The "food police" were on their way! I'd just gotten the telephone call and there was much to do before they arrived.
The refrigerator door flew open and the hunt began. Out went the bearded cucumber, the tired lettuce and the green cheese. Oh! If only there was more time I could cut the fuzz off the cheddar.
But the thirty-something crowd would be here in no time.
Next was the quest to find the teeny-tiny expiration dates on the salad dressings, ice cream toppings and condiments. I'd need my glasses for this task. (Where on earth were they?!!)
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I knew-as surely as the fact that a little bread mold has never hurt us yet -- that if I missed one food product "can't-sell-by-this-date," I'd be caught with egg on my face. An old egg, at that.
At least I had an excuse this time. Bill and I had just returned home from our cruise to Alaska.
Nevertheless, I could just imagine the cops saying, "Mom, just look at this mustard. It's OUTDATED!" and the words would be followed by a heavy sigh. (Honestly, I thought 2007 was a very good year.)
I'll admit that the state of the fridge right then would chill anyone's appetite -- even mine. But I remember a time when that wasn't the case.
It was in the very early years of our marriage. Bill was a new schoolteacher on the bottom rung of the salary schedule. Making ends meet wasn't easy.
With one dollar in our pocket until payday, we'd stopped at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand, hoping for better prices. But when we took our produce to the check stand, it weighed in at more money than we'd expected.
"I'll just put this cantaloupe back," I said with a mortified smile. We don't really need it."
The farmer looked me in the eye, and then reached out his weathered hand, "Now, you just keep that cantaloupe. It's a bit overripe. And while you're at it, take some more of this stuff. It's going to rot anyway."
By the time we left, shopping bags were overflowing-and so was my heart with thankfulness. To this day, I've never forgotten the kindness from this wise old man or the way God's love touched me through him.
So nowadays when I think about throwing out food, I recall what it's like to be hungry and on your last dime.
I also remember that helping others in need is never outdated.