Know What Food Labels Actually Mean
Aside from infant formula and baby food, expiration dates are entirely voluntary and are not regulated by federal law in the United States. Despite this, many mistakenly believe these “best before”, “use by”, and “sell by” dates are related to food safety – when they are not.
According to a report by the NRDC, 90% of Americans are prematurely tossing out good food because of the confusion that surrounds these dates. Provided by manufacturers, expiry dates are merely advisory and only involve food quality – i.e., the ideal timeframe for freshness, taste, and consistency.
In most cases, food that is past its labelled date is still quite good to eat. Unfortunately, the incentive exists for food producers to continue adding these confusing labels to packaging – it encourages the consumer to throw away food, which ultimately means more food will be purchased.
So, for the record:
“Sell By” Dates are intended for the retailer and determine when the grocer should pull an item from the shelves. It has nothing to do with food safety and only denotes the time when food is at its peak freshness.
“Best Before” Dates are labelled for the consumer, but are a recommendation and not an imperative. It is advice on when to consume the food for the best quality, though the item will still be edible after the date provided.
“Use By” Dates share the same meaning as “best before” dates, an indication of food quality and not safety.
Plan Your Meals
Planning your home cooked menu for the week only takes a few minutes and can help you eat healthier, save money and time, and reduce the amount of food that gets tossed in the trash. Making sure you eat everything you purchase is just good sense, so here are a few tips on how to get started:
- Write down your favorite meals – Make a list of all the meals you enjoy cooking and eating. When you’re drawing a blank on what to make for the week, refer to this list.
- Plan meals around sales – As a source of inspiration (and to snag some savings), check the grocery store flyer before you shop.
- Shop your kitchen – Before you hit the market, check to see what you may already have on hand.
- Make a shopping list – A great way to overspend and over-shop is to go to the grocery store without a list! When you curate a shopping list based on your meal plan (and stick to the list), you’ll only buy what you actually need and reduce the odds of making random impulse buys.
- Avoid the dinner doldrums – Variety is the spice of life and you may tire of preparing the same 10 to 20 meals day in and day out. Adding a new recipe or two to your repertoire will shake things up considerably so browse the web or ask family members for their delicious recipes.
- Allow yourself cheat days – It’s not really cheating per se, but cooking up elaborate meals seven days a week is a good way to get burnt out fast. Make room on your meal plan for a day or two of easy and quick meals when you know you won’t feel like cooking.