Plan Ahead

  • Don’t just make a shopping list – plan your meals too.
  • Check what’s in your fridge before shopping so you eat food you’ve already got before its ‘use by’ date.
  • Talk to your housemates about sharing meals or allow them to swap foods with you if they are going out of date before you can eat them.

When you're shopping

  • Check ‘use by’ dates when buying food to make sure you’ll use it in time.
  • Be careful with special offers such as 3 for 2. You might end up with too much food to eat before its ‘use by’ date!
  • Before taking advantage of special offers, think if you can freeze the extra pack, or cook double the amount and freeze to use later.

Love leftovers

  • Don’t throw out your leftovers – they could be tomorrow’s lunch!
  • Cool leftovers as quickly as possible (splitting into smaller portions can help), cover and refrigerate.
  • Use leftovers within 2 days and reheat until steaming hot.
  • Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.

The big chill

  • You may be able to freeze food up until its ‘use by’ date. Check the packaging to see if it’s suitable for freezing.
  • Freeze your leftovers. Wait till they’ve cooled before you put them in the freezer.
  • Always defrost leftovers completely, either in the fridge or in the microwave.
  • Cook within 24 hours of defrosting until steaming hot and do not refreeze.


No one likes to see good food go to waste. Yet every year in the UK we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink that is still safe to eat. Put another way, each month the average family throws out around £50 of good food. With prices rising, that’s something few of us can afford. But at the same time, we need to eat safely.

So how can we make sure we don’t throw away food that’s still good to eat – without taking chances with food that could make us ill?

To make your food budget go further, use our guide (opposite) to understand what the different dates on food labels mean – and see how much money you can save by wasting less food.

Dates on food labels - what do they mean?

Use by dates are on foods that go off quickly, like raw meat or fish, cooked sliced meats, dairy products and prepared salads. Always check the ‘use by’ date before you cook or eat food. After the ‘use by’ date, food could be unsafe to eat, even if it looks and smells fine.

Best before dates show how long foods, such as bread or dried or tinned food, will be at its best. After that date, the food is normally still safe to eat, but might not have the same flavour and texture as when it was at its best.

  • Display until/Sell by dates don’t appear on all foods. They provide information to help shops manage their stocks. You don’t need to throw food out if it reaches these dates.
  • Storage instructions are things like ‘eat within 3 days of opening’ or ‘refrigerate after opening’. Follow these instructions to keep food safe, but remember the ‘use by’ date still applies. For example, if the ‘use by’ date is tomorrow, you must use the food by the end of tomorrow – even if the label says ‘eat within 3 days’ and you only opened it today.