10 easy ways to make your food last longer and reduce food waste

None of us like chucking food in the bin but now that we’re stocking up our fridges and cupboards far more, it’s harder to keep track of what needs using up when. The result? Binfulls of soggy lettuce, mouldy bread and floppy carrot The good news is there are simple ways we can extend the shelf life of our food. Start with this guide and you may find your ingredients lasting twice as long, with far less need to pop out to the shops last minute.

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10 easy ways to make your food last longer and reduce food waste

1. IGNORE BEST-BEFORE DATES (BUT KEEP AN EYE ON THE USE-BY)

Did you know there’s a difference between ‘best before’ or ‘sell by’ dates and the ‘use by’ date? Knowing the difference can help you make food last longer. The use by date is the only date you need to pay attention to. It’s stuck onto items like meat and fish that could be dangerous to eat after a certain time. Best before and sell by dates don’t tell you that food is unsafe to eat – they are simply used by shopkeepers to rotate their stock and are only an estimation of the freshness of your food.

2. SMELL IT, TOUCH IT, LOOK AT IT...

Rather than rely on these arbitrary best-before dates, we’re big fans of using our senses to tell when our food is good to eat. Smell it, touch it, look at it, maybe have a little taste of it – while always erring on the side of caution, using our own common sense is a good way to reduce food waste.

3. CLIMATE CONTROL YOUR FRIDGE

If you find your food is going off too quickly, it’s worth checking your fridge temperature. Beware: dialling down the temperature too much may freeze the items at the back of your shelves (you don’t want that), while too warm isn’t good either. Adjust the dial and keep an eye on what works for your fridge.  

4. FREEZER LOVE 

You might be surprised about the amount of foodstuffs you can freeze. Not just bread, but milk, fresh fruit, meat, fish and even fresh ginger and chillies. You can grate ginger and chillies straight from frozen into your cooking. Defrost milk, meat and fish fully before using. Here are some more tips on freezing your fruit and veg.

5. KEEP IT AIRTIGHT 

The oxygen we breathe – while essential for life – can also make food spoil faster. Drystore foods, like flour, nuts, dried fruit, spices, granola and cereal as well as bread all last longer when kept away from oxygen. Keep bread fresh by storing it in a bread bin and recycle handy jars or containers for storing your opened packets.

6. KEEP HERBS FRESH

Bunches of fresh parsley, coriander and mint tend to wilt quickly, especially when they’re kept in their plastic packaging. Treat them like flowers, remove any plastic and stand them up in an inch of water and store in the fridge – they can last for a couple of weeks this way. You can also wrap herbs in damp kitchen paper and store in the fridge. 

7. SORT YOUR VEG DRAWER

An over-packed veg drawer is fertile breeding ground for mouldy carrots and sweaty courgettes. Empty your veg drawer, give it a quick wipe and remove plastic packaging so your veg doesn’t sweat in their extra layers. Store lettuce leaves in a container with a piece of kitchen paper to suck up any excess moisture, and revive floppy celery by standing it in a glass of water. 

8. SAVE YOUR SPUDS

Leave root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots out of the fridge in a dark, cool cupboard or a dark canvas bag. 

9. DON’T FORGET YOUR FRUIT BOWL

Bananas produce a lot of ethylene gas which has a nasty habit of ripening other fruity neighbours - store bananas separate to other fruit. Apples, berries and pears last longer in the fridge.

Peel, chop, de stone and freeze fruit you won’t use in time to add straight to smoothies, pancakes and compotes. Slice excess lemons and freeze them too – you can add them straight to your morning tea. Here are more of our tips on how to preserve and pickle your surplus.

10. CHILL CHEESE PROPERLY

Uncovered cheese will dry out and crack, but rather than wrap cheese in clingfilm, use greaseproof paper instead – this will cover it while letting it breathe too. Yep, cheese likes to breathe. 

How do you make your food last longer? Got any tips to share? We’d love to hear them!