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My mother and MIL, both, will keep food for the longest time, and swear it's good. Yesterday my mother tried to make some bean dip with a partially used jar of salsa - that she had opened for the Super Bowl! This morning, I was going to make cinammon rolls, and when I went to unwrap the cinammon roll container, it exploded, literally. We had problems with our refrigerator the past week, and just got it repaired, so I'm a bit hinky about things in it anyway. The cinammon rolls were just barely out of date - August 2013. Mom insisted they were fine, I insisted they were not, I let my husband be the deciding vote, and he said they were probably ok (sigh). I made them, but didn't eat any. Somebody's got to call the ambulance.

This kind of thing goes on all the time. Anybody else have this problem with Mom's not wanting to throw away food? Is it a generational thing because of the depression? I don't see that getting sick and going to the hospital would be a great savings over throwing away the food, though. It's a heck of a risk.

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If they are 80 and 90 they were very young during the Great Depression (1929-1938). We cannot fathom the starvation, homelessness and death that they witnessed. They will never throw food away. Mom will cook pasta with bugs in it, just skim them off as they float up, because that was what it took to survive then. Nana had a compost heap and mulched kitchen scraps into a vegetable garden. They will never forget the hard times, never waste and hide the food if they think you will toss it.
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sigh
i have a female friend who wastes more food than i could ever eat. she always profoundly states that " joey wont eat leftovers " . bullshit. joey would eat backhand if he were my spawn..
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Re the cinnamon rolls, the few times I've made store-bought ones, the roll apart cans always sort of explode when you open them. It's a function of compression and raising (i.e. yeast) agents. Personally I'd be a lot more worried if it didn't explode open (i.e. about dead yeast).

As a seasoned cook and baker, I would agree with others who say that the dates on containers frequently only indicate when the best flavor/texture of items will end. The most important thing to bear in mind is that anything manufactured (i.e. canned/preserved)--like salsa!--has tons of preservatives in it, and as long as it's properly refrigerated or frozen after opening it will likely keep for ages (unless there is cross-contamination with, say a fresh food). Fresh, non-preservative-packed foods spoil more easily, but in these cases the spoilage is generally quite evident (i.e. sour milk, moldy bread).

This whole scenario sounds a bit like me--today I discovered a month old Dunkin' Donuts iced tea, some radishes so old they were black, and some petrified cheese in my fridge! All went to the garbage immediately. And bear in mind that some people are more "waste not, want not" than others. Some families don't eat leftovers, as another commenter said, some--like me--can't tolerate throwing something useful out, even to the point of forgetting it! Just bear in mind that standards of usefulness vary among people--most young 'un nowadays wouldn't know what to do with sour milk. I, as a baker, know it has many excellent uses!
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Spoony, while I understand what you're saying, the way I look at it is once my mom gave up taking care of anything and I assumed that responsibility (because she wasn't doing it), I also assumed the right to keep things in good shape. I was noticing little bugs around my mom's medicine holders, so starting looking in the drawer where they were stored. She had left opened packet of crackers in there that were TEEMING with creepy crawly bugs. Bugs by the hundreds. UGH, UGH, UGH! They were in her cabinets too, where she'd left opened cookies and crackers, because she doesn't want to throw anything away. It was ME who had to clean them out and keep them away. My mom doesn't even remember that happening, which is not like her. And it will be me that has to clean out mom's place once she passes away.

In my world, if you can maintain it (basement, garage, pantry, whatever) then you have the right to say what goes/stays. Once you turn that responsibility over to someone else, they get to choose. Ultimately I'm doing the best I can to keep my mom healthy and happy. It that means I throw out stuff she would save, so be it.
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I read many of the comments and am glad to see I'm not alone in this battle. I had this issue yesterday with mom over the Lactaid milk that has been in fridge. She had me smell it n it was rank to me..but she then said: "Keep it, I'll make white sauce out of it. The heat will destroy any bad bacteria...". I need to get to store to get a fresh container and dump the one in fridge now.

And I also have found a large collection of store bought plastic containers such as those from cottage cheese, cream cheese, butters, in bags and in a kitchen cabinet. She will even wash out and save the plastic clear bakery containers that maple rolls and pastries come in because they are good enough to use again. Yet ..all I ever find it a 'collection' of them. I tried tossing a bunch out once...Got screamed at by her for doing that cause we can use them.

Yet, I have the Glad and Rubbermaid containers that are made specifically for such storage issues and she won't use them. WHY? she claims the lids are too hard to open or are a waste to buy cause we can reuse the ones we get from the foods. She saves bread bags and opened soup cans and jars as well. I don't mind that, they come in handy for food scraps so that the garbage pails don't stink of rotting food all week long. She rinsed cans/jars out before packing them with scraps.

I cringe at mom reusing paper towels. UGH. and she has a grand place to 'hang' them...ON THE KITCHEN GARBAGE PAIL!!!!!!!! I mean seriously? I've yelled at her about it and it still goes on. I've tried tossing them but each time i toss one or ten...20 more show up either neatly hung over the garbage pail or placed inside the dish strainer inside the sink!!!!!!!!!

And Kleenex? you should see her clothing pockets and her bed and the living room couch. She carries wads of that stuff around with her.

Also..canned foods...the kind that people can themselves. There were small jars of pickles and mild pepper rings in the fridge.. opened and still had some in it...i didn't know right away how long they'd been in there so i ate some from each..but each time i did I noticed something odd about my internal 'feel goodness'. I felt crappy, gassy. So one day I had that convo with mom about those very jars. She said they are at least a year old ...maybe more..she swears she canned last year but i know for fact she did not. Anyway...she continued to state that it's just sugar and vinegar and pickling spice...it'll last longer than the store bought stuff. Somehow, I doubt that. So on grocery day i bought small jars of mild pepper rings and pickles. opened them and put them in fridge...and instead of all at once dumping the other year or older jars I slowly removed the food a serving at a time so that she'd think I was eating out of those jars. But I would toss the servings into the garbage. She was non the wiser this week as I did that. I found that it can be best to do a slow disposal of 'rotting foods in the fridge' than to dump it all in one fell swoop and catch hell for tossing out something that was still 'edible' according to her depression era standards.

And garbage night drives me batty cause she does not have a trash container to wheel out to the curb. Just takes the trash bag out. Then complains that cats n coons get into it and tear it open and the food goes all over the place in front of her yard. She came up with a solution years ago...taking newspaper and placing it around the inside side of the bag so that it deters the animals from tearing into the bags. While this may help...I don't see why she just won't approve me to get her a trash can...except for the fact she feels it is not fashionable for her house to have them on the side of her house. She says they make houses look trashy, junky. However, since I now live with her (due to a health change in her) I am thinking of getting a trash container since I am now the one who takes care of the trash.
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Wow! I read these comments and it is my parents all over! They are 90 and lived through the depression. They also raised a big passle of kids on one salary, so they hate to throw anything out, especially food. I go through the fridge and try to figure out what the "mystery meat" is. They have mice in the house, and I find mouse droppings all over the place. They leave fruit in a bowl on the dining room table, and I see little bites taken out of every piece, with droppings on the table and in the bowl. But when I throw out the fruit I get yelled at because my dad said the mice didn't eat very much... ICK!!!!!

Since getting yelled at and having to watch them pout seems to be the only punishment for my cleaning transgressions, I throw caution to the winds and throw out old dead food, bags full of junk mail that they haven't read yet, fruit that the mice have pre-tasted, junk in the pantry that is years past the sell-by date, and any spices in the cupboard that are old enough to have layers of grime on them.

Periodically, after they've gone to bed, I start cleaning out other stuff in the house that nobody is EVER going to use again. The place is a fire hazard, so the large things go first. I figure two people who can barely walk will NEVER use an old treadmill that doesn't work. I just told them I put it in the basement. They'll never know...
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I'm only 66, but I'm a little like that. I would never expect to get sick from baked goods that didn't have mold on them, especially something that will be baked before eating.

I think it's partly a personality trait. I'm kind of a hoarder, and I hate to waste things. I have to get my daughter to throw stuff out, because it sort of hurts.

These women did grow up in the early days of refrigeration. They remember when lots of foods were stored in the cupboard, not the fridge. Mustard, peanut butter, bread. They were probably raised in homes where any food that came into the house disappeared pretty quickly down someone's throat, because they had less food available. They are less likely to be germ-phobic.

Then there's this method of deciding if a left-over has spoiled. Leave it in the refrigerator for two weeks, and then you'll be able to tell if you should throw it out! Ya gotta laugh. Good luck.
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Rebecca, your mom and my mom must be sisters separated at birth, LOL. My mom reuses napkins over and over and washes out plastic food storage bags and gives them back to me to reuse. I've picked up a bit of that from her, but I'll get rid of stuff before it goes bad. My father used to grab a fistful of napkins whenever we ate out, but then he'd use the same ones over and over again. I'm sure it's from their Depression-era upbringing.

My mom also "saves" her good nightgown for the time she might go to the hospital. I keep saying, "Mom, you're almost 94. You've been to the hospital many times. When did you ever use that gown? Start wearing it at home!!" She also saves her good address labels and uses the free ones they send her in the mail. I tell her when she goes, I'll have 5,000 very nice address labels of hers I can't use. You just have to laugh about it.
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It's the "sniffing" that bugs the crap out of me, then she'll ask me to smell it, "does this smell alright to you"? Ugh.. Get that old food out of my face!

I tell her it might give her "the runs", so she'll throw it out!!

But then again she's still alive at 91.....
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Let me know when you figure this one out. My grandmother (85) does this, along with 3-4 huge tubs of margarine on the go at any given time. I have no idea why she is so concerned with running out of margarine. And why the giant jars of everything, that'll take a couple years to get through?

I've got one that tops it all: a jar of oregano from 1961. Granted, herbs & spices do have a longer shelf life, but not that long!!!
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