This morning I noticed a small container of bulgar (see, I promised I’d try it!) in the fridge, that appears to no longer be edible. We ate most of what I made, but clearly I made a little more than was needed. This makes me a bit sad, because there’s nothing I can do with it besides put it in the compost pile. (Generally, I do not put grains in the compost pile, so it won’t draw critters to it, but this is such a small container that I will.)
Last night, though, when we tried out buckwheat pancakes for the first time (yum!), I had opened an old jar of apple butter that I found languishing in a cabinet in the basement. For the most part, old jars of things don’t go bad, though I was sure to check if the seal was still intact before I opened it. It was. And the apple butter was a delicious accompaniment to the pancakes.
One of the reasons people waste so much food is we aren’t clear about what’s still good and what’s not. The “sell-by” date that’s stamped onto containers only seems to muddy the waters. It’s a date that’s suggested to the store owners, so they know when to take things off the shelves. But often the food is good for far longer. Plus, all that appears to be “spoiled” isn’t necessarily unusable.
For instance, there are good reasons not to pour your old milk down the drain (with a few exceptions.) You can use turned milk in the garden. So cool! You can use it to make cheese. And I’ve always loved the way some muffin recipes actually call for turned milk!
There are also lists of things you can do with what you thought was unusable. Like this one.
To learn more about all kinds of dating methods (for food 😉 ), check out the USDA guidelines.
Choose something from your fridge or cabinet that you’re unsure about still being usable. Do a little research. Is it really past using? Or is there something that can be done with it? Create a poem about your food item and how you determined what the next step will be in its “life.” If you like, try the catalog technique you see used in today’s poem below.
All the water, the sun
the harvest, the package,
the time, the heart,
the nutrients, lost.
At least for now.
At least for us.
I will pour you
into the compost
for others to find.
And maybe another day
your iron will
in the scarlet runner beans
I hope to plant,