Rural Living

Out with the Old

An Expirational Message


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

It’s a new year, and we’ve all made resolutions of sorts. Mine is to organize drawers and shelves.

I started with my pantry the other night. Too bad I’d just been grocery shopping that day. Then again, that was perhaps the reason I decided to just get to it. There was no place to store the Coke Zero and Iams dog food, my two main pantry staples.

Well, there’s plenty of space to store it now.

I started with the top shelf. ‘This won’t take long,’ I thought.

As it happened, I had a lot of things I thought I was out of. I unearthed six cans of Café Bustelo. This is Cuban coffee and I cannot live without it. I found two tins of Ghirardelli double chocolate powder. This is what I heap into my Cuban coffee every morning. Caramba, but it’s good!

I found four cans of evaporated milk — a pale but serviceable substitute if I discover I’m out of fat-free half-and-half, which completes the coffee chocolate mixture. They expired in 2007.

I’m not too worried about that; there are four quarts — isn’t that a gallon? — of cream in my fridge. I know, because I cleaned that out last week. Sadly, the Hershey’s chocolate syrup and the two six-ounce bottles of Coke Black, which expired in 2008, had to go. I’m sorry about the Coke Black. It packed a powerful jolt. They manufactured it just long enough to get me hooked, and then stopped making it altogether.

Hidden on a back shelf, I found several of the “old” style of light bulbs. These do not expire, a fact for which I’m grateful. I hate the new, twirly-style bulbs. If you’re clumsy or heavy-handed, which I am, they can burst before you get them screwed into the fixture. They are filled with some sort of poisonous gassy powder. (Editor’s note: Um, that would be mercury — the tiniest speck of it — much less than was in the thermometer your mom used to put in your mouth — and no doubt less of a health hazard than your Café Bustelo. See cflcleanup.html for instructions on proper cleanup. And those “twirly-style” bulbs that we, ahem, encourage our readers to use — use 75 percent less power. You could buy a lot of groceries with those savings. But never mind, Margo. We know you’re clumsy — we love you anyway!)

I found a box of matzo I had been thrilled to find while shopping out of town in 2006. Out it went. Ditto for the panko bread crumbs. When I shook that box, whatever was inside seemed to be a solid clump.

On the next shelf were canned goods. Well, perhaps the word “goods” no longer applies. When I was craving it last winter, I had no idea there were six cans of Campbell’s green pea soup sitting on this shelf. Too bad. Then again, they were probably dead ducks already.

Green pea soup is a wonderful childhood memory. Combined with one of Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches, it was my very favorite lunch of all time.

Aha! There, in the very back on the far side were two cans of artichoke hearts. I love artichoke hearts. When I extracted them, however, they left a sticky black outline on the shelf. The bottom of one can had sort of exploded. I checked. They expired in 2004. Oops.

A friend visited from New York City last weekend. I served some brie, and was wishing I had some “fancy” crackers. And, voila, there they were, just sitting there on a pantry shelf. They were stamped 09.

I tossed the fancy crackers into the trash, along with a box of low-fat devil’s food cookies that were way past their prime. By now, the trash bag was overflowing with favorite foods I have had a hankering for from time to time, never realizing they were just steps away.

I unearthed a jar of something I am absolutely crazy for: Double Devon Cream. It should have been opened and enjoyed three years ago. I sighed as I threw it in one of the dozens of plastic grocery bags I found crumpled together in the far reaches of the bottom shelf. I knew they would come in handy one day.

Speaking of expiration dates, they are not stamped on everything. Was the small can of garbanzo beans still good? The code on top said Z87X384. That tells me nothing. But, since the paper on the can seemed to have yellowed with age, I bid goodbye to the garbanzos.

All this necessitated an extra trip to the dumpsters. And as I busily bustled back and forth with my bulging bags of never-opened canned goods and formerly delightful treats and snacks, I wondered: Wouldn’t it be less hassle and heartache to just, every now and then, go up to the dumpsters and toss in a couple of $50 bills?  


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