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Sustainability: Food Product Dates and Tips for Reducing Food Waste

November 1, 2017

By Erin Gunter, MS

As a conclusion to our series on sustainability and food waste, I would like to share some final tips from Corporate Chef Cate Smith about food product dates. The next time you are getting ready to throw out food, consider the following suggestions.

Understand Food Product Dates

There are three main types of product dates that appear on our groceries — use by, best before, and sell by — all of which pertain to the quality of the food, not necessarily food safety.

  • Best Before: This refers to when the freshness and quality of the item starts to deteriorate. There may be a difference in taste or consistency if food is consumed past this date, but does not mean that it is unsafe to eat. For example, sour cream may become a bit more sour or peanut butter may start to experience some harmless oil separation in the jar.
  • Use By: This is pretty much the same as “Best Before.” The “Use By” date is when the product loses its peak quality. It is still safe to eat for a little while past this date.
  • Sell By: This date determines how long the food item remains on store shelves. If the product reaches the “Sell By” date before being sold, then it will be pulled from the shelves because the product has passed its peak quality date. Food is still safe to eat after the “Sell By” date.

Revive Your Spring Mix

For some produce items such as spring lettuces and mixed greens, you may be able to revive their limp  appearance and texture. You can place these salad greens in a bowl of water and they may perk back up again. Alternately, you could avoid wasting salad mixes by throwing them in the sauté pan just like you would any other green. If you add a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, you have a great side dish that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Test the Eggs

Eggs have a long shelf life in the refrigerator and can last for three to five weeks after their food product date. If you are unsure whether or not your eggs are still safe to eat, there is a simple test to put your mind at ease. Fill a bowl with cold water, then place the questionable egg(s) in the water. If the eggs float, that means they are bad. If the eggs sink, they are still okay to eat.

Freeze and Reuse

As we said in last week’s post, your freezer is a great place to store items that you can use at a later date.

  • Vegetables: You can save vegetables that are about to go bad by dicing them up and putting them in the freezer until you need them. In addition, you can save your peelings and other scraps from meals for future use. For example, if you have leftover onion and carrot peels that you do not want to go bad, put them in the freezer and use them when making a stock or soup.
  • Milk: Milk can easily be frozen and defrosted to get longer use before it sours. For example, if you add milk to coffee in the mornings, you could use an ice cube tray to make milk ice cubes that you can quickly add to your coffee in the morning. Even if your milk is starting to sour, you do not necessarily have to throw it away. Sour milk can be utilized as a substitute for buttermilk in biscuits and pancakes.
  • Meat: If you buy meat in bulk but you are not going to eat it all before it goes bad, put it in the freezer in containers that have specific serving sizes that you will need. For example, if you are a single person, you can divide a package of 3 steaks into separate serving containers.

Consider Registering For a Changing From Within Course

In this eight-session course you will learn to bring close attention to your mind, body, behaviors and patterns related to eating. The group support and skills offered in this program can provide a way to achieve a healthy weight that can be maintained for a lifetime.

If you are looking to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, incorporating mindfulness practices may help you attain these health goals. Click here to learn more about Changing From Within.


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