Most of the time, I believe that fresh food is best—like just-pulled-off-the-tree or yanked-out-of-the-water fresh. That’s why I like shopping at the farmer’s market. At the same time, for full disclosure: I have been known to test the boundaries of food freshness, more out of sheer laziness than frugality or a sense of adventure.
According to the Egg Safety Center, eggs will keep for five weeks past the expiration date with “minor loss of quality.” But let’s say late one winter night there’s nothing in the fridge but a three-month old carton of eggs. Trust me: Go hungry. DO NOT fry them up and eat them.
That said, somewhere in between just picked and mildly poisonous you can find some amazing food bargains.
For years I’ve been grabbing half-price sushi at Ennju in New York (20 E. 17th St.). At 9 P.M. every night everything gets reduced by 50 percent, which means just a couple of bucks for tuna rolls, sushi combos and more. An old boyfriend made fun of me for eating old sushi; I pointed out that he had no problem eating the same stuff at 8:30. (Incidentally, the new bf was proud of my recession hack.)
These days there are deals to be had even in the most exclusive areas. Out in the Hamptons, the Amagansett Farmer’s Market sells a lot of overpriced (if tasty) products. Earlier this summer, day-old bread was half off. Pastries that had been baked that morning were also on sale.
Chains have similar end-of-day markdowns. A friend who loves Au Bon Pain pointed out that late in the day all the pastries are marked down 50 percent. Check your local outpost for details.
And that’s how you’ll find out about other late-day reductions; they’re not generally advertised or posted online. Ask around, keep your eyes open—and don’t forget to throw away those eggs.