Food Waste: Date Labels. What Does It All Mean?

Food Waste: Date Labels. What Does It All Mean?

Anyone else get really confused when it comes to food labels? Knowing the difference between best-before, display date or the general look of food could have you throwing away perfectly good groceries.

Anti-waste charity Wrap recently reported that small changes in labeling could help reduce our waste by a massive one billion pounds.

So what could we all do to help cut our food waste?

One thing has to be understanding the labeling of our food and what it all means.

Use by Date

Means exactly that. Eating anything after the use by date is risky, even if it looks or smells fine.

Usual Foods?

Anything perishable really, like milk, meat, fish, chilled ready meals.

What to Do?

Bin it all, without a doubt.

Best Before Date

Confused with use by dates, best before has nothing to do with safety. It’s all about when the brand or manufacturer thinks it will be past it’s best.

Doesn’t mean it needs chucking, it just means that the manufacturer can’t guarantee is will be of the BEST possible quality.

Usual Foods?

Normally the longer life items like cereals, frozen meals, tins, sugar, pasta, and crisps. Mainly cupboard essentials.

What to Do?

Keep it and eat it when you can. Just because the best before date has passed, doesn’t mean it still won’t taste fine. The very worst that can happen is that it may have lost some of its flavor.

I’ve eaten tins a year after their best before date and they’ve been fine and tasted great. Especially when it comes to tinned soups and pasta!

Display Until and Sell By

These dates are for shop staff only. They let them know when to take the product off the shelves and reduce. Never take these labels as gospel, as this is again when the manufacturer thinks the items are past their best quality wise.

Make sure you check the use by or best before dates instead.

Usual Foods?

Fresh produce.

What to Do?

Ignore and use them whenever you like.
Overripe fruit and veg make great smoothies or can be frozen then grated to bulk meals out.

The Exception

There’s always one right? This time it’s the humble egg.

Most eggs now come with a best before date on. Never exceed this date, as eggs can contain salmonella bacteria, which could breed once the egg is off.

(Side note: Hard boil them and give them to the kids to paint. Makes a great hour long rainy day activity.)

Keeping on Top of Your Dates

If like me, saving money AND reducing your waste is your goal here, then these simple time-saving tips may help:

Meal Plan

I know I always bang on about meal planning and having a list, but it really does cut down on your waste.

Look for the longest date possible while you shop, and being prepared to shift your meals around depending on dates is key.

If you think you may not get round to eating something after all, then wrap the item well if opened, label and freeze them.

Food Waste_ Date Labels. What Does It All Mean?

Fridge Rummage

Sorting out your fridge doesn’t take long but could save you hundreds of pounds in food.

Make sure any half used packets like cheese, sliced meats or sausages are fully wrapped to stop them drying out or going off.

When unpacking the shopping, I try and bring the oldest foods to the front so I remember to use them first. This works practically well with fruit, as just looking at it, you can’t always tell which packet is older.

Packet Instructions

Most food packets advise how long it lasts once opened. If you can’t get through it all in time, then again, wrap it up, label and freeze for those days you just can’t be bothered to cook.

Cupboard Food

I’m a great believer is having cupboard staples, so much so, that many of them have been sat in there a while for the “just in case” emergency.

Things like biscuits, dried fruits, crackers, crisps and pasta all have a best before date, and in my cupboard, are all well past this. They’re still fine to eat, and many can be frozen to extend their lives even further!

Don’t worry if the nuts or crackers have gone a bit soft. There’s plenty of leftover food recipes out there to cover all basis and food types.

One of my favorites is putting soft crisps and nuts into the oven for a few minutes. After cooling down, they return to their crisp selves. Yum!

Love Your Freezer

Anything and everything that can be frozen, freeze. As long as you do it before it’s use by date and use within twenty-four hours of defrosting it will be fine.

Gammon, fish, beef? Doesn’t matter. If it’s in date and you can’t use it then freeze it.

Getting the Hang of It

I must confess before the kids I was a serial food waster. If the food hit a date, any old date, to be honest, it would have been chucked, never to have been seen again.

Now, with money being tight and the kids being wasteful enough, I try and save every piece of food I can.

Just use your common sense.

Any foods with a best before date, we still eat, even if they become leftovers for the next day.

Use-by dates I stick to but tend to freeze anything coming up that I haven’t used.

My waste bill has dropped by over half by just doing these simple things.

Now, before I shop, I check the freezer too, to see if I could use something that week and shave a bit of money off the shopping bill.

That’s how, some weeks, we can get ours down to under £18 a week for four people and chuck nothing away.

Give it a go yourself, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

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