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Last updated at 12:36 BST, Thursday, 18 July 2013

Staff blog


About the blogger

Jen is a producer at BBC Learning English. In this week's blog she looks at why we waste so much food.

How much food do you throw out?

How much food do you chuck out, and, more importantly, why? Apparently, we waste around a third of all food across the world. Many people bin food that is in their fridge or store cupboards because it has gone out of date.

Food in the fridge

You might see some of these labels written on food packaging in the UK, followed by a date:

'Sell by'

'Display until'

'Use by'

'Best before'

Food packaging with a 'best before' date on it

A 'best before' date on some food packaging

Many people will throw food away if any of these dates have passed. They worry that the food will become unsafe to eat and throw it out to be on the safe side. But what is the difference between these labels? Let's look at the labels in detail:

'Sell by' and 'display until' dates are for shop staff and don't relate to whether the food is safe to eat.

'Best before' dates refer to the quality of the food; after a while, it might not taste so good, but it could still be safe to eat. In other words, the food tastes best before a certain date.

The 'use by' date is perhaps the most important, as this tells us when the food stops being safe to eat.

Once you know what the dates mean, you are less likely to waste food that could be perfectly safe to eat.

Another good tip to avoid food waste is to make the most of leftovers. If you are prepared to experiment, you will soon become good at rustling up a meal from leftover vegetables, meat or pasta. Last night's dinner could be today's lunch!

Portion control is also important. Many of us cook too much food and end up throwing a lot of it away at the end of a meal. Understanding how to control portions, and weighing food can make a big difference.

Last night I managed to avoid a trip to the supermarket and created an experimental dinner. It had some vegetables from the night before, a little bit of leftover chicken, some rice that was in the cupboard and various dashes of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. It was tasty, cheap and nothing in my fridge had gone to waste.

As the old saying goes: Waste not, want not!


to chuck out

to throw away

to bin something

to throw it in the bin

out of date

food that has passed a certain date and may not be good to eat

sell by [date]

the date before which a shop should sell food

display until [date]

the date before which a shop should have the food on its shelves

use by [date]

after this date, food is not safe to eat

best before [date]

food will taste best before this date, but may still be safe to eat

to be on the safe side

to be cautious


food that is saved for later

to rustle something up

to prepare a meal quickly

portion control

eating the right amount of food; not too much, not too little

to go to waste

to be thrown out

waste not, want not

a popular phrase meaning that if you don't waste food, you won't be hungry

End of Section

Now tell us what you think

How do you avoid wasting food? Do you like cooking experimental meals from leftovers?

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