How Not To Kill Your Family on a Budget
Updated: Aug 12
Ever see the clearance sections in the grocery stores and drug stores? You know the ones with the big red, “CLEARANCE” sign that catches your eye from across the frozen shrimp and on sale chicken breast? That’s where families on a budget go first in order to pick through the expired food and the unwanted shampoo that’s been sitting there since last Christmas with names like, “Pina Colada" reminding you of days gone by when, "Gangsta's Paradise" was poppin and your dance moves were at least a little better then the 80's, even while dancing on at least one table top.Now here you are, perusing the expired or about to expire food stuffs in your new middle-aged gravity ravaged body, a time where getting on a table, means laying down at the doctor’s office for a pap smear. Gone are the days of living pay check to pay check, party to party and here are the days of surviving pay check to pay check with kids in tow stepping on your toes. Big difference.
Ever wonder if that moldy cheese in the refrigerator is still good as you pack your family’s lunches? When you’re a student and a single parent it takes a big person to chuck it directly in the receptacle bin (garbage can for the lay person) without passing go. But, on a budget, that cheese with the soft teal green mold becomes lunch for the three of us or perhaps the seven of you depending on whether you were raised religious or not. And if you were raised atheist, maybe it’s just you and your online cat that you still forgot to feed. Still that cheese is and that online cat are salvageable.
Remember the cheese you bought and put in the back of the meat bin? The one with mold? Well after cutting off the moldy bits, slice the cheese into square perfections and launch onto bologna sandwiches. That mold you just tossed in the receptacle bin like an old boyfriend was actually found to have anti-bacterial properties and was named by Alexander Fleming in 1928, as penicillin. So, throw that guilt in the receptacle bin along with the shaved off bits of baby teal green mould now sprouting fuzzies like a fur coat because it was too cold in the meat bin. Shaving the mold off that brick of cheese is not going to kill you or your family but there is one rule: Be sure to cut at least one inch off on either side making sure to use a clean knife before slicing into the good bits. Be sure to wrap the resurrected cheese in a new wrapping and put back in the front of the meat bin this time.
What are expiry dates you ask? Well, there are three different kinds of expiry dates. The first one is what’s called a sell by date which basically means the retailer must get rid of the products from the store by that date. Which is why we see clearance bins and shelves at stores everywhere. These products could be anything from food to shampoo to diet pop and really old vitamins you never even heard of. The second kind of expiry date is the best buy date which literally means that the products quality is guaranteed until this date. It means that the company takes no responsibility for the products quality after this date. So, if your carrot muffins you bought on sale expire in three days, then on the fourth day taste like your exes’ socks, the company is not responsible. They told you to finish all 12 muffins in three days and they have a Best Before Stamp. Kind of like your ex, they told you. The third kind of expiry date is what’s called a use before date which means to use it before the date stamp. It does not mean the food or products gone bad, it’s sort of like a precaution so the company does not get sued if in case you get sick and have diarrhea for a week if you have consumed 30-day old hummus sitting in your refrigerator behind the cheese.
Now that we know consuming foods or using products after the expiry date is not going to kill you. Let’s move into foods to stay away from that are expired. I know that cheap bag of zucchini in the clearance section looks scrumptious because you want to make ratatouille, but please stay away from any soft fruits or vegetable with mold. Mold can travel through and infect foods with a lot of moisture. Moisture rich fruits or vegetables on clearance are one heck of a deal but if you see any sign of your ex boyfriend, I mean mold, don’t trust it. However, hard vegetables like cabbage, turnip, potato and carrots can be salvaged with the one-inch rule.
Remember that old bag of corn flakes sitting in the back of the cupboard next to the soap making kit you bought one year because you wanted to make extra money which is probably expired by now? Cereals unopened can last 6-8 months. If it is opened it can last 4-6 months but it may be a little stale. Please do not tell my family this secret for salvaging old corn flakes but I’ll tell you. Those old corn flakes can be crushed and used as a coating for chicken. Add salt and pepper and you have MFC, mama’s fried chicken. Remember when your daughter begged for the corn flakes and you bought them with a coupon and she said she’d eat them all? Guess what? She is, 6 months later. You helped her keep her word which is a virtue. So, throw that guilt in the receptacle bin.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty here. Unopened dry pasta can last up to two years, so buy enough for you and your family, add some variety by buying the spiral ones too. Eggs can last 3-5 weeks in the refrigerator even after the expiry date so no need to force everyone to eat stale French toast on the egg carton’s expiry date! Tuna can last 2-5 years after the expiry date so if there is a sale on about to expire tuna, grab a net full. You can add it to your spiral pasta next year and make a tuna casserole with the expired cheese and expired sauce.
My point is that you can buy clearance items for a fraction of the cost and not kill your family. Most things can be bought on sale and frozen like ground beef, chicken and turkey which can last anywhere from 6 months to a year wrapped well. Even that steak that’s 40 percent off because it expires the same day can be bought, frozen and cooked at a later date, like your new boyfriend’s birthday. Have fun exploring the clearance sections and counting the money you save! If you are ever unsure, do some research. Don’t just take my word for it, my children are still all alive!