fridge. (I know I prayed a lot over the food I ate from there.) She believe in resurrection - food kept coming back to life from her fridge. One time while they were away, I cleaned out her fridge for her. Threw away soured sour cream (oxymoron)and the greenest blue cheese I've ever seen. In fact the fridge was almost bare. I was so happy. I pictured her delight upon returning home as seeing her clean shiny organized fridge. Our relationship was never the same after that. She was quite upset with me. They were away for 6 weeks!!! She claimed she could still make something from the goods. Oh my goodness. I had to promise never to do it again. I don't believe in waste - but funerals are more expensive than cheese!!!

I've heard you can tell a lot about a person from their fridge. You sound busy and overflowing with generosity!
swissdebbie said…
Hi, I recognize the syndrome...beeing alone it is even worse, there are always some leftovers...
I am like Dave; look, smell and if there is no mold, I eat it.
If it s meat or fish it goes to the cats...and if they don't want it I know it s really overdue
but I have eaten yoghurt 1 month over date and none the worse for it....also have a jar with Rose jam from Nice....from 2005, never got to eating itoh yes and cranberry sauce I made from Christmas is coming near.........
Belinda said…
Oh my, Dave and Joe, you would be so at home with me! So glad! :)If we go down, we go down together, ha ha!
Belinda said…
Anonymous, you made me laugh out loud--a great way to start the morning. Your mom sounds like a sweetie and a kindred spirit, who knew the power of grace being said over meals. :)I envy you your "nose." Mine is compromised by allergies, but I still hope I can trust it with my fridge! :)
Belinda said…
Deb, we are family in more ways than one I see. :) I will cut mold off cheese and still eat it, although not serve it to others--well, maybe Paul! :) I too, have jars of jam in the fridge that are ancient--and I ask myself, do I eat jam or not? If not, why do I keep it? And if I do, why is it still there? Ha ha!
Susan said…
You can serve that de-molded cheese to me! :)
Belinda said…
Ha ha Susan. I choose my friends well, I see! :)
Anonymous said…
It is amazing how many people can relate to this situation! My challenge is having food in the fridge as I dislike shopping.
Belinda said…
Anonymous, it is amazing. :) I could help you out with the food in the fridge if you live anywhere near Bond Head, Ontario. :) I will share, but can't guarantee the shelf life. Ha ha! :)
mercygraceword said…
I used a salad dressing today that was best before April 2012 - tasted great and I haven't experienced any side effects to this point.
I looked up "best before" recently and it simply talked about being past it's optimum flavour as opposed to spoiled.

So, serve me your ancient condiments, I'm good with that :0)
Belinda said…
Dear Deborah, April 2012? You rock! :) Ha ha! Thank you for that website. Very handy--I will investigate. :)

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