I am constantly afraid of accidentally poisoning myself with food. I over-cook every piece of meat, I sort through spinach leaf by leaf to make sure none of them are mushy, and I strictly adhere to expiration dates — in short, I am Doug Rauch's nightmare. Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe's, recently opened his first Daily Table supermarket — a grocery store filled entirely with expired and "unusable" foods. But you know what? My own squeamishness aside, Daily Table is actually an excellent idea.
It's no secret that we waste tons of food on a pretty regular basis. Indeed, a recent study by the G20 council revealed that the food we throw away annually could easily feed the world's 800 million hungry. So, yeah, we're blowing it. Like, "discarding 1.3 billion tons of food a year" blowing it. That's 30 percent of global food production. How is this happening?
It might have something to do with expiration dates. It turns out I've been completely misunderstanding the point of them, and I'm not the only one. According to a joint study conducted by the Harvard Food Policy Initiative and the Natural Resources Defense Council, nine out of 10 Americans believe food past its expiration date should be thrown out; in reality, though, that date is simply to mark when a product is at peak quality — not the date at which it actually goes bad and should no longer be consumed. This miscommunication leads consumers to throw away up to $165 billion in food a year.
The Daily Table, which opened in Boston on June 4th, operates with this highly advanced expiration date knowledge that has since blown my mind. So to help circulate this very valuable information, here are five products that are safe to eat past the expiration date — and a few tips to make sure that you won't be poisoning yourself in the process.
Here's a trick that renders expiration dates useless: Put an uncracked egg in a bowl of water. If it floats, it means gasses have built up within the egg and you should toss it. If it sinks, go get your omelet on.
As long as it doesn't have a smell, which could means the oils have gone bad, dried pasta is happy to chill on your shelf for months after the use by date.
3. Canned Foods
The expiration date on these guys usually marks three years on the shelf. As long as the can isn't dented, leaking or rusted, it's good for at least another year (and usually even longer than that). Storing canned goods in a cool, dry place maximizes their already epic shelf life.
With bread, utilize common sense. Is there mold on it? Don't eat it. If it's a little stale, toast it and you won't even notice (stale bread won't kill you). Storing bread in the freezer can increase shelf life up to 50 percent, so as long as you're willing to wait the five extra minutes for it to thaw out, you can save a lot of money over the course of a year.
5. Packaged Greens
Rotting leaves — bad. And gross. Wilted leaves? Pop them in some ice water and they'll perk right back up.