Keep food safe and make your budget go further!
Did I just hear a collective shout – “BORING!”? On first glance, the word “safe” does tend to make you yawn, but it is actually very INTERESTING and can save you up to £50 a month. It’s Food Safety week from 11 – 17 June so Love Food Hate Waste and the Food Standards Agency are working together to help your budget stretch further, safely.
Each month, the average family throws out around £50 of good food. With prices rising, that’s something few of us can afford. But at the same time, we need to eat safely. So how can we make sure we don’t throw away food that’s still good to eat – without taking chances with food that could make us ill?
The two key things to remember are:
- Know, understand and use your date labels
- Use up those leftovers safely
Know, understand and use your date labels
Do you find yourself standing at the fridge or the cupboard trying to decide if the food you want to eat has passed its best? 17% of us have thrown bakery items away in the previous week because they’ve gone past the date on the label, while 13% of us have thrown yoghurt and 12% milk for the same reason…
So let’s sort out what the dates actually mean.
This is the really important one, as it relates to safety – we should never eat food past the end of its ‘use by’. However, if a food can be frozen, its life can be extended – freeze it on or before the ‘use by’ date. Take a look in your cupboards and fridge regularly and eat, cook or freeze your food before its ‘use by’. Doing this means you don’t end up throwing it away.
‘Best before’ dates show how long the food will be at its best quality – it doesn’t refer to safety. Using food after the ‘best before’ means that it will just not be at its best in terms of quality, but you might not even be able to taste the difference. The exception to this rule is eggs, providing the eggs are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after their ‘best before’ date, but not longer than this.
You can safely ignore this – that’s just for shop staff, not for us!
Use up those leftovers safely
Many of us struggle when it comes to working out whether it’s still safe to eat the pizza we bought last week or whether the eggs in the fridge have taken a turn for the worst. We throw away around 3 million tonnes of food and drink every year before we even got round to cooking or serving it: partly down to our confusion over date labels and storage guidance.
Whether you’ve deliberately cooked a bit extra or it’s just happened, there’s lots of great things you can do with your leftovers including making lunch for tomorrow. 78% of us use our leftovers as part of another meal, but 16% just throw leftovers away. Making the most of good food leftover at the end of a meal can be a great way to save money.
Here’s how it’s done…
Always cool leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within 90 minutes). Don’t put hot food straight into the fridge as it warms up your fridge and takes more energy to cool it down again.
Cool it down by:
- Putting the leftovers into individual portions in air tight containers (plastic takeaway containers or bought Tupperware will do)
- Immerse the container in cold water, the water could get into the container but that’s ok, just drain it out.
- Put the leftovers (otherwise known as lunch or dinner tomorrow) in the fridge. You could also freeze it – just remember to label it if you’re putting it in the freezer.
Reheat leftovers thoroughly to get them tasting really good.
- Take your leftovers from the fridge and heat it up in the microwave or saucepan, make sure it’s piping hot all the way through before eating. Heating to 70oC (the food, that is) for 2 minutes should be enough. Check it’s hot and eat!
- If you’re defrosting something, try to take it out of the freezer the day before and defrost for 24 hours in the fridge (don’t leave it on the side). You could also defrost in the microwave, but make sure it’s completely thawed, as some microwaves can cook parts of the meal as it defrosts other bits.
- Once you’ve defrosted your leftovers, you shouldn’t re-freeze them.
Just because you cooked too much rice doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Yes, rice can give you food poisoning, but not if you’re careful and you know your own body. Here’s how you protect yourself:
- Cool rice quickly as described above and make sure you put it in the fridge
- Eat the rice within 2 days
- Reheat it to over 70oC for 2 minutes and make sure all of it is piping hot before you eat it
- You can also freeze rice – just box it up in portions and freeze like anything else. Defrost it and reheat.
Here are some ideas for using up your extra rice:
- Sausage risotto
- Mix it in with tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and lettuce for a quick salad
- Serve it with chilli con carne