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The Expiration Date Debate

Expiration dates are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. It’s almost too obvious to say. It’s what makes intrinsic, common sense. If it were any other way, you’d have a carton of milk in your fridge that’s delicious one day and undrinkable the next. Everything you bought at the grocery store would have the at-home shelf life of the not ripe yet…not ripe yet… riii..nope you missed it avocado. WTF kind of crazy-ass world would that be? Not one I want to live in, I can tell you that.

And yet that is exactly the world I live in, because I married a woman who believes expiration dates are law. Written on cardboard, but set in stone. They are the word of God, sitting on his golden thrown atop a puffy white cloud with nothing better to do than to stroke his majestic beard and tell me when my food’s gone bad. According to my wife, expiration dates are not to be questioned. Least of all by me.

Sometimes I catch Allie going through the kitchen dumping dairy products, fruit juices, vacuum-sealed hot dogs, cereals and snacks. I pray, for the love of all that’s good and holy, that she hasn’t ventured down to the garage to examine the canned goods. There’s a zombie apocalypse coming and she’s worried about some manufacturer’s made-up best-by date. Taste is such a personal attribute that it’s all a matter of it. Who’s to say that I won’t think those peaches taste even better in a few months or years, aging like a fine wine in their sugary juice bath?

God didn’t give us expiration dates; he gave us our senses. First, use your eyes. If it’s close to the right color  and there’s no mold or crust where there shouldn’t be a crust, give it a little whiff. Still iffy, taste it. We have to be sure! We’re not exactly rolling in the deep over here. We’re trying to save for our kids’ colleges. We’re trying to save for retirement. We’re trying to save for a nice meal at a restaurant that only uses the freshest ingredients. Ironic, isn’t it?

So don’t throw that milk out. That’s just money down the drain. Literally. Did you see how quickly it went down that drain? That’s because it wasn’t chunky yet! Why are you dumping yogurt? Yogurt is basically just spoiled milk, anyway. Here’s the rule for yogurt: it’s good until it’s green. Like bread. And remember, just because one slice has mold on it doesn’t mean they all do.

The problem is that I don’t usually catch Allie in the act. She knows my view on the subject, just as I know hers. (Mine is the one that is rational; hers is completely fucking insane.) So she tries to be sneaky. After the (mis)deed is done, I often don’t notice; I just figure she baked something or the kids ate the yogurt or had more cereal than normal or, most likely, whatever she tossed was probably some crap in the back of the fridge that I didn’t realize was there anyway, hence the expired expiration date. (I still would have eaten it eventually, though.)

Sometimes, probably more often than you’d expect (though not often enough that I should be bragging about it), I’m smarter than I look. I put on my metaphorical detective hat because non-metaphorical hats aren’t really my style and I start doing some digging and asking some questions. My wife knows how to play innocent, but if really pushed into a corner she will attack. With the virtue of an American Mother Theresea, she’ll say something like, “I guess I just love the kids so much that I don’t want them to get sick.” It’s a passive-aggressive attack and hard to counter, so I have to be ready. “Well if they do get sick, we might not be able to afford any medicine because we’ve had to buy so much god damn milk!”

Check mother effing mate.

Except this isn’t chess and I always seem to lose. The problem is, I’m on the wrong side of the type of asymmetric warfare that terrorists use. Calm down, I’m not saying that my wife is a “terrorist,” just that she kind of acts like one. The rules of traditional combat are rendered meaningless in this marital tete-a-tete and I’m playing a game I can’t win. It’s like when James Bond, spread eagle with a laser pointed at his 006 1/2, asks Goldfinger if he expects him to talk. The villain responds with a laugh, “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.” There is no negotiation. If my wife sees that an expiration date has passed, like Goldfinger, she sets her laser focus on the offending–ahem–package.

The best I can hope for is escaping with my own manhood intact, as I pick my battles and move on to the next argument that every loving couple seems to have. The struggle over the thermostat, perhaps. Maybe why she can’t turn off a GD light when she leaves a room. There are so many stupid fights to choose from. Marriage is fun!

I love you, honey.

Published inParenting & Humor


  1. My wife is the same way. Although if the expiration date is over a year old I toss it – goodbye coconut milk-like beverage we never got around to trying! I have to be the sneaky one though- I just made some slow cooker chicken using expired chicken broth- it smelled fine!

    • admin admin

      Good move on both the coconut milk and the chicken broth. Well played, sir. You’ve got to be smart about these things.

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