FOOD

We're Throwing Out These 15 Foods Way Too Soon

And here's what to do with them.

06/10/2016 7:30 AM AEDT | Updated 07/10/2016 10:53 AM AEDT
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Sugar and honey have an indefinite shelf life, so there's no need to throw them out.

You open the fridge at the end of the week and find a group of sad, floppy veggies at the bottom of your crisper. Or you open the cupboard and find a tub of honey you never thought existed. What do most of us do?

Throw them out.

Every week we chuck out one in five shopping bag's worth of food each week. That's 20 percent of our food (and the money we spend on the groceries) in the bin.

This is due to a bunch of easily avoided reasons: we buy too much food (usually because we don't stick to a shopping list and don't check what we need and don't need before we go), we cook too much food, store food incorrectly, forget to use food before its 'use by date', forget about leftovers in the fridge, or don't know how to use them.

To understand more about the foods we unnecessarily throw out -- and to help give you inspiration for what to do with leftovers and sad produce -- The Huffington Post Australia spoke to Mark Best, renowned chef, restaurateur and AEG ambassador.

Mark Best, AEG
Award winning chef Mark Best is the owner of Pei Modern in Sydney and Melbourne.

"When you see the statistics on food waste it is truly shocking," Best told HuffPost Australia. "There is waste at every stage of the consumer cycle, and in Australia alone we throw out $8 billion of edible food every year.

"Australia wastes 4 million tonnes of food each year. This equates to 523 kilograms per household. There is waste after harvest, then packaging, transport and storage, and then when the consumer buys it there is waste there as well. We throw out, on average, 20 percent of our fresh produce."

The difference between 'use by' and 'best before' dates

'Use by'

'Use by' means you have to use it by that date. This label is used on foods that are potentially hazardous and have a food safety concern if consumed after the 'use by' date.

Use by dates are set by manufacturers after doing tests to see the maximum allowable bacteria a food can contain -- and how long it takes to get to this point.

Examples of foods with 'use by' dates: meats of all sorts, poultry, seafood, some dairy foods (not yoghurt or hard cheese, depending on the manufacturer), eggs, cut fruit and vegetables (without skin bacteria can get in), salad leaves and cooked rice and pasta.

'Best before'

'Best before' dates are to do with food quality, not food safety as with 'use by' dates.

A food past its 'best before' date is not off or potentially hazardous, it is simply not its best quality.

Examples of 'best before' products: canned foods, dried pasta, cereals, chips, soft drinks, biscuits and foods that are generally in the middle aisles of the supermarket.

Read more about food expiration dates here.

To avoid wasting the food to begin with, Best recommends doing small shops throughout the week, instead of doing one big shop.

"People tend to stock up on everything including perishable items, with one-third of those perishable items ending in the bin," he said.

"My advice is to buy dry goods and non-perishable items every two weeks (depending on your storage) and then supplement this with daily purchases of fresh items. It sounds like more work but it allows you to decide on the day what you feel like cooking. Any leftovers can be frozen."

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Here are 15 foods we throw out way too soon:

  • Honey -- indefinite shelf life. Keep in sealed container on shelf.
  • Dried pasta -- sealed container on shelf for up to 12 months.
  • Uncooked rice -- sealed container on shelf for up to 12 months.
  • Jam -- unopened in pantry for two years, once opened keep in fridge until any mould forms.
  • Tinned fruit and legumes -- unopened up to one year, once opened transfer into a sealed container and keep in fridge for one week.
  • Peanut butter -- unopened in pantry for one year, once opened keep in fridge or pantry for 3-4 months.
  • Chocolate -- unopened for one year, once opened keep wrapped in fridge for 4-6 months.
  • Tomato sauce -- unopened for up to one year, once opened keep in fridge in tightly sealed container for up to six months.
  • Olive oil -- unopened for up to three years away from heat and light, once opened keeps for 2-3 years.
  • Sugar -- keeps indefinitely opened and unopened. Keep in a container with an air tight lid.
  • Frozen vegetables -- unopened up to 24 months, once opened seal tightly in freezer for up to a month.
  • Mustard -- unopened for up to two years, once opened keep in sealed container in fridge for up to one year.
  • Soy sauce -- indefinite shelf life if unopened, once opened keep in fridge for 2-3 years.
  • Milk -- fine for up to five days after 'best before' date
  • Fruit, herbs and vegetables -- cut and freeze floppy produce, or cook them that day.

"My opinion is that you shouldn't let your veg crisper be where good food goes to die," Best said.

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If you've got nearly off fruit and veggies, wash them, cut them and pop them in the freezer.

If you've got floppy veggies that need cooking, roasting them is one of the best (and most delicious) ways to go, followed by making a quick homemade stock.

"When I roast a chicken at home, I add a chopped onion and a halved head of garlic, a carrot, celery -- your floppy items are perfect for this -- to the roasting pan to give a lovely brown extract in the pan. This gives my chicken a lovely golden colour and flavour," he explained.

"I will put the carcass, bones and so on in a pot, deglaze the pan and add to the pot. Then add enough water to cover and then simmer while you eat dinner. When you are done you will have a delicious golden stock, which is enough to make a small minestrone or vegetable risotto where you can add the odds and sods from the crisper drawer."

Spotty, overripe bananas are of course perfect for making delicious banana bread as per Best's recipe below.

Mark Best's Best Ever Banana Bread

Makes one loaf.

21cm x 6cm loaf tin.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 335g raw sugar
  • 4 eggs (room temperature, 55g)
  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • ½ tsp white peppercorns
  • 6 ripe bananas

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease the baking tin with butter and neatly line with baking parchment.

2. Cut butter into 1cm cubes. Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed in an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each additions.

3. Blend spices to a fine powder. Sift spices together with flour and baking powder.

4. Peel bananas and roughly chop. Toss through the spiced flour mix to coat.

5. Gently fold the flour and banana into the creamed butter mix until fully incorporated. Pour into prepared tin. Tap once firmly on the bench to remove any air pockets.

6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a thermometer reads 85°C. Allow to cool in tin for five minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

7. Serve slices with lashings of salted butter.

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Afternoon tea sorted.

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