Stop Throwing Away Food!

Stop Throwing Away Food!

It's a massive pet peeve of mine. People throwing away perfectly good food because the "best before" date has passed, and think that the food is spoiled and will give them food poisoning if they eat it. I remember seeing on the news not too long ago a segment about food waste. Someone went around interviewing people who were grocery shopping, and this one woman in particular made my blood boil. She said that she throws away literally everything that "has been spoiled according to the best before date".

I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions regarding how quickly some foods become moldy, sour and spoiled, and now I want to clear them up with the help of a little myTake.

Know the difference!

There are two different kinds of statements that can be made on food labels. One is the "best before" date, and the other is the "expiration" (or "use by") date. The best before date means that the quality of the food will be the best before date x, and after date x has passed, the quality of the product will slowly decrease until it's entirely spoiled. This means that it might not taste as good 2 or 3 days after the best before date, but technically it's still safe to eat and won't give you any trouble. The expiration date however, is more definite. It is usually printed on labels for foods that are more sensitive, such as different kinds of meat. But most foods still only have a "best before" date. I've had a glass of milk from a carton that was 4 or 5 days "old", and it was fine. It tasted a bit refrigerator-y but it was definitely not spoiled.

Does the food pass your personal test?

There are 3 things you can check/test before cooking/eating/drinking the food if you're unsure about the date and quality.

1. Does it smell good or neutral? If the smell doesn't want to make you vomit, or if you can't smell anything at all, chances are that it's still fine to eat or drink.

2. Does it look good? Check for mold or other signs of the food having gone bad. You can google the different signs if you're unsure of what exactly you're looking for. Also keep in mind that meat, for example, can change its color over time, but that doesn't necessarily affect its taste because there are lots of different factors that determine the color of the meat. So red meat doesn't always = freshness, and brown meat doesn't always = spoiled.

3. If all else fails, taste a little of the food or drink. Tasting a tiny bit of it won't make you sick, especially if the food has passed the above tests. It's unlikely that it'll taste really bad if it doesn't smell or look bad. If it doesn't taste bad, it's probably still fine to eat, especially if it also passes the smell and look test.

Other tips

Here are some other tips that will help you minimize the amount of food you waste and throw away.

♡ Try to not go grocery shopping while you're hungry. You're a lot more likely to make impulsive decisions when you're hungry, and you'll overestimate just how much food you really need. The worst thing you can do is buy too much, get home, eat dinner, and suddenly realize that you only needed 1 pizza for dinner, not 3.

♡ Have an "empty the fridge" day every week, or every other week. This is the day you'll just eat leftovers. There are a lot of different recipes out there that focus on utilizing your leftovers and making something delicious out of them. My parents often make "pyttipanna" out of the stuff that's left over, i.e. they throw everything that's left into a frying pan, heat it up, season it and then serve it. It's usually a mix of vegetables, potatoes/pasta, meats and eggs.

♡ Make a shopping list and stick to it when you go to the grocery store. If you go grocery shopping without a solid plan, chances are that you'll either buy things you might not need, or things that don't go well together. You might also forget the basic foods you've run out of and need, and that's not good either. Having a list also helps you visualize what you'll eat for the week and how much food you really need, so you won't end up buying too much or too little.

♡ USE THE FREEZER! I live alone and there are plenty of foods (such as bread) that aren't sold in smaller quantities. Eating an entire loaf of bread might take me 2 weeks, or maybe even 3 if I'm not in a very bread-loving mood, and it feels wasteful to only have a slice or two before it becomes moldy and I have to throw it out. So I just pop it into the freezer and toast it when I feel like having some bread. It's super helpful and the bread can last for a couple of months in there. You can also do this with meat, pasta, rice, fruits... anything really!

That's it. Feel free to make a comment if you have any other helpful tips I didn't mention!


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What Guys Said 18

  • One of my biggest pet peeves in the world is throwing away good because of it spoiling or because of careless reasons like "not wanting to take it home". Every time I see a plate of food in a busboy's bin with a whole half of sandwich on it, I get bothered.

    This is why I go to the grocery store so often (more than once a week). I like eating fresh produce (mainly vegetables and herbs, not really into fruit much these days). Because I absolutely HATE food being spoiled, and fresh produce spoils the most quickly, I go every few days to grab a small amount so I don't buy too much.

    Excellent Take about the difference between expiration date and sell by date. They are very much not the same!

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  • I'm on light diet, when lights out I eat everything bahaha

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  • There are better and frankly more important things in life to throw a temper tantrum over. Why people get all in a fuzz over something so trivial is beyond me. You'll stress out by 20 and grow grey hairs by 25.

    The PROBLEM is not that people throw food away past their expiration date. That is actually a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

    The real PROBLEM is that people do not forecast the amount of food they will eat and tend to buy more than they consume. The reasons are many. Schedules change, people have no time to prepare a meal after buying the food. Or they have overbought food simply because the grocery store offered a bulk deal (5 loaves of bread for the price of 3).

    However, this wasteful nature is a consequence of a 1st world lifestyle.

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    • Temper tantrum? This was an informative take, and I even wrote about being more careful with how much you purchase vs how much you actually need. Almost seems like you didn't read it from start to finish.

  • gifrific.com/.../...Lautner-Pointing-Saying-No.gif
    lol annnnd just for that i am going to go pour my one day old milk down the drain, thanks for reminding me ;P

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  • Yup definitely love the Take, the amount of food we waste is staggering. What you emphacize in your take I already do regularly. Do the smell test. I exactly do that make a list, and just buy food regularly in small amounts. It mamkes sense economically too, how much money we save.

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  • We only throw away expired food if it smells or tastes off.

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  • I'll eat stuff waaaay past the expiration date. Depending on what it is I might eat foods that are several years past the date. I'll throw out milk, but only after it's several days past the smelling point. I'll eat almost any cheese even after it's moldy. If the mold is thick I'll cut it off. If the mold is thin I'll probably just eat it. I'll eat eggs that are over a year old.

    I do throw out a lot of produce though. I don't shop often so I buy more than I should. I know when I buy it that a lot will probably go bad. I do it anyway just to have it around.

    Sometimes I'll throw fruit in the freezer before it goes bad and use it later for smoothies. I have a bunch of sealed freezer boxes for that. When I'm in a smoothie mood I look to see what fruit is in the freezer and toss it in. I used to give my black bananas to my sister to make banana bread.

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    • I'm exactly the same way. I've eaten things literally years past the "expiration date." Still perfectly fine. It all depends on packaging, ingredients, storage, etc.

  • uh... just buy less so you don't eat spoil food like a mongrel

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  • I never throw away food. Aren't you proud of me

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  • Great Take, I agree completely :)

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  • Here is another thing to solve your food problem: Make a mystery stew.

    It's harder than it sounds but not that hard. Most stews tend to be a smash hit of leftovers or stuff people can not keep. 1st, stuff that you can grill or sear like meats and fish or some vegetables; grill them or sear them. Then throw them all into a pot and cook them with beef or chicken or vegetable stock. Keep for a couple hours in a crock pot and keep eating.

    For grains and pasta, keep them handy to mix in with the stew.

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  • i go through milk like nothing.. not cuz i like it.. but because it just sits there unopened fora few weeks... then repeat..

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  • When does the "best before" food expire?

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    • That's up to your personal judgment until it's clearly spoiled.

  • My brother told me about the misconceptions about the dates on food about a week or two weeks ago. Then I saw MyTake about this lol...

    About the personal test. Surely everyone does that, that's what my dad always do but he just taste it straight away haha. Also that's quite a normal process.. It's silly if one just relies of the date labels.

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    • You'd be surprised if you knew just how many people rely on the dates.

  • Out of convinience, I suppose. Why have you put a nice picture of food as if that's what's being thrown away?

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    • Because that's essentially what is thrown away. Nice food that's still perfectly good to eat, despite what any labels say.

  • does it look good? if its edible i eat it, even if it fell on the floor.

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    • Look, smell and taste are really good indicators when it comes to determining the quality of foods/drinks, yes!

    • thats true. if it looks discolored and smells bad then its not gonna be good food, same for taste.

  • Agree with this and i would emphasise not overbuying food, and NOT being suckered into 2-for-1 offers when you only really need 1. This helps you avoid using the freezer altogether because fresh food that has been frozen tastes dreadful.

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    • Yeah, the 2 (or even 3) for 1 offers are terrible. Unless it's for candy, lmao.
      One thing that's really convenient here in Finland though, is that a lot of stores add a 30% off label on foods that are about to hit the best before or expiration date. This is really convenient if you know for sure that you'll eat that food for dinner the same day, for example. Plus you save a little money. :)

  • I've only seen that distinction once in the news about the best before and the expiration date. And it staggers me how both expressions can be misleading for people that never seen it explained.
    I think that kind of information should also be included in the packages, so that people knew their true meaning.

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    • Well, "best before" kind of explains itself, don't you think? "This item is best before date x, but can still be good after that date". The "use by" date is also pretty self-explanatory, "this item should be used by date x, since after that, it won't be good anymore".
      But yeah, if you don't think hard about it, it seems like it's pretty easy to get the two mixed up, or it's easy to think that the dates always represent the day when the food will become rotten or spoiled.

    • From Portuguese, it direct translates to "Consume preferably before XX" and "Expire date XX".
      I think that if they've never memorize that there are actually 2 expressions, it's easy to think that it's not good to consume something past a date that is advised to be consumed preferably before.

      The last part: Yes, exactly, people associate the date as a defined end thinking it's two expressions with the same meaning. And to be honest, before I saw this in the news, I never even noticed that there were two expressions.. I always just looked at the date like you said.

What Girls Said 7

  • Growing up in a third world country, seeing perfectly good food thrown away on the ground and in trash cans make me cringe...

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  • Because the quality of a food slowly decreases after the "best before" date, it can be very difficult to know when it is still safe to eat and when it isn't. At a certain point, the food WILL become harmful to eat (depending on the type of food). It's understandable that people want to be cautious. "Best before" is no guarantee that a food is still safe to eat after that date, it just means they're not taking responsibility for telling you when the food will go bad. I agree that people should try not to waste good food just because the "best by" date has passed, but when in doubt, I would rather waste a small amount of food than risk food poisoning.

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    • Well like I said in the take, if it's only been a day or two and the product still smells/looks/tastes fine then it most likely hasn't gone bad. The quality only decreases slowly after the best before date so within the first few days it's still ok to eat.

    • Show All
    • In the take I mentioned that meat and other sensitive products (like seafood) have a "use by" date that's much more definite than the "best before" date. They mean different things and yes, you should definitely take the "use by" date more seriously than the "best before" date since "use by" literally means "this product must be used by date x, after that it's spoiled".

    • Yes, "use by" and "best before" have different meanings, but those terms aren't always chosen based on the type of food they are talking about. Sometimes they are chosen based on the amount of responsibility the company or store is willing to take for telling you how long the food will be good for. For example, canned goods often have a "best by" date, even though eating compromised canned goods is very dangerous. Some foods will also have a "sell by" date, which tells you absolutely nothing about how long the food is actually good for, and this is actually extremely common with meat and seafood. The type of date that is on a food is not an indication of how safe or dangerous it could be to eat that food after the date passes. It's up to you to use your own judgement, but never assume that because a food has a "best by" or "sell by" date, it can't become dangerous to eat once that date passes. It's simply the type of date that the company or store chose to use, for their own reasons.

  • I live in a very modern and technologically advanced country. Our food is very expensive, old, artificial, processed, genetically modified, hormone & pesticide infused, and neither fresh nor nutritious at all. In fact it doesn't even taste like food anymore. I call them food-like products or edible food-like substances. Most of it is already worthless before it even reaches our supermarkets, let alone if it's been sitting in the fridge for a while. Our senses are far more sharper than we give them credit for, so we can feel the uselessness of the food and so the food does not appeal to us, therefore we don't feel any remorse throwing it away. Another point is that this kind of food is actually responsible for lots of the obesity in our country. That's because when the food does not supply the nutrients that your body needs, your body will continue to send hunger signals to your brain, and so you will crave more and more food, and you will gain more and more weight. Not to mention that this situation will also cause you to feel a constant sense of anxiety which nobody can really figure out where it's coming from, because you really think you are eating right when in reality your body is not getting what it needs. And no, vitamins DO NOT make up for the malnutrition. They might be 20% effective at most, but our bodies do not absorb nutrients that way. If you look at a simple medical textbook or experiment with your food, you will easily learn that the process of absorbing food in your body is pretty complex and relies on lots of additional factors, not just the presence of vitamins in your stomach. Buying your food from farmers markets or straight off the trees might help with the freshness, but it's still artificially produced and so won't help with the nutrients.
    In order to understand this better you would need to really feel it and experience the difference.
    I travel a lot, and once I came to this area sort of southwest of Russia and the Caspian sea. The people live on the slopes of high mountains and they have farms and cows and sheep. It's a very poor area, but that's exactly why things remain pure and natural. If you want to understand the true meaning of REAL food, you should try going there for a week and eating with the locals. Even eating plain bread with raw onions made my mouth water. Eggplants and turnips were completely different species altogether, etc. I hope you get a chance to try it.

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  • completely agree

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  • Cool, liked it!

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  • This really bothers me too. It bothers me even more when I forget about certain items and they go bad.

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  • I'm a low-waste person by nature, too, so... yeah, I'm on board with the general spirit of this take.

    BUT... there are some kinds of foods where you really, really, REALLY don't want to mess with the expiration dates. Like, when fresh dairy is expired, kids, it's *expired*. If you've ever seen the kind of food poisoning that can be caused by eating post-expiration dairy products... yeahhhh

    Also, what's equally important to realize is that the marked dates are for the foods AS PACKAGED -- NOT OPENED. This is SUPER important, especially for anything that is vacuum-packed, and cured meats in particular.
    Pretty much *all* meat -- whether fresh, thawed, or processed -- needs to be eaten within about 7 days of being opened (or sliced, if it's from the deli). This even includes things like salami and pepperoni, even though those things can literally last for years in the package -- sometimes without even being refrigerated).

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    • Sliced meat lasts longer if it's very salty though. As for dairy products I would still encourage the look-smell-taste test, exactly because I have had milk that was *opened* for several days after its best before date and it was fine 👍🏻

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