“Contrary to popular belief, expiration date labels often don’t indicate whether food is still safe to eat,” Dana Gunders, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and author of the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook tells Fastcoexist. Crazy fact: Consumers even throw away more good food than restaurants. Just how much are people chucking? Think along the lines of $1,500 worth of food each year.
Currently, the expiration dates on labels are mere suggestions from food manufacturers—when the food will stop tasting its best is often factored in. The bill proposes that the new label include three lines: “best if used by,” “safety date,” and “expires on.” (The last two being linked, although the “safety date” would be the one to really go by.)
Want that $1,500 now rather than later? Here’s how to get smart about food waste.
1. Eyeball it
The biggest tip is to really examine your expired food before you throw it out. If it’s passed the sell-by date but the texture or color hasn’t changed, it’s highly likely it’s still safe to consume. (A sniff test is a smart follow-up, once you’ve opened up the package.)
2. Don’t worry about pantry staples expiring
Things like salt, honey, dried beans, pasta, legumes, and soy sauce never really expire. (You can get a more thorough run-down from the United States Department of Agriculture here.) So even if that fancy pink Himalayan sea salt has an expiration date on it, you don’t need to worry about it going bad.
3. Rethink leftovers
Another big waste culprit: Grains and cereals. Forbes points out that Americans dump foods like pasta and rice far more than Europeans do, mostly right after a meal. If you aren’t into next-night leftovers, throw them in the freezer to reheat later, which extends the shelf life up to two weeks longer. It’s a good reminder to be mindful about both what’s in your fridge and what’s on your plate.
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