I figure y'all know by know that I'm a tad bit neurotic. And I'm afraid that I've created perfect storm, and all of my neuroses have collided in my pantry, creating complete and total dysfunction.
I've been a bit of a food hoarder all of my life. I'm not entirely sure where it comes from, but I'm sure it has its roots in my crazy childhood. My mother was a bit of a hoarder in general, and having a cupboard full of 10 year old cans of pickled beets was just normal in our house.
Plus, my mother had a whole host of eating "issues" and would regularly do things like steal my Christmas candy, eat my french fries, demand a "bite" of my candy bar - which translated into cramming the entire thing into her mouth and leaving me with a tiny piece... you get the picture.
Anyhow, I learned early that food "territory" had to be defended fiercely, and I'm sure that led, at least in part to some of my crazy eating disorders and my overall neurosis about tossing food.
But I can't blame it all on my mother. When I first graduated from college and was living on dirt (by choice) I went through times when finding enough money to feed myself was a real challenge. I never went hungry, but I did have to participate in some food bank programs in order to get by.
But things really spiraled out of control after hurricane Katrina. I'm not sure why, but somehow watching the television coverage, and seeing those throngs of people with no food or water sort of pushed my apocalypse buttons, and I reacted by going out and filling my pantry with enough canned and dry goods to last a year. Because, you know, we have sooooo many hurricanes here in land-locked Colorado!
Seriously, I bought case after case of beans and tuna and even canned spinach... good lord, canned spinach?!? What was I thinking? I guess I figured that if the world was coming to an end I'd be grateful to have the slimy stuff.
But, alas, the apocalypse did not arrive, and in the meantime I got obsessed about the dangers of BPA, and I read Michael Pollan, and decided that eating canned food wasn't really all that healthy.
But, I couldn't just get rid of the stuff, because that would be wasteful. (See what I mean about the colliding neuroses?) And much of it was already past its expiry date so the food banks wouldn't take it. So it just sat in my basement.
And I actually did intend to eat some of it up... but the thing is that it wasn't stored in a very accessible place, so when I did use canned food I generally ended up buying new stuff because I had no idea what was lurking under the stairs behind boxes of other crap. Oy!
But spurred on by my recent encounter with 27 episodes of Extreme Hoarders, I decided that it was time to tackle the problem once and for all! So here it is... the food I'm tossing this week.
Oh, the shame. But everything in these boxes expired over 4 years ago, and some of the cans were even leaking.... EEEEEEWWWWWW.
There's also a collection of canned goods that are more recently expired, and I've made a pact with myself that they need to be eaten within the next few months or they're getting tossed too. To that end, they're all on my kitchen counter so they can't get lost in the land of "out of sight out of mind".
So, what have I learned from this little episode? Well, first off it would be really nice if I could just push a button and de-neurotify myself. I fear that is easier said than done though. I mean, I know logically that the chances of my having no access to food for an extended period of time are extremely unlikely, but I still think it's prudent to have at least some canned food on hand. But in the future, I'm going to try to stick to these guidelines.
1. Only buy foods that I eat regularly. I realize that this sounds sort of obvious, but for some reason when I was stocking up I kept trying to buy things that would create a "balanced diet". Of course canned sweet potatoes, & spinach & fruit... these are things I just don't like, and wouldn't eat unless forced to. So from now on, I think I'm just gonna have to accept the fact that if the world comes to an end I'll have to get by on a less than balanced diet.
2. Rotate the stock. Once again, this seems obvious, but I just got too lazy to do it. It was just so much easier to buy new stuff, rather than dragging out the stuff I already had.
3. Choose an easily accessible location for food storage. This is closely correlated to number two, because a big chunk of the reason that I didn't rotate was that I couldn't easily get to the stuff that I already had.
4. Keep it to a reasonable level. If I've learned anything from this little episode it's that trying to be prepared for all eventualities is a loosing game. I mean really... I once read a book about real risks. The book took a scientific look at the things that people worry about and laid out the reality of how likely we really are to suffer from xyz horrible thing. And while the probability of natural disasters and societal collapse are infinitesimally small, the single biggest risk most of us face is (I kid you not) FOOD POISONING!