Did you know that approximately 40% of food produced in the US is thrown away each year? This means that Americans are wasting the equivalent of $165 billion annually. Moreover, this uneaten food is also ending up in landfills, where it rots and causes a large amount of the nation’s greenhouse gases.
If we could reduce the amount of food we waste by just 15%, this would be enough to feed an extra 25 million Americans a year. At a time where one in six Americans do not have a regular source of food, it makes sense to waste less by cooking what we have, and using up what is in our cupboards.
The problem is that people are worried about food safety, and as soon as a product has reached its best-buy date, our usual response is to throw it away.
But there are some foods that are perfectly acceptable and safe to eat, you just have to know there difference between the use-by dates.
- Use-by dates (means it’s not safe to eat food after)
- Sell-by dates (are used by supermarkets for their own date purposes)
- Best-before dates (are about peak quality and not safety)
Now that it is clear which dates we should be looking at, here are ten foods that are typically safe to eat past their sell-by date:
Crisps are loaded with salt, and salt is a natural preservative. So although they may have gone a little soft, they are highly processed and safe to eat. Crisp them back up by popping them in the oven on a high heat for a few minutes.
Chocolate has loads of sugar in it, which is also a natural preservative. As such it will last a long time. It may develop a ‘bloom’ or a white coating when exposed to air, but this is because the fat has risen to the top as it melted. If it tastes a little stale, melt it down and use for baking.
3. Canned foods
Canned goods last for a good 18 months but you can extend them for longer by leaving them in a cool, dark place, like a pantry. Acidic products, such as tomato based goods, will last for around 18 months, and vegetable based goods longer, around 24 months.
Don’t throw away yoghurt that has passed its best-before date, you can still eat it up to six weeks later. Even if it has grown a little mould on the top, just scrap it off and eat what is underneath.
5. Hard cheese
Many cheeses have mould introduced as part of the flavour, so if yours happens to have some on the outside, just cut it off and eat the inside. Do not apply this technique to soft cheeses such as brie or camembert.
A good tip with milk to get it to last longer is to store it at the back of the fridge, where it is typically colder, than in the door. You should find that pasteurised milk keeps for 50% longer if stored this way. Use your nose and eyes to determine whether it is ok to drink. If it doesn’t smell or look bad then it is ok to drink. If it has gone sour you can always use it for pancakes.
Eggs can last up to 5 weeks, but keep them in the fridge to prevent the potential growth of Salmonella. To test if your eggs have gone bad, pop them in a bowl of water; if they float it means they have probably grown bacteria and gases have built up inside the shell. Therefore an egg that sinks is good enough to eat. Use stale eggs for cakes and pancakes.
Stale French bread can be refreshed by splashing water and popped into a hot oven. You must however make sure there is no mould on it. You can also store it in the freezer for later use, it is ideal for making breadcrumbs or toast.
9. Rice & pasta
Dry rice and pasta, so long as they are stored in airtight containers, can keep indefinitely. Store in a dark cupboard, free from damp.
Jams and honeys have a huge amount of sugar in them and as such are safe to be consumed well after their best-before date.