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Food waste – debunking the myths

This is part of an ongoing blog series to help our customers reduce food waste at home. Thanks to our food waste diaries, we know use-by dates, portion sizes and correct storage are hard to get right, so we’re here to debunk the myths and make them easier to understand.

Use-by dates

Use-by dates and best-before dates can be a minefield. Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Use-by dates are about food safety, so foods with use-by dates should be eaten up to the use-by date, but not after. These dates are normally found on food such as meat, milk and ready-to-eat salad.
  • Best-before dates are about food quality, not food safety. Your food will still be safe to eat after the best-before date, but the flavour and texture may not be at it’s best.
Top Tips
  • If you think you won’t finish something before the use-by date, freeze it or cook a meal with that ingredient and freeze the meal.
  • Organise your fridge and cupboard so the earliest use-by dates and best-before dates are at the front. This will remind you to use them up first. 
  • If you remove the original packaging from your ingredient, add your own label or use a pen to write on the packaging (such as a freezer bag or container) with the use-by date or best-before date, so you know when to use it. 
Food Specific Tips
  • Eggs: if an egg passes the best-before date, test to see if it is fresh by placing it in a glass of water – if it floats then it’s not safe to eat. As long as one side of the egg is touching the bottom on the glass, the egg is safe to eat. This trick works as air builds up in eggs over time, helping it to float when it’s too old to eat.
  • Fruit and vegetables: these can be eaten past the best-before date. Celery, spring onions, carrots and lettuce can go a bit floppy when they lose their moisture – revive them by putting the ends in some fresh water. If your potatoes are growing sprouts, simply cut the sprouts off – they’re still fine to eat. Cut bruised sections out of fruit e.g. apples and pears, but throw away anything that is mouldy. 
  • Meat and fish: do not eat after the use-by date. 

Portion sizes

Often we buy bigger portions than we need because it’s better value, or simply because we think we’ll eat it all. However, plans change and if we find ourselves eating out more during the week, or that our appetite isn’t quite what it was when we were hungrily shopping, then the solution is to create smaller portion sizes at home. 

If you’re not sure what size your portions should be, you can use this clever portion calculator tool from Love Food Hate Waste.  You can use it to work out how much to cook, save or freeze and help you stop cooking too much.

Portion Tips
  • When you first buy your packet of meat, fish or bakery items – split it up and freeze individual portion sizes that can be deforested when you need.  
  • Freeze leftover portions so that they’re ready to go when you need a quick meal.
  • Repurpose leftovers – make a new meal that can go straight in the freezer that you can use at a later date. 

Correct storage is a hotly debated topic. Should you keep your onions in the fridge or cupboard? What about potatoes and eggs? And ketchup? 

If you store your food in the correct place you can extend its life and keep it fresher for longer. Luckily this amazing A-Z food storage tool from Love Food Hate Waste exists, so you can look up every ingredient you’re not sure about.

Top culprits and where to store them
  • Potatoes and onions: store in your cupboard
  • Bread: store in your cupboard
  • Ketchup: store in your fridge

Let us know how else you’ve been reducing your food waste and tag us in your handy food hacks on social @Ocado. 
Read the rest of the food waste blog series here

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