Make friends with your fridge

When is it really safe to eat that leftover curry?

Make friends with your fridge

Keeping up with rising living costs as a penniless student is no easy feat, juggling rent, books and those essential nights down the SU bar. That’s before you’ve taken into account the need to eat, with many surviving on beans and packet noodles in an attempt to half expensive food bills. Statistics from the Food Standards Agency show you’re not alone when it comes to finding the funds – more than 97% of those questioned in a recent survey believed the cost of their typical shopping basket had gone up significantly in the last three years, leaving half to try and make better use of leftover food.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

No one likes seeing good food go to waste – yet every year in the UK we bin 7.2 million tonnes that is still safe to eat! However, many of us take things too far in the quest to save cash, ignoring use by dates and keeping leftovers in the fridge for longer than the recommended two days. Think about it – how long has that takeaway rice really been sitting in your fridge – and what about those value supermarket bangers that went out of date a week ago?

MAKE YOUR BUDGET STRETCH – SAFELY

Luckily for you feeding yourself cheaply – and safely – needn’t be a chore, making sure you follow a few simple guidelines to stretch that budget without compromising your health…

1 PLAN AHEAD

Look through your fridge and cupboards before compiling your shopping list, making a note of use by dates and planning meals in advance to eat those foods before anything else.

2 SHOP WISELY

Check use by dates to make sure you’ll use the food in time, being careful around supermarket offers such as 3 for 2 so you don’t end up throwing food away!

3 LOVE LEFTOVERS

Cool leftovers within 90 minutes – splitting into smaller portions to speed up the process – then pop in the fridge. Eat within two days and always reheat until steaming hot.

4 CHILL OUT

Worried you won’t eat something in time? Check it’s suitable for freezing and in date, then pop in your freezer. As for freezing leftovers – simply wait until they’ve cooled before freezing. Defrost completely in the fridge or microwave before cooking and then cook within 24 hours until steaming hot.

WHAT DO FOOD DATES REALLY MEAN?

Confused whether a food is safe to eat as you don’t understand the date on the label? Read on for the lowdown on what they actually mean…

USE BY DATES

Generally found on foods that go off quickly, such as raw meat, fish, cooked sliced meats, dairy and salad. Food that’s gone past its use by date could be unsafe to eat, even if it looks and smells fine.

BEST BEFORE DATES

Often found on bread, dried or tinned foods, this helps to show the period it will be at its best. Once it has past this date it will generally be safe to eat, however the food may not have the same flavour or texture.

DISPLAY UNTIL/SELL BY DATES

This is more for the supermarket or shop in question rather than the consumer, providing information to help the grocer manage their stock. You don’t need to throw food away if it reaches this date.

STORAGE INSTRUCTIONS

Advice such as ‘eat within three days of opening’ or ‘keep refrigerated’ keeps your food safe. The use by date still applies – if the use by date is tomorrow and the label says to eat within three days, you still need to throw it away the next day.

DID YOU KNOW…

‘Sniffing’ food to see if it’s ‘gone off’ won’t do anything to prevent you developing a nasty bout of food poisoning, as E.coli and Salmonella are odourless – even at their most dangerous level.

NEED TIPS OR HINTS?

Top tips and advice for food safety on a budget

Facebook.com/foodsafetyweek – post top leftover tips and pics of your own fridge to show how safely you store!

Lovefoodhatewaste.com – offering delicious recipes, portion and planning guides and a whole lot more