Smart Shopping: Best (to know) Before Dates
This week, we read in the news that a quarter of grapes sold at Tesco get thrown away, either in store or by customers. The same goes for 40 per cent of apples and 68 per cent of bagged salad!
It isn’t just that we’re all massive fans of apples, grapes and ready-washed salad here that made us sad to hear the news. It’s also the fact that food waste in general is becoming a massive issue all over the world.
It’s a waste of money, with the average family spending £700 a year on food they don’t even eat, a waste of space when uneaten food gets put into landfills and most importantly a waste of good, nourishing food that a lot of people really need.
There are lots of good theories as to how households can help reduce their food wastage on a day-to-day basis, from cookbooks for leftovers to better education about keeping food fresh at home. Unfortunately, there just hasn’t been enough publicity for these schemes to really get the ball rolling.
So we thought we’d try to do our bit by starting our own conversation about these well worth it approaches. They don’t cost anything at all (they’ll probably even save you money, see above) and by starting to shop and cook clever, you’ll learn a lot about your food in the process!
So, first in our smart shopping series: sell-by dates. Also known as use-by dates, best-before dates and display-until dates. This catalogue of calendar days coming in and out of our kitchens could be one of the major reasons that so much food gets thrown away.
Confused? Don’t worry, it is confusing! It turns out that the term ‘use-by’ can mean all kinds of different things depending on the exact wording and what product is being labelled. This is such an under-publicised fact that some people think that it’s a sneaky method that supermarkets use to make people buy more food.
To make sure you don’t fall into this trap, we’re providing you with Gousto Translate to let you know exactly what all the different incarnations of ‘use-by’ actually mean, their connotations and any exceptions to the rule.
Now we’re off to the local Tesco to liberate some apples and grapes. Turns out changing the world can be good fun when there’s food involved!
Gousto Translate: Supermarket Slang to Saving Speak
Best Before: Best before dates don’t usually refer to the safety of the food but rather to the quality. Eating bread a day or two after its ‘Best Before’ date is unlikely to make you ill but it may have lost its optimal texture and flavour.
You should judge for yourself whether these foods are okay to eat, either by smelling them (NB: pre-packaged meat will often smell a bit after being unwrapped, so you should give it half an hour before judging) or just looking for any mould or rot.
Nifty Mnemonics: Just because something isn’t at its best to eat, doesn’t mean it’s not good to eat.
For bread, the best way to tell if it is safe to eat is by looking at it: if it’s brown, you can chow down. If it’s blue, it’s not for you.
Use By: These are the ones that you shouldn’t ignore, especially when they refer to meat. The only exception is eggs, which can be eaten a day or two out of their ‘use-by’ range as long as they’re being cooked through properly like in a cake. So next time you notice some out-of-date eggs in the fridge, take the opportunity to do some impromptu baking!
Nifty Tricks: If you aren’t sure if your eggs are in-date or not, use the trial by water test. If an egg floats in cold water, it’s not safe to eat. If it sinks, its fine.
Display Until/Sell By: These have nothing to do with the freshness, taste or safety of the food. They’re actually notes to the supermarket about how long the food should be kept in store, which is why the shelf lives are often so short!
Display-until dates are another reason that so much food gets wasted, because supermarkets just throw food that is no longer fit to be displayed straight in the bin!