Do you buy food that ends up going in the bin? Globally, we end up wasting a third of all food that is produced – a lot is wasted along the food supply chain but even once we’ve brought our shopping home, there is still too much that ends up in the bin. Confusion about date labels, bad planning (or not knowing what do with your food when plans change unexpectedly) and not storing food properly are among the biggest reasons why so much food gets thrown out.
But there are ways to cut food waste at home with our 9 tips for reducing waste (and saving on your food bill in the process).
1. Know your labels
Use-by, best before and sell-buy dates on food packaging can be a minefield. If we can better understand food labels, we might be able to avoid wasting huge quantities of food daily. The key is knowing which foods have flexibility (with a best before date, with relates to quality) and which you should avoid eating when they are out of date (with a use-by date, which relates to saftety).
You’ll find best before dates on fruit and vegetables, bread and cakes and on tins, among other things. They relate to quality, rather than safety – which means that although they might not be at their best after this date, they are are still safe to eat. What’s important to remember is to use your senses. If a food has passed its best before date but looks and smells fine, then it should not be thrown away automatically. Trust your senses, and if it’s started to grow mould or smells different or bad, you should get rid.
A use-by date, as a rule, should always be observed. Meat, fish and dairy products will display one because they spoil quickly and develop bacteria that can cause food posioning.
As the name suggests, a sell-by date is the recommended date until which
a retailer should keep a food on the shelves and is used as a guide for stock rotation. Pay no attention as it is not a reflection on whether a food is
edible or not.
Psst! Find inspiration on ways to use up food that’s gone past it’s best-before date.
Discover our 8 tips for eating smart and cutting down your food waste.
2. Cook fresh fish ASAP
Cook raw fish as soon as possible after buying it. White fish should look translucent with glossy skin and no smell. The flesh should stay springy but firm when pressed. If it looks cloudy, leaves an indentation when pressed, smells of of soap or smells too fishy, chuck it.
3. You can test eggs in water
Use eggs within 3 weeks of their best-before date. If in doubt, drop the egg into a glass of water. If it floats, don’t eat it – if it sinks, it’s fine. Look out for a Red Lion stamp on the box, which means the hen has been vaccinated against salmonella.
4. Don’t take risks with processed meats
With processed meat such as sausages and pâté, don’t risk going over the use-by date because processed meat will have been exposed to bacteria such as E.coli, campylobacter or listeria, which grow quickly even when refrigerated.
5. Use your senses to decide on yogurt
woman&home’s Food Director Jane Curran has eaten yogurt up to 3 weeks after the use-by date. It undergoes a lactic fermentation process, a preservation method that stabilises fresh milk to make it last. But throw away if you spot any signs of mould, including an off smell.
6. Don’t keep ice cream too long
Ice cream has a surprisingly short shelf life because it has high fat content so never fully freezes. Eat within 3 months but if it darkens or tastes sour, bin it.
7. Organise your spice cupboard
Ground spices such as chilli powder, paprika and cayenne can last for more than 6 months if they are labelled as “steam pasteurised”.