While I sometimes might hang on to old documents and cards too long, the same can’t be said for food. Since the time I moved out of my parents’ house, I have been religious about throwing out items in my refrigerator past the “best by” or “use by” date. Just the notion of rotten milk or moldy bread was enough for me to dispose of food no questions asked.
As I have lived ten years as a bachelor, I naturally threw out lots of unconsumed food. Although I do have an appetite and eat more than I should, it still takes me longer to eat a large pack of muffins than it would a family. Thus, it became habit for me to “donate” recently expired goods to the landfill.
Like I said, I took the “best by” labels very seriously. Half eaten bags of carrots, practically full gallons of milk, bunches of bananas, barely used taco shells, and items from the bakery were all put out of their misery by me the second they reached their expiration. Sadly, I frequently used to even toss food a day or two away from its “use by” date.
I recently read a very informative and in depth article on how these “best by” dates are pretty much myth. It turns out that these tags aren’t even federally mandated, it is just merely an ESTIMATE from the manufacturer on when the item will be at optimal freshness. In other words, the date on the package is NOT a warning of when the food will go bad.
The article explained that this is a harmful issue because it takes a big toll on the environment. Valuable land and water is used up to produce food that goes wasted. Furthermore, the carbon footprint associated with wasted food worldwide is more than 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
So while I do care about the environment and while I do find that carbon dioxide number alarming, I am more appalled at my own personal waste of food AND money.
Think of it this way: I eat sandwiches for lunch and I often throw half-eaten loaves out at the end of the week just because of the “best by” date. I have purchased a $4 loaf of bread pretty much weekly over the past ten years. Since I throw away half of the product at the end of the week, that means I waste about $2. If I multiply 2 (the dollar amount) by 10 (the number of years) by 52 (number of weeks in a year) I arrive at a waste of $1,040. Mind you, this is just bread and doesn’t begin to cover all the other food I have liberally disposed of over the past decade.
To be honest, I will probably still err on the side of throwing out food well before it starts to go bad. However, I will do my best to not have such a heavy hand moving forward. Food doesn’t become poisoned the second it reaches a “use by” date. I need to take this for fact, stretch my dollar, and help the environment at the same time. Don’t Blink.