Every now and then I look at the items in my pantry and realize I've been using them long beyond their expiration date. I write it off as a marketing ploy by the food manufacturers to continue buying their products. But when the cookies are stale, the milk is sour, and the meat has been in the fridge just a day too long, there's probably a reason that date exists.
And then on those rare occasions when I'm in a cleaning frenzy, I simply toss everything that's expired, just for safe keeping, even if it's rice or pasta or soup or something that clearly can be used long after that marked date. Because, as they say, everything has a shelf life.
According to Wikipedia, Shelf Life is "the length of time a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for use or consumption." It definitely holds true for food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals or plants. But as I get older, I see it apply in a more global sense as well--as in homes, jobs...and well, relationships.
"Do you think everything in life has a shelf life?" I asked a friend one afternoon when I was feeling particularly pensive.
"No," she replied incredulously at first, knowing exactly what I was talking about. I pressed her to explain why. I do that sometimes. She got a bit defensive which made me wonder if I was being too negative, or just brutally honest. It turned into a longer discussion - even getting a bit heated--as we pondered the reality of letting go of people in our lives.
Without getting into too much detail, we eventually came to an understanding that yes, everything does have a shelf life. It's just up to each end-user as to how long to consume it once that date has passed. But it's also up to each of us to take the ingredients and make the most of them before they expire. And if we don't do that, our cabinets will be filled with things that have all reached their shelf lives. Kind of deep for a fun food blog, huh?
These past few years have been eye-opening for me on so many levels. My daughters have experienced all kinds of changes, good and bad, ranging in everything from new schools to new homes and family dynamics to trips and summer camps. I've taken on new work that's both challenging and creative and said goodbye to projects, clients, and sadly, even relationships, that, well, have reached their shelf life.
I'm confident that one day I'll look back on this time and know it was for the best. Until then, I'll stick to my shelf life theory and hope that every day brings more clarity and the ability to remind myself that just because something has reached its shelf life, doesn't mean life is over.
The best thing about this dinner is you can put the chicken in the slow cooker before you leave the house and pull the rest of the ingredients from your pantry before they reach their shelf life.
- 2-3 breasts bone-in chicken
- 1 packet taco seasoning
- 1 lime
- fresh cilantro
- appx. 1/2 cup H2O
- 1 can black beans
- 1 package yellow rice
- shredded lettuce
- diced tomatoes
- shredded cheese for toppings
- 1 package small flour or corn tortillas
- Place chicken in slow cooker.
- Add water, taco seasoning, juice of one lime and cilantro.
- Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
- Shred chicken and mix with juices.
- Cook rice according to directions.
- Heat up black beans and put toppings in cute little bowls so your kids will eat them.