LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Weekly Message
Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.

Spring Cleaning

One of the goals I encourage my weight management clients to set is to clean out their kitchen cupboards and remove all the foods that aren't a fit with their new lifestyle. I recently practiced what I preached and had a good laugh as I came face to face with my tendency to be a pack rat. Admittedly, the cupboards would pass the lower in fat, lower in sugar, higher in fiber mantra I preach, but it was tempered by a realization that the cupboard included items I'd put in the cupboards and drawers when I moved in 12 years ago. I chuckled as I emptied a decade old body of balsamic vinegar, tossed packages of whole wheat baking mixes for those pancakes I was going to make "someday,"and did not respond to an urge to pass a box of sea salt to a neighbor. The mustard, butter and ketchup in the back of the refrigerator was tossed and I even got rid of some tea bags I knew had been in the cupboard (for guests) more than two years. My smile broadened as I remembered a Saturday afternoon several years ago when a friend cooked a gourmet meal at my home and, as he cooked, tossed out spices with a shelf life gone bad (spices are best used within three months to one year of purchase). I committed then to follow through with the purge that never occurred.

As I continued my project I started looking at expiration and use-by dates that are on most packages. I discovered there were a variety of descriptions for marking food. That sent me (after the project was completed) to the internet in an attempt to find a breakdown of what terms are used and what the mean.

  • Sell-by, or pull-by date indicates how long a product should remain on a seller's shelf. Although most of these products remain edible after this date it's best to buy early.
  • Use-by date is a recommendation from the manufacturer who guarantees the product's freshness if used by that date. Many pantry products with use-by dates may remain usable after the date.
  • Expiration date is the last date a product should be sold. The product may be good for quite a while longer depending on where it's stored (temperature, light, air, etc. dependent).
  • Best-by date is similar to an expiration date. Although you can often use the product later, product quality may decrease
  • Pack date indicates when the item was packaged. It's usually a code that's comprised of a series of letters and/or numbers that indicate a day, month and/or year. Know, however, that each manufacturer uses their own coding system.

Clearly there are no standards and most items do not sport straightforward information. You have to use your own judgement. I did discover that chocolate chips (not on the low fat, low sugar, high fiber list but allowable as part of a balanced diet strategy) last 24 months if they are semi-sweet but only 16 months if milk chocolate. I thought of my friend Patti who would assure me this would not be an issue she would have to deal with.

Most companies provide information about their products on their web site. I also found a useful book, COLLEGE CUISINE by Peltosaari which, in addition to describing the shelf life of many foods provides basic information on furnishing a kitchen, stocking a pantry and cooking on a budget. There was a glossary of cooking terms, safety tips shopping advice and substitution tables. I also found these web sites helpful:

Admittedly, it's a bit early for spring cleaning, but purging, especially when I can move beyond the "I might be able to use this ______"storm that inevitably fills my head reaps its own rewards. In a future week I'll provide you with a list of the staples that will make it easier for you to continue your healthy lifestyle.

Weekly Messages Lifestyles

LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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Mesa, AZ 85206
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