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Your Guide to Best-Before Dates

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

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Have you ever eaten something past its best-by date and it tasted surprisingly normal? It can be easy to mistake a best-before date as a hard and fast determiner of when your food will go off. But more often than not, many food products have a longer shelf life than indicated on the packaging. Understanding that food can still be safe to eat, but maybe not at its peak taste or texture after a certain time, can help encourage consumers to see past the best-before date when clearing out their fridges. Of course, foods such as meat and fish, even store-bought salads, have strict use-by dates to prevent food poisoning, which isn’t always indicated through a change of smell or discolouration. However, a plant-based diet can promise greater leeway in self-judging whether your food is still good past the best-by date. Fruits and vegetables, if stored well, can have their lives extended, and one can avoid the wrinkly apple. Storage goes a long way in giving your food the helping hand it needs for extending its shelf life. So here are a few tips at helping your food last past its best-before date.

Freeze it or Cook it

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Supermarkets often package large portions of food, and it’s not always possible to finish them before their ‘best-before dates. Although it's normally more cost-effective to get the larger packets, we end up losing our value for money if the product becomes spoilt before we have used it up. For me, rotten spinach is often the main culprit in my food waste- the packets come in really large packets that sometimes get the better of me and I can’t always finish them in good time. To avoid making frequent mental notes to eat it, I’ve found it easier to make a big dish using it up or to wash it and then freeze it. This way, I can confidently say that more spinach has lived to see another day. Similarly, I’ve saved many slices of bread from mould by freezing them.

Organisation is key

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Organising your fridge so that older food is at the front and fresher produce is at the back can help to remind you which food you should finish first, though it can be tempting to pick the food that’s shiny and new. Alternatively, organise the drawers in your fridge so that older vegetables are at the top and newer ones are sitting comfortably at the bottom. I sometimes remove food from its original packaging and place them in Ziplock bags, but if you do this, please remember to label it with its stated expiry- even if it is a guideline rather than something you should always follow.

Vegetables that don’t need to be kept in the fridge like onions, garlic, or potatoes should be kept in cool and dark places. But don’t worry if your potatoes start sprouting; you can simply cut off the sprouts and they’ll still taste good with your baked beans. Moreover, fruit can easily get bruised, but cutting out these sections will make them safe to eat. Mould, however, is a definite indicator that you should stay clear of eating it and throw it away.

So trust your senses on best-before dates, but don’t compromise on your safety when judging if you should throw food away.

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