Food & Drink, Food Waste Tips

The Difference Between Best Before And Use By Dates Explained

Confused by food labelling? Let me explain the meaning and the difference between best before dates and use by dates, to help you cut your food waste.

I’m big on cutting food waste. Not only does it make good financial sense to reduce the food we waste, but it also makes good environmental sense. In the UK alone, food waste accounts for between 6 to 7% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. This is because when food waste decomposes it releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In fact, it’s estimated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) that if every UK household stopped wasting food for one day, it could do the same for greenhouse gas emissions as planting 640,000 trees per day. This is around a staggering 230 million trees per year.

Food is also extremely resource-intensive to produce. If you’ve ever tried to grow your own food before, you’ll know just how hard it is to grow food. And not only that, but how much effort and resources, and water go into growing small amounts of food. On a much larger scale, the Carbon Trust says that for every tonne of food not wasted, the needless loss of 1,525,000 litres of water needed to produce that food will be avoided.

One way to cut food waste, is to get a good handle on what the different dates on the food we buy actually mean. One scientific study found that as much as 84% of shoppers are confused by expiration dates. This means a huge amount of edible food is being binned on a daily basis.

What Is the Difference Between Best Before And Use By Dates?

Image of a person holding a fig salad with a blue text box that says the difference between best before and use by dates explained.

It’s useful knowing about expiration dates to avoid food waste. Avoiding food waste not only saves money, but helps the environment too. This is in terms of the resources used to grow, make and transport food. And it’s also in terms of those greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.

We have dates on foods because food safety regulations dictate that the shelf-life of a foodstuff be indicated by one of two dates. This is either a date of minimum durability. This is what’s known as the ‘best before’ date. Or the item should have food safety date – the ‘use by’ date.  Here’s what these terms mean in more detail.

What Does The Best Before Date Mean?

The Best Before date (sometimes displayed as BBE, meaning Best Before End) relates to food quality rather than lifespan. This means that when the date runs out, it doesn’t mean that the food will be off or unsafe to eat. Instead, it means that beyond this date, the item is not guaranteed to be at its optimum freshness. So, beyond this date, the taste, appearance, or other attributes of the foodstuff may not be at its very best.

Generally, if the food has been stored correctly, and looks ok, smells ok, and tastes ok after its best before date then it’s good to eat. ⁣

A good example of this in practice is bread. After the best before date, bread goes a little stale. It’s perfectly ok to eat stale bread. You may prefer to toast the bread to make it taste better, but it won’t make you ill. However, as soon as the bread develops mould then that’s a very visible sign that the bread is no longer safe to eat.

Do note that the best before date only applies when the item has been stored in accordance with the storage instructions and it has not been opened. Once opened, it should be cooked and eaten as per the instruction printed on the pack, and any leftovers stored as instructed.

And What Does The Use By Date Mean?

Use by dates are most commonly found on fresh foodstuffs. These include items such as meat, dairy products, or pre-prepared food, such as soups, packaged salads, spreads, and dips.

In contrast to the best before date and its relation to food quality, the use by date relates to food safety. This means that you can cook, eat and freeze food up until and on the use-by date but not after. After the displayed date, it is highly likely that the food will be off and could make you sick.

However, do bear in mind that the use by date is only valid if the storage instructions printed on the packaging have been followed. For example, if an item says to keep refrigerated, then it must be stored in your fridge. If the item is left sitting out at room temperature for an extended period of time, then there is a risk that it will go off before the use-by date. For anything that has been stored out of the fridge for an extended time, then I would discard this food, even if it is before the printed date on the packaging.

The only time the use by date does not matter is if the item has been frozen after purchasing the item, and the item was still in date when it went into the freezer. In this case, its life will be extended well beyond the use by date. This could potentially be for up to one year depending on the item or freezing instructions on the packet.

However, it is important to remember that you should not freeze an item after its use-by date has passed.

What About Display Until Dates?

Ignore ‘display until’ dates. These dates don’t relate to food freshness or quality. Instead, they are used by some shops to help with their stock control and are not aimed at consumers. Instead, look at the use by or best before dates to help guide you.

Food Safety

If you’re in any way concerned about food safety then don’t eat the food in question. How an item looks and smells are good indicators of quality. If something looks off or smells off, then it probably is off, even if it is in date.

Hopefully, if you have been confused about food labels, then this guide will help you to reduce your food waste. If you’re looking for more food waste tips then do have a rummage in my food waste archives. I’ve got loads of clever tips here, to help you save money and cut your food waste.

Life & Style, Special Occasions

Get An Eco Christmas All Wrapped Up With &Keep | AD

This post on having an eco Christmas is paid-for content, in association with &Keep, the plastic-free, ethical and sustainable e-retailer. This post also contains affiliate links.

This year, get your eco Christmas all wrapped up with &Keep.

If you are new to &Keep, this is an online retailer devoted to helping you to reduce the impact everyday living has on the earth, and to help leave the planet in a better place for future generations.

This means that the majority of &Keep’s products are plastic-free. As well as a focus on plastic, &Keep also carefully considers other product ethics. That means you will find carefully sourced products made from recycled or upcycled materials or items made by Fairtrade artisans. What’s more, all of the products they stock are all cruelty-free and are not tested on animals.

Whilst it’s always disappointing when you buy products from eco-retailers and they arrive in the post wrapped in plastic, there isn’t this disappointment with &Keep. Their packaging is always completely plastic-free, and they use recycled materials. 

Christmas At &Keep

&Keep is the perfect place to shop sustainably this Christmas. In this one-stop eco-friendly shop, you’ll find everything you need to help you with your Christmas preparations, such as festive stockings and decorations. &Keep even stock cards, recyclable wrap, and plastic-free sticky tape.

You’ll also find earth-conscious gifts for every recipient on your list – from kids to adults and even pets – at every price point. And you’ll even find everything you need for your home over the festive period – from baking supplies, to table decorations, to eco-friendly candles, and plastic-free Christmas crackers, and more.

This year their festive range is bigger than ever, and I’m excited to show you some of my favourite products from their virtual shelves.

Eco-Friendly Decorations

Eco Christmas decorations from &Keep - from plastic-free, to recycled paper, to Fairtrade products.

&Keep has curated a collection of beautiful sustainable Christmas decorations for you to decorate your home with. From recycled plastic to recycled paper, all the way through to wool felt and off-cuts from the Sri Lankan furniture industry. All of &Keep’s decorations tread lightly on the planet. The decorations tread lightly on your pocket too, with nothing over £20.

From top to bottom, here are some of my festive favourites from &Keep.

Avocado Christmas tree decoration (£5.95). This cheeky little avocado is made by hand from 90% recycled wool, by artisans in Mumbai, India. It’s sure to raise a smile, dangling from your tree, for years to come!

Honeycomb paper tree decoration (£4.95). This lovely plastic-free decoration has been handmade using recycled paper. To keep it looking good, year after year, it folds flat for convenient storage. And, rather than sticky pads that fail to stick after more than one use, this decoration is cleverly held open by a small magnet.

Recycled paper angel decoration (£5.95). For something different for your tree, this unique Christmas Angel hanging decoration has been handmade in Vietnam using brightly coloured recycled paper.

Felt ball garland (£11.95). If you are looking to give tinsel the miss this year, but aren’t sure what to use in its place, then this pretty and plastic-free felt ball garland is a good festive choice. Available in two different festive colour palettes – red, green, and white or red and white – these are hand-made with 100% wool felt. In 1.5 metre lengths, these are great for draping on your tree or for wherever you are looking to give a festive finishing touch.

Hand-felted polar bear stocking (£14.95). Finally, if you are looking for a stocking to hang by your fireplace this year, then try this pretty hand-felted polar bear stocking. Made from 100% wool felt, there aren’t any synthetic fibres in here. What’s more, it’s Fairtrade. This means that it has been sourced and made through a fair supply chain, where producers and artisans are treated with dignity, respect, equality, and fairness.

Eco Christmas Gifts From &Keep

Eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas from &Keep - for her, for him and for kids.

Of course, in &Keep’s one-stop eco-friendly Christmas shop, you’ll find more than just festive decorations. &Keep also have a great selection of eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas. Here are some of my top choices from &Keep, all of which are under £40.

Sustainable Bathroom Gift Box (£27.95). This gift box contains everything your loved one needs to make sustainable swaps in the bathroom. You’ll find all the eco-friendly dental care essentials you need. This includes eco-friendly floss, interdental brushes, a bamboo toothbrush, and plastic-free toothpaste tablets. You’ll also find delicious smelling soap, a wooden soap dish that helps avoid that dreaded mushy soap, and a handy soap saver. And for easy gifting, the gift box is tied with twine and finished with a Christmas tree kraft paper tag.

Eco Kids Gift Box (£17.95). For a fun, eco-minded gift for kids then look no further than this delightful gift box. Containing a PLAYin Choc surprise toy and vegan chocolate, this is just like a Kinder Egg, without the plastic. There’s also a bath bomb, to make bathtime fun (my kids go wild for a bath bomb!), and a fun make-your-own elf peg doll kit. And to top it off, there’s a pack of bamboo toothbrushes, to help remind them of the importance of cleaning their teeth! Again, this gift box is tied with twine and finished with a kraft paper gift tag.

Make Your Own Minibeasts Garden (£15.95). For crafty kids, this make your own minibeasts garden is a great choice. The kit contains wooden shapes, jumbo watercolour pencils, a wooden paintbrush, and wheatgrass seeds. From this, they can then create and assemble their own minibeast garden scene. Once the wooden shapes have been decorated, add soil to the tin, place the painted props into position and spread the wheatgrass seeds. The magical garden then awaits!

Upcircle Moisturiser (£18.95). For skincare fans, this Upcircle moisturiser is a great sustainable choice. It’s made with the finely-ground powder of discarded argan shells. This is a natural by-product of the argan oil industry and is rich in the antioxidant Vitamin E. These deeply-hydrating ingredients really nourish and brighten the skin. And what’s more, it’s made with 99% natural ingredients and is also vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.

On The Go Gift Box (£35.75). Finally, this on-the-go gift box is a great eco Christmas gift idea. It contains a plethora of practical reusable products. From a reusable water bottle to a reusable and recycled coffee cup made entirely from single-use paper cups. There’s also a reusable food wrap and a reusable food bag. There’s even a stainless steel straw. All this helps empower the recipient to say no to single-use plastic on the go. And again, the gift box is tied with twine and finished with a gift tag.

Take The Stress Out of Christmas

What’s more, from just £2.95 &Keep will wrap your chosen gift for you to help take the stress out of Christmas. They’ll place your gift in a recycled cardboard gift box, tie it with raffia and finish it with a recycled tag. You can also select some Christmas-themed recyclable wrapping paper for an extra festive flourish.

Do visit &Keep‘s website for loads more eco Christmas inspiration and ideas. And why not follow along with &Keep on Instagram or Facebook for plastic-free ideas for every corner of your home.

If you’re busy getting ready for Christmas then you can also check out my guide to having an eco-friendly Christmas. It’s bursting with festive ideas that are kind to the planet! From choosing an eco-friendly Christmas tree, to tips on plant-based Christmas dinner ideas. I’ve even got tips on reducing your festive food waste.