The weekly food shop is a staple of British culture, but why is so much of it going to waste?
Do you always find yourself throwing out the remains of a bag of salad? Or do you sometimes struggle to eat the full loaf of bread before it goes stale? There’s no denying that we’re all guilty of throwing away food. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here, at Tap Warehouse, we’ve demystified the process of storing your food shop, to help keep your food fresher for longer whilst saving you a bit of money in the mean-time.
But, before we get into that, let’s unearth the extent of food waste in Britain.
A third of the food Brits buy is thrown out
While we may think tossing out the odd food item here and there might not add up to much, unfortunately, the outcome is quite the opposite.
Our research has revealed that British households throw out almost a third (29%) of their food shop every month. With the average household food shop costing £241 per month, that’s £70 worth of food shop heading straight to the bin. Over a yearly basis, this amounts to £840!
Not only that, research by WRAP states UK households waste eight meals a week. Over a year this equates to a colossal 416 meals – enough to feed one person for more than 4 months.
It’s evident the ways and rules on storing food need to be clearer. Read on to uncover how to save your food and money next food shop.
Eight food safety and storage myths: Debunked
Meat, poultry and seafood storage myths
Myth 1: Defrosting meat, poultry & fish at room temperature is safe
More than half of the UK (54%) defrost meat and fish at room temperature, which you definitely shouldn’t be doing. Thawing it this way can cause bacteria to grow in the food if it gets too warm. Instead, you should defrost the meat or fish overnight in the fridge, or just zap in the microwave if you’re short on time. Make sure you use the defrost setting on your microwave and keep checking the meat every minute to assess whether or not it has defrosted.
Myth 2: You can smell raw meat to check if it’s OK
Did you know that two-thirds (66%) of Brits determine if raw meat is still edible by just smelling it? Unfortunately, you cannot smell the bacteria that can cause food poisoning, so this practice is extremely dangerous. Instead, you should check the use-by date, and never eat the meat after the use-by date, unless it’s already been frozen after the food shop.
Condiments and cupboard food storage myths
Myth 3: There’s a correct way to store ketchup
Whilst this can be a big debate in any British household, the truth is that there’s no right way to store ketchup. It lasts just as long in either place. However, what is a significant change between the two is the change in the taste. It is more acidic if you leave it in the cupboard at room temperature.
Myth 4: Keeping bread in the fridge will make it last longer
If you live in a smaller household, finishing a loaf of bread before it goes out of date, can seem like a chore. However, there’s no need to throw it away. Instead, if you feel like you’re not going to finish it in time, put it in the freezer. Here it can last up to three months. Just whatever you do, do not store it in the fridge as it will go stale much quicker.
Myth 5: You should store your potatoes and bananas in the fridge
Doing this can actually come with health implications. Potatoes turn sweet once refrigerated and these sugars can turn into a harmful carcinogen (a substance that potentially can cause cancer), named acrylamide.
Refrigerating bananas is another big no-no. The fruit falls from tropical climates so has no natural defence against the cold – meaning the vitamins and nutrients will be broken down, before turning mushy and black. If you want to keep your bananas fresh for longer, cover the stems with a wrap to prevent the fruit from releasing the gas, ethylene, that ripens the fruit.
Myth 6: You must eat fruit and veg before the date on the package
Did you know that the dates you see on fruit and vegetable packaging are actually ‘best-before’ dates? There’s actually no issue eating this fresh produce after the ‘best-before’ date (unless of course, it’s mouldy).
However, if you don’t intend to eat the fruit and vegetables within the ‘best-before’ date, you can store them in the freezer. Things like herbs, garlic and chilli can even be used directly from the freezer.
It’s also worth noting that some foods with high water content, like tomatoes, salad greens, strawberries and cucumbers, can go mushy once they’ve thawed. They are, however, great for making smoothies or for cooking if you want to add some flavour.
Dairy and eggs storage myths
Myth 7: You should store eggs in the fridge door
Most fridges have a special egg rack in the door for you to store your eggs, so it would seem to make perfect sense to store your eggs here. But did you know that keeping eggs in the fridge door will make them rot quicker? This part of the fridge is actually the warmest, because it’s subject to constant temperature changes every time the door is opened. To keep your eggs fresher for longer, store them at a consistent temperature below 20oC.
Although you can’t store eggs in the fridge door, you can, however, store them in the freezer. Just crack the eggs into containers and they will last up to 12 months. This is the perfect solution if you find yourself not eating the eggs before the ‘use by’ date on the packaging.
Myth 8: Butter lasts just as long at room temperature
Quite simply, this is not true. The fatty content of the butter means that if you leave it at room temperature, it will only last 1-2 days. However, if you store it within the fridge, it can last up to three months. But, if that’s not long enough, you can even store your butter in the freezer for up to nine months! Then when you need to use it, just leave it to defrost in the fridge for six to seven hours.
Revealed: The truth about use-by and best-before dates
No matter how well you store your food, it can still go out of date. But, what are you supposed to look for to check if it’s ok to eat? There are two types of date labels found on food:
Did you know that a lot of the UK assess the freshness of their food by smelling it? According to the Food Standards Agency, 73% of Brits complete a smell-test for milk and yoghurt, and 62% for seafood.
Instead, you should go by the use-by date, which is often found in foods that perish quickly, such as meat products. The bacteria that cause food poisoning cannot be seen, tasted or smelled – so it’s important to go by the use-by date.
These dates are most commonly found on the packaging of fresh produce, such as condiments, fruit, and vegetables. Best-before is about the quality and not safety, so you can usually eat these foods a couple of weeks after the best-before date.
There’s nothing worse than having to throw out food that was once perfectly fine to eat. But hopefully, this guide has given you some insights into food storage to help preserve the lifespan of your food and save you money in the long run.
Although, it’s not just food we’re wasting. The UK is racking up a huge toxic waste legacy – and that’s just from the bathroom. Read the blog post to discover how you can cut out plastic waste in the bathroom.
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