The UK wastes tons of food every year, which is daunting, but even worse if you are a student who’s coming to the end of their loan and don’t want to waste things. The total expenditure per person stands at £700, which is a huge amount of money when you’re on a student budget. So what can you do with food that’s past its sell by date?
Know the difference between ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use-By’ dates
Best before dates are there to make sure that you have a guide to when the product is still edible. They are usually safe to eat, you just have to judge them by smell or appearance.
Use-by dates are reserved for those products that are high risk. This means that the bacteria in them can multiply to dangerous levels. Items such as fish, meat and dairy fall into this category. Here are some tips for those hard to manage products.
Eggs should ideally be eaten within two weeks, at the most three. There’s a nifty trick for telling how old an egg is. Place the egg in a glass, and if it floats into a vertical position, then it’s likely to be stale. Eggs have an air bubble in them that increases over time. If the egg sinks to the bottom or tilts up slightly then it’s still good to eat.
If your chicken has gone a few days past the use-by date and you are still considering risking it, then there are two tests you should do. Firstly, check the colour. It should be pink in colour. If it’s got a greyish tone then don’t touch it. Also, be aware that Chicken that’s going off has a strange sweet smell.
If you want to cook chicken after the recommended date, then we suggest cooking it for a long time, to make sure that you’ve definitely killed any bacteria. As always, don’t use any knives or boards that you’ve used to cut raw chicken for anything else. Food poisoning just isn’t worth the risk.
When you get chunks in your cereal then you can definitely tell that it’s gone off. But if you fail to catch it as it is turning then it can give a sour taste to your cornflakes. Another way to test your milk, apart from the sniff and taste method, is to mix a bit of milk in an ethanol solution and if it clots then it’s off.
Who hasn’t seen some mouldy cheese at the back of their fridge once in a while? Soft cheeses are a bit like milk – you’ll probably be able to tell from smell when they are no longer a viable option for your sandwiches.
Hard cheeses have a low moisture content and are designed to have a long shelf life. If there’s a little mould around the edges then you can scrape it off. The rest of the cheese will be fine. Blue cheese is designed to look a little mouldy and isn’t harmful, it all depends on how you like it.
On the question of mould
Mould isn’t that bad on certain things – for example jam – as long as you scrape the top layer off, and bread if it’s only a few spores. But there are certain things that aren’t even worth considering. Vegetables, nuts and seeds are all on the no list, as are apples, which produce a toxin that could make you unwell.
Cook it all up
If things are getting close to end of their shelf life, then one thing you could do is to cook. That way you can make it last a few days longer. Vegetables can make a great soup, and you can turn mince into lasagne, bolognese or chilli.
You can freeze a whole lot of foodstuffs: bread, grated cheese, leftovers, cake, bananas, berries and even milk (although be warned, it expands). You can freeze salad, eggs, some yoghurt and condiments. Uncooked chicken lasts nine months in the freezer, bacon lasts a month and fruit up to 12 months.
Saving money on food is always worth it, and it’s important to waste as little as possible, especially as resources are limited. Understanding sell-by dates will definitely save you money when you are a student.
Being financially savvy is also a great skill to develop for the world of work. If you are looking for a graduate job where you’ll develop financial, management and marketing skills, then applying to Enterprise could be the right thing for your career.