So much food goes to waste in the UK simply because it’s past its best before date, even though the vast majority is still perfectly edible. In the home, food waste is worth approximately £700 per year for the average UK family, an amount that could easily be brought down with better food sustainability skills.
To promote zero waste and help you save both food and money, here are some tips on how to improve food sustainability at home…
Know Your Dates:
Use By/Expiry – This is the date most likely to help you with food safety. This date gives you an approximate time scale to use the food product by before the safety of eating the food becomes less certain. In some cases this is important, such as with meat products, but in others it is still safe to use your own judgement despite the date set (such as with fruit and veg).
Sell By/Display Until – These dates are simply used as stock control for suppliers. By adding sell-by dates to products, suppliers can keep track of food batches in case of recall and can keep a steady stream of new products on the shelves. This date simply acts as an instruction to shop staff, rather than a guideline for shoppers.
Best Before – The best before date is a guideline of quality. It warns the shopper when the food will start to diminish in quality, acting as a form of countdown. It is important to remember that this merely acts as a guideline for quality rather than safety, as most foods will still be edible after the best before date, but may just be lacking slightly in its appearance or taste instead.
Get Rid Of Unnecessary Packaging To Avoid Misleading
On a similar note, it could be helpful to get rid of any unnecessary packaging on food products to avoid being mislead by the dates mentioned before. It’s easy to be lured into thinking food can’t be eaten because the numbers stamped on the side are a constant reminder of there being a time limit. However in some cases, you own judgement will be able to tell you better than a factory generated number. With fruit, vegetables, and a lot of dairy items for instance, you will be able to see or smell a noticeable difference in the product indicating it should no longer be trusted. With fruit and veg being easily stored in other containers such as fruit bowls of fridge drawers, the unnecessary packaging can be recycled and your trust in the food will likely earn a longer lifetime.
Freeze Your Food
In a lot of cases, the food you buy won’t end up being eaten immediately. Instead of letting it sit around and gradually creep closer to it’s expiry date, separate what you will soon eat to what you won’t, and put the latter in the freezer. Freezing food acts as a pause button on expiry dates, giving the food a longer lifespan and a greater chance of being eaten instead of wasted. With meat holding one of the shortest lifespans, it could be a good idea to freeze all meat when you buy it and defrost as and when you need it, also helping with portion control. Fruit is also a good item to freeze, as frozen fruit can be a healthy addition to your morning porridge, an easy way to make smoothies or even just a tasty snack in itself.
Store It Right
When it comes to fruit and vegetables in particular, their expiry date can be greatly affected by how they’re stored. Fruits that need ripening tend to release a natural gas called ethylene, which can accelerate the rate of decay in vegetables. Storing certain fruits and veg together can lead to a shorter timeframe in which they can be used, so do your research and find out which is the best way to store them. As a general guideline, make use of the separate fruit and veg drawers in your fridge, or even keep some of the “worst offending” fruit – such as apples and bananas – in a fruit bowl. To find out more about how best to store fresh produce, you can click here or here.
Remove The Moisture
Add a paper towel to any tubs or drawers your fruits and vegetables might be stored in. The paper will soak up any moisture produced by the products, preventing the growth of microorganisms that enhance decay. If you wanted to invest in a more permanent solution, you could purchase some eco friendly breathable cloth bags, allowing the air to circulate while reducing the moisture in the items.
So there are our tips on how to help improve food sustainability in your home!