I don’t mean to brag, but I’m quite a savvy shopper when it comes to grocery stores.
While the mall ranks just slightly above the gates of hell for me, the grocery store presents countless opportunities to spend my money on the only thing I really enjoy spending my money on—quality produce and food.
But every rose has it’s thorn, and mine can be found in the broccoli stalks that threaten to brown all too soon or on the lid of a cup of Greek yogurt.
Despite the satisfaction in knowing I have a fridge stocked with my staples, there is also the extreme pressure of (insert dramatic music here) expiration dates.
Once that fridge is stocked with perishables, I feel compelled to revolve my culinary life around these things. When choosing my food, I will usually default to a combination that allows me to use up something that may go bad (in a month) over something else that may sound better.
In other words, because I’m cheap and neurotic, I have this irrational compulsion to “use up” things before they go bad (or I get anxious seeing them sitting on my shelf for more than two minutes.)
Certain things are dateless—other than me, of course—but they still have a way of creeping into my culinary consciousness. Considering that a veritable vegetable army dominates my fridge, I am faced with these decisions every day. Hearty apple or browning banana?
Sadly, I do this to myself. I don’t know how many times I have told myself not to buy anything else until I have completely used up what I already have.
If the yogurt culture cult wasn’t there with the little date stamps harassing me from their perch of refrigeration or the broccoli wasn’t there to threaten dryness and browning, then the problem would be resolved.
Or so it would seem.
Along with pressure to consume things before their dated (or undated) demise, there is the pressure to stay stocked. If there are less than four yogurts, reinforcements must be sent in. If the “keep it fresh” banana bag is vacant, action must be taken. If there’s no asparagus in the drawer, well, that almost never happens.
Dates on cereal, rice and water bottles (seriously?) don’t stress me out quite as much, as they have more long-term goals tattooed upon their skin. If I have a year to eat the industrial size box of oatmeal in my pantry, I consider that an attainable, enjoyable goal.
If I have a week to use up the hummus in my fridge, I conjure up my plan of attack and prepare to immerse myself in everything chickpea until I can lick that container clean.
Don’t judge. You know you’ve done that.
On the plus side, the date stamps do actually serve another useful purpose in that it’s one of the only reasons that I am ever actually aware of the date. I choose my yogurt in the store (picked from the back, as if they stock correctly, those will be the latest expiration dates) and use it as a frame of reference.
"Let’s see… Aug. 22. That means today’s date is probably some time before that."
See? Handy for someone with the memory of a hyperactive gnat on crack.
So I suppose this necessary yet neurotic watch is just one of life’s little pleasures and pressures. I will continue to play the dating game, ensuring my groceries are never outdated while ignoring the fact that my clothes always are.
Pick your battles people, pick your battles.
I pick perishables.