Taking One for the Team

CNET Asia blogger Michael Tan raises an interesting question, albeit in a confrontational manner: If you care about the environment and not wasting food, should you buy the container of milk closer to its expiration date?

Robin Shreeves from the Mother Nature Network runs with the question, applying it to various supermarket sections. Her main answer is this:

Yes, I think you should, and I do unless it’s so close to its expiration date that I don’t think my family can finish it.

Buying the foods in front is noble idea, provided you know how long it will take you or yoNow this package might give reason for pause. Photo by dahnielson via creative commonsur family to finish said item. In addition, knowing that the sell-by and expiration dates are usually cautious estimates lowers the stakes.

Shreeves’ rationale is part environmentalism, part economics. Items on or near their sell-by date may be discounted. Unfortunately, not all stores mark down items.

I try to avoid food waste in my personal life. But nobody wants to waste money on goods that I won’t be able to use before they go bad. I’m not going to buy a bruised apple when there’s a fresh one next to it. At the same time, if I see some slightly bruised apples on the discount rack, I’d certainly check them out.

Milk provides a truer test. I have to admit that my gut reaction is to find the freshest bottle possible. Maybe it’s survival instinct. For whatever reason, I often have to remind myself that buying milk 10 days before its use-by date isn’t much different than 12 days. Also, whenever I find myself looking at dates on milk bottles, I think of the “milk maids” scene in Clerks.

While buying the older bottle may feel like putting someone else’s interests ahead of your own, you’re basically getting the same stuff. Especially with all the irradiation of milk these days. What about you? What’s your take on the topic?

My real pet peeve is watching the produce guy cull all those fruits and veggies with one bad spot, knowing that he’s just rendered them garbage. But I’d still get plenty of use out of 90 percent of those items (and would probably buy them at a discount). Unless you want to get that produce from the dumpster (and I don’t), that’s not happening.

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