Saturday, May 22, 2010

Food for thought

I can't do the post I wanted to do today because my laptop is acting up and that's where all my pictures are (of course)- so I thought I'd write about something that I was reminded of this week that I thought was kind of funny (you might think it's gross).

Last week I received a notification on facebook that a friend of mine, that also lives here as an expat in Kobe, updated her blog and the title was Expiration Dates. I immediately started to chuckle and got excited that someone else, like myself gave expiration dates on food and medicine a whole new meaning while living abroad. However, upon reading it, it was about people with expiration dates (friends that we meet here from other countries, who like ourselves will eventually move home and we may never see them again). At any rate, it made me realize how much my regard for expiration dates on packaged items had really changed.

The two times my mother has visited, she has noticed and commented on the items I was using that were past their expiration dates. Now, before I provide you with further information, be aware that nothing is rotten or moldy, I would not jeopardize my kids' health. When we moved here, I loaded that moving truck full of food and non-perishables that I knew we consumed regularly, that I thought would be heavy to ship, hard to find in Japan, or expensive to order online. Do you know, that three and a half years later, I still have some of that stuff!!!!! As I am preparing to go on my home leave this summer, I am taking inventory and deciding what to get rid of to clear out space and what we need to buy more of. The thing is, I just can't bring myself to throw anything out. I am devising new ways to incorporate the stuff into our diet so we don't waste it, or just plain leaving it on the shelf because in a way it has become like gold to us because it is so hard to get to Japan or expensive to buy.

In the US, if my milk was expired, it was tossed, whether or not it was rotten-it was the expiration date, and it had to go. Here, we drink milk about a week after the expiration date (we have smelled it and it never smelled bad)- but at almost $8 a gallon, we are not going to waste a drop. If fruit starts to go bad, I look for recipes to use it in, I have never made so many banana muffins in my life and I have at least three bags of frozen blueberries in my freezer (yes, my son snuck the $12 a quart blueberries in my cart at COSTCO). Most recently, we got back from our week long vacation and I wanted to make a smoothie, so I used our already open yogurt that expired over a month ago to make a smoothie, even Dave gawked at that.

In my pantry, I think all my cereal is expired, but hey, my kids have no idea what the difference between stale and crunchy cereal is, they are just happy to have cereal, another thing that is very difficult to find in a grocery store here. I think the worst thing I have going is my croutons, which expired in 2007- yes, I will throw them away.

Since moving here, we have a new appreciation for the things we enjoy eating. We especially covet our candy and cookies, we actually seem to bring back a lot, but then eat less because we want to ration them. I brought back girl scout cookies after Christmas, we ate one sleeve, but now it's five months later, and haven't touched the other one because we know once we eat it, it will be unknown when we will get to eat some again.

Recently I realized how bad this ignorance of expiration dates for expats could be when we went to a garage sale for a neighbor that is leaving and they were selling jelly that had expired in 2005- yes that smuckers would be heavenly, but in that case, I'll pay the $10 I'd have to pay to order it online. Sometimes the higher cost for newer non-perishables can outweigh the medical bill for getting your stomach pumped (no we haven't had that happen- it just made realize that just because we live in Japan, it doesn't mean we can't throw stuff out).

What did the site of that dusty jelly jar and completely separated jar of fluff teach me???- I am going to get rid of all that salad dressing that expired in early 2008, throw away the mayo that we're still using that expired in November 2009 (hey, it's Hellmann's), and get rid of those croutons.

Watch out grocery stores in America, here we come!

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