Nearly and freshly expired soup

Winter is a great time to eat your way through your pantry, with a keen eye on expiration dates. Last week, I found these products were all nearly expired or freshly expired:

IMG_0120

So I threw all of this into a slow cooker, along with lentils, brown rice, and spices. Wha la! I made many tasty lunches and dinners from food that might have been wasted… had I not searched for expired food in the dark corners of my pantry.

The inspiration for this soup came from a 99% Invisible Podcast called Best Enjoyed By (episode 195).

Use by
Sell by
Best by
Best if used by
Expires on
Forget about it after

What do all these mean? Today, there are no definitions or standards for the freshness labels that we see on our food. Companies can print whatever they like on their products. Also the labels are about freshness, not food safety. Food that is past its freshness date is not necessarily unsafe to eat.

So what should we do? Take a sniff and taste test?

In the end, common sense must prevail. Just as you wouldn’t drink milk that tasted funky (even when not expired), the ‘Best by’ date doesn’t have to mean the ‘Toss date’. At least that’s my thought.

What do you think? Is it safe to eat food past its freshness date?

I found this additional morsel of info on the USDA website:

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

 

Learning to love lovely lentils

I’ve discovered a perfect food.

Lentils.

Lentils are perfect because they are . . .

  • inexpensive (a pound of dried lentils is $1)
  • chameleon-like; lentils take on the flavor of their surroundings
  • quick and easy to cook
  • nutritious (protein, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins)

Yes, lentils are perfect.

I made two pots of ‘Lovely Lentils’ this week after stumbling on Jules Clancy’s Stone Soup blog.

Lovely Lentils

1/2 lb of dried lentils
1 onion
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Add dried lentils to a pot of cold water (water should cover the lentils).
  2. Roughly chop up an onion and add it to the pot.
  3. Bring the lentils to a boil.
  4. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  5. When the lentils are the texture that you’d like (I like tender, but still a little firm), drain the lentils well.
  6. Put the lentils back into the pot.
  7. Stir in equal parts soy sauce and sherry vinegar (1-2 T).
  8. Stir in a tablespoon of olive oil.
  9. Add some pepper if you’d like.

Store leftovers in the fridge and reheat for an instant snack, a side dish, or breakfast. Yes, I said breakfast! After a few days of eating lentils for lunch, I woke up one morning craving lentils. Kind of crazy.

Variations: I added roasted red peppers one day and goat cheese another day.

Jules Clancy’s blog has delicious recipes and most have just 5 ingredients.

What do you think is a perfect food?

Office shopping temptations

I started a new job with an office, coworkers, and a commute. Previously, I worked from home in my pajamas, blissfully ignorant of the many shopping temptations that accompany an office job.

Working outside the home I found…

  • Lots of opportunities to buy food and drinks.
  • More consumer products, fashion, and gadgets. Hmm, that Kindle is smaller than mine and looks cooler. Should I buy new work clothes like those?
  • More opportunities to shop. I can easily shop on my way home or walk to a store during lunch.
  • Thoughts of grabbing dinner on my way home.

And finally, I felt compelled to buy something on my way home Friday. You know, as a reward for a job well done at the office.

In the end, I didn’t change my spending habits this week. But I can see that it’s easy to spend when you’re exposed to so many products and stores.

What do you think? Do you feel more compelled to buy things when you work outside the home?

Removing redundancies

In an effort to simplify my life and create space, I’ve been systematically removing things from my house. Today I focused on a couple drawers in my kitchen. What did I find?

Three peelers:

Vegetable or potato peelers

One peeler that I never use,

another peeler that I use if I can’t find the one I really like,

and then there’s the peeler that I use and like (the one with the blade that swivels).

Three! So today, two peelers went to goodwill along with a box of other miscellaneous things that I don’t use or don’t need. I was keeping two peelers just in case they were needed (large peeling party?), when in truth I only need one peeler.

Having more than I need clutters up my kitchen, my house, and my mind.

Are there things that you’re holding onto just in case they’re needed?

If you’re interested in a minimalist kitchen, check out these excellent posts by Jules Clancy of Stone Soup:

Go old school. Use a basket

My daughter grabbed a basket at the supermarket.

“Let’s get a cart in case we want to get something big,” I said.

“But this basket holds less. I’m trying to save you money,” she insisted.

And so we shopped with a basket.

We found a few things that weren’t on our list (pretty typical when shopping with a child). However, since we had less space and had to carry everything, many purchases were averted.

The basket forced us to carefully consider our purchases. We stuck to our shopping list like glue.

Which got me thinking… when were shopping carts invented? Shopping carts first rolled into stores in 1937. The concept was delightfully simple: make shopping easy for customers so that they’ll visit often and buy more.

Ah, but of course!

If you want to put the brakes on your spending (and improve your upper body strength), go old school. Use a basket.

What tactics do you use to buy less?

Dream Save Do – Amass the cash to live your dream

I just finished reading ‘Dream Save Do’ by Betsy and Warren Talbot. Betsy and Warren spend their days meeting people, traveling the world, and trying new things. Sounds pretty fun huh?

How did Betsy and Warren become world travelers? Betsy and Warren were your basic corporate drones, who on the cusp of turning 40 stopped buying things and started saving for their dream. Traveling the world.

In two years’ time they saved $75,000, more than enough to fund their travel budget of $100 a day (read Dream Save Do for all their money saving details). Last fall Warren and Betsy packed their backpacks and traveled to South America, then Antarctica, Europe, and now Thailand. They’re living their dream and inspiring others to do the same. Very cool!

Are Betsy and Warren the real deal? Yep! A couple of years ago I met Betsy when she was stockpiling cash and selling her possessions. I thought Betsy was fun and full of interesting stories (and this is before she started traveling!).

I love reading about people following their passion because they inspire me to do the same. Reading ‘Dream Save Do’ got me thinking about my dream.

What does my ideal day look like? If I could live anywhere, where would I live? What would I do? And what can I do today to make my dream reality?

Good stuff.

You can read all about Warren and Betsy’s adventures at MarriedwithLuggage.com.

Life is short. Live your dream.

Giving thanks

A grateful heart is a happy heart. I’m counting my blessings today…

  • Clean drinking water
  • Warm and dry home
  • Amply stocked kitchen
  • Cup of coffee in hand
  • Plenty of books to read
  • 4 days off from work
  • Hot breakfast prepared by my daughter

There’s so much to be thankful for!

I need nothing.

Black Friday deals have no luster, when you take into account what you already have.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Quatchi having Thanksgiving breakfast

Quatchi likes pancakes