5.28.2007

Mootness, Ripeness, Staleness

Hope everyone had an enjoyable and contemplative Memorial Day. Political beliefs aside, I am grateful for all the men and women who bravely serve/served our country.

Since Constitutional Law is the next topic I'll be tackling in my bar classes, it's only appropriate that I try to have some fun with it. Judicial review and federalism issues are certainly important, but not very entertaining. I understood ripeness, mootness, standing, and political question, but that was only the tip of an iceberg that I couldn't scale completely. Individual rights was more fun, my 90-page outline notwithstanding. There aren't very many subject areas in which a mentioning of BBQ instantly rings a bell.

Speaking of food, let's turn to that. Con law is boring enough, and this blog is all about fun (well, most of the time anyway). I scrimp and save on a lot of things, but there are a few things I allow a bit of latitude for: well-fitted pants, health care, and groceries. Eating well is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. With food prices going up due to increased energy costs and high demand of corn-based products, I'd rather cut back on clothes and entertainment and used that money for good food.

Discount chains such as the 99 Cents Store and Big Lots offer cheap canned/boxed foods, and supermarkets often have an unfrequented corner devoted to discounted products that they want to make a few bucks off of before they expire. I've bought expiring meat before, but I'd make sure the color is still good and I cook it the same day. I'm much more weary when it comes to packaged products when I can't see the contents.

After my recent purchase of a couple of discounted packaged products, I think it's time to write about them. There are a couple of things to watch out for:

-Check the expiration date, if any. Packaged products are usually loaded with preservatives and will last a long time, but it's always good to check.

-Compare multiple packages of the same product. Make sure what you're buying isn't faded. Even if the expiration date hasn't arrived, faded labels are indicative of prolonged exposure to sunlight or heat, which in turn makes food go bad.

-Shop at a clean, reputable store. While it's no guarantee that the food is fresh, big stores tend to take customer service more seriously because they have a reputation to worry about. They're less likely to pawn off patently bad food, and if there's a problem, you might be able to return it.

-Think about the reason for the markdown. The fact that the products wound up in a discount store also tells us something: they weren't very popular to begin with. When I see an excess of a particular product in a store, they're usually in perfectly good shape, but maybe the flavors or shapes aren't particularly popular. I'd buy things with unpopular shapes since I could care less about what they look like. But the flavor is the issue, I'd be a little more careful. If the flavor is pretty common, I have no qualms with it. I generally steer clear of exotic flavors unless I already know the flavor and like it (sometimes I have strange tastes) or if I feel particularly adventurous. There were a few times where the flavor was so awful that I had to throw the whole thing out after a few bites.

My most recent experience was with a can of Swanson's seasoned chicken broth (with herbs and garlic). They were marked down at my local Ralphs. Herbs and garlic is pretty common, but I suspected that they went un-bought because most people go for the regular chicken broth. It was a good decision for the most part--the flavor was delicious. There's only one reason I won't buy it again: I bit into some hard garlic bits. I still have another can, so I'll try to strain it as I pour it next time.

-Sometimes perishables are marked down because they aren't ripe. Use your best judgment as to what lasts longer and what shrivels quickly without refrigeration. Also, another consideration is whether something will ever ripen on its own after it's been picked off the tree our plucked out of the ground. It takes bananas a while to ripen, but it won't go bad too quickly. Tomatoes don't do as well, but it'll survive. A lot of fruits, however, won't be in very good shape.

-If it's been marked down more than once, it's a red flag for how long it's probably been around. A long stint on the shelve suggests staleness. I learned this the hard way.

I bought a bag of cinnamon-flavored sweet potato chips from Big Lots last week. The flavor isn't the issue. I've had sweet potato chips before and liked it, and recently I had a great basket of sweet potato fries, so I'm a big fan of sweet potatoes. What I didn't notice was that the chips had 2 labels on it--one was 99 cents, and on top of that it was a 50-cent label. Since discounters often get their food from another store, which probably had it for a while to begin with, who knows how old the bag of chips really is. The discounter probably marked it down some more because it's been sitting there for a while already, and the management figures a price cut would help force them out sooner.

When I got home, I was eager to try the chips. Once I got around to eating it, I was very disappointed. The chips tasted like cardboard. It wasn't gross or anything, just...off. I kept eating it anyway since it was strangely addicting. After ingesting a few more chips and getting a second opinion from my roommate, I came to my senses and threw the whole bag away.

As usual, feel free to add more indicators of bad products. Most of the time the food at discounter stores are good deals, but it's good to make sure things stay that way.

1 comment:

elleabelle said...

Con Law was my most hated class in law school. Yuck. Good Luck with it!!