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‘Use by’, ‘best before’, ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ are labels that we should know because they are slapped all over the food we buy, but what do they really mean? How do they affect the way we purchase and eat food? Even the food connoisseurs among us can find the labels confusing but, as always, we can offer a helping hand in solving your foodie troubles.
Imagine yourself in the clearance section of a giant supermarket as the assistant brings out a pile of goods to be reduced. After enduring the inevitable battle through the group of gannets in front, you stand there looking, ready to pounce. But you're faced with the age old question… what is value for money?
Let’s make it simple; follow these steps to ensure you make the most of your time in the clearance section.
Use By These are the most important labels, used on foods that spoil quickly and could be a potential health risk if consumed after the date stated. Only grab these products from clearance if you can put them to good use before they go off. It’s not a bargain if you don’t use it, so think before you buy. Items include meat, fish, dairy and egg based products. Meat is perfect to freeze for example, check the quality and colour of the meat before you buy, freeze as soon as you get home and cook it the same day you defrost it.
Best Before These labels do not mean that you can’t eat the food after the printed date; unlike ‘Use By’, it’s just a suggestion. So why not snatch a bargain from clearance, freeze it and save it for when you need it? Take bread, the ‘Best Before’ date implies when it’ll become stale but why not chuck it in the freezer and grab it out when you want to make something from the Long Life Loaf Meal Pack?
Display Until/Sell By These are instructions for staff to ensure fresh food is on the shelves, forget about these, just pay attention to Best Before and Use By.
Clearance is a great place to get things if you’re on a bit of a budget, but just watch out as not everything's value for money. It's worth checking out the original price, as you might only have to pay 50p more for something that will last another week. Some of the big supermarket chains think that because we’re in the reduced section we will think that products are automatically cheaper when actually, sometimes, they’re not! For example, a pair of lovely breasts (the chicken kind) might be reduced to £3.50 but the eagle eyed among us might spot that there were previously in a 3 for £10.00 offer. Not really a bargain at £3.50 now is it?
It is estimated that every year we each throw away 70Kg (the weight of an average person) of food that is totally avoidable, with a large percentage of this down to labelling confusion. So hopefully after this we’re all a bit more informed and we won’t waste unnecessarily.
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