Did you know that the average UK household could make seven extra meals every week if it ditched unnecessary food waste? AND that a family of four wastes about £60 every month on food that gets chucked away? With the current difficulties households are facing doing their weekly shop, making the most out of the food you have is a skill worth swotting up on (and a great way to save money, too!). Read on for all the tips and hacks you need to know…
Know Your labels
Get to grips with what the different dates on food labels mean – and you’ll be less likely to throw food away.
Use by - This is found on fresh foods that go off quickly, such as meat, fish and salads. This is the date you really need to take notice of. It’s fine to eat food up to the end of this date, but not after this time as it will be unsafe to eat – even if it looks or smells fine.
TOP TIP: If you have food that is coming up to the ‘use by’ date, it’s best to cook and freeze it if you’re not going to eat it. Always thaw frozen food in a fridge, use within 24 hours and cook until steaming hot all the way through.
Best before - This date relates to the quality of food rather than its safety. Food will still be safe to eat after this date, although it may be past its best in terms of texture and taste.
How to store it
Foods that belong in the fridge – apples, avocados (if already ripe), citrus fruits, plums and peaches, most other fruit and veg, eggs, fish, meat, fresh herbs, cheese, sauces, salads and yoghurt.
How to organise your fridge
The top and middle shelves should be reserved for ready-to-eat foods such as dairy products (cheese and yogurts), cooked meats and other packaged foods. Once opened, foods like cheese and ham keep better if they’re well wrapped. Re-close the pack, then wrap in clingfilm or foil, or put in an airtight container.
On the bottom shelves, place raw meat, poultry and fish. These must always be covered and kept in sealed containers.
Keep salad, veg and fruit in the salad drawers.
TOP TIP: To keep food fresh for longer, your fridge needs to be set to under 5°C. The average UK fridge is set to 7°C which is too high for most foods and will cause them to 'go off' quicker. Dialling it down to somewhere between 0-5°C has the potential to keep your food fresh for an extra three days.
[TG1]I don’t think we need quote marks as go off is commonly used, but if we do, change to ‘go off’ quicker.
Foods that will do better in the cupboard – bananas, bread, onions, potatoes sweet potatoes, whole butternut squash, grains, cereals, baked goods, oil and spices.
11 Top food-saving hacks
1. Make sure your fridge is at the right temperature – any warmer than 5°C and your food will go off quicker.
2. Raw eggs can be frozen – either divide the yolks and whites into separate bags, or beat them together before freezing. Bread, milk and grated cheese also freeze well.
3. Microwave a lemon or lime for a few seconds before squeezing, to get the maximum amount of juice out of it. Or if you don't need it right away, or have an unused half left over from a recipe, cut the lemon or lime into slices and freeze in an ice cube tray. Used like ice cubes, they'll chill drinks and add zing.
4. If your celery is limp, trim the ends and stand in a glass of ice-cold water for 30 mins to rehydrate it. This trick also works for carrots and peppers. Lettuce leaves can be revived by submerging them in a bowl of ice water.
5. Mash and freeze over-ripe bananas, then use to make banana bread later.
6. Use onion, carrot and celery trimmings to make stock - just chuck in a pan of water, season and simmer. Good for freezing in ice cube trays to use later.
7. Freeze wilting herbs in an ice cube tray with olive oil or melted butter. Then add to soups and casseroles for extra flavour.
8. Use the oil drained from a tin of tuna, or a jar of olives or sundried tomatoes, to make a dressing with added flavour.
9. Mash leftover chickpeas or other pulses with garlic, lemon juice and herbs for a DIY houmous-style dip.
10. Bread that is stale but not mouldy can be used to make croutons for salads or soup. Cut off the crusts, spread with butter, cut into cubes and bake for 15 minutes.
11. Making mash? Bake your potatoes in the oven instead, then scoop out the middles to use for the mash. Save the skins to make loaded potato skins.
Long live good food
Here's how to use foods in your fridge that needs eating up.
Cooked meat – mix chopped bacon or salami with pasta, veg and a drizzle of flavoured oil; turn cooked beef into fajitas by frying with onions and peppers and serving in wraps; or add leftover chicken a simple curry.
Raw meat – divide into smaller portions and freeze before the ‘use by’ date; or make into curries or stews and freeze in ready-meal batches.
Veg – make up a batch of soup; add squishy tomatoes to pasta sauces; cook mushrooms, then freeze to add to stews; add broccoli stems to a stir-fries along with the florets; use vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock or bake in the oven to make homemade vegetable crisps.
Yoghurt – use as a topping for cereal instead of milk; freeze in moulds to make lollies or turn into colourful yoghurt bark; mix plain yoghurt with cucumber, garlic, herbs and lemon zest for a dip or try this easy tzatziki recipe.
For more savvy ideas to help you get the most out of your food shop, click here.