Each year, a staggering 7.3 million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfills all over the UK, costing the average family around £700. And whilst we’re all guilty of throwing away an over-ripe avocado or a packet of wilted salad leaves now and again, some foods are perfectly safe to eat beyond their best before dates.
Not to be confused with ‘use by’ dates, ‘best before’ means just that, the food is best before the labelled date – meaning you can be slightly more liberal with the guidelines.
So, if you want to be more mindful about food waste, we’ve put together a handy list of foods that, when properly stored, are safe to consume past their best befores…
Surprisingly, eggs are safe to eat beyond their best before date − they last for up to three weeks if they're kept at a temperature below 5ºC, as this will stop the growth of Salmonella. A little trick to test if eggs are still okay is to put them in a bowl of cold water. If the egg sinks it's fine to eat, but if it floats it needs binning.
Pasteurised milk will keep 50% longer than non-pasteurised milk. It's better stored at a lower temperature, too.
It takes years for alcohol to go off, but most hard spirits like vodka, gin and whiskey won’t make you ill if you drink them beyond their expiry date. Cream-based liquors can be a little more dangerous, so it’s best to avoid the old bottles tucked away in the drinks cabinet.
Ice cold temperatures prevent foods from going off, so any packaged frozen food is generally safe to eat, even past the use by date.
Hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan are still good to eat even when mould starts to form, they'll just taste much stronger. All you need to do is cut the mould off and eat the inside.
Old chocolate may grow white spots called ‘bloom’ – which is where the sugar has crystallised – but it’s perfectly safe to eat, and won’t make you ill.
Preserved foods like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi are also safe to eat beyond the best before date. The process of salting, curing and drying makes the food last much longer. The same goes for sugary jams and chutneys too.
Biscuits & Crisps
When biscuits or crisps get old they can start to taste a little stale, but because both are laden with salt and sugar, they are safe to eat a few weeks after their expiration dates. You can always pop biscuits into the oven if you want to restore their crunch.
Providing salad leaves haven't gone mouldy, they're still safe to eat past their best before. If you splash them with a little cold water you'll revive the leaves back to their original, fresh state.
You can use pasta well past the expiry date; generally, dry pasta has a shelf life of two years, but you can push it to three.
The best before date on fresh bread assumes you will be keeping your bread out on the kitchen counter. Mould will start to form fairly quickly (within a few days) but it should still be okay to eat. If you want to extend the shelf life of your bread, store it in the fridge — it can last for up to two weeks — or alternatively you can keep it in the freezer.
Sealed yoghurt usually lasts one to two weeks past the best before date, but if it’s opened it can start to mould. Generally, if it smells okay and there are no signs of green mould, it’s safe to eat.