I have to agree with this story — I’m one of those people who tends to smell first and check the expiration date later. Sometimes we’ll have half-and-half in the fridge for a full week past its expiration date because it still smells all right, and it doesn’t hurt a thing. It’s the same with lunchmeat: if I take a snort and it smells off (how do I know? I just do somehow), I pitch it. If it still smells and tates all right, eat it!
The only gray area for me is salmon…sometimes I can smell it once and it’s awful, then I take another sniff and it smells just like it should. Those fishies can be tricky.
Slate has an interesting article about food expiration dates and their meaning — which can be somewhat slippery. The basic idea is this: You don’t have to throw out food just because its past the “Sell By” date. You should inspect your food to see if it has spoiled and try to make a rational decision.