An Eat Me First shelf for your fridge – the student / shared house version

The Eat Me First Shelf


Make your “Eat Me First” shelf to get that fridge under control – the student / shared household version

I realise you might be saying, “I’ve only got one shelf”.

I realise you might feel like you are the only one who cares about reducing food waste.

I realise your freezer might be so rammed full of other people’s stuff and your sink and work surfaces are covered in other people’s washing up and empty or half full take away packets.

Here at Zero Waste Towers, our student and shared flat days were a long time ago now, but we enlisted the help of some current students to share their tips on how they’ve managed to avoid food waste – both theirs and sometimes that of their house mates.

You might only be able to do this for your own shelf in the fridge, but if you can get others on board or do it together as a household it will be worthwhile.

Here goes…

1. Take everything out from your shelf in the fridge.

2. Take the shelf out of the fridge if you can and give it a good wash with hot water and washing up liquid. Dry the shelf if you have a clean tea towel as it is best to avoid extra moisture in the fridge – bacteria like moisture.

3. Any food that is beyond rescuing – mouldy or past the Use By date(hopefully nothing!) unless it is eggs – put to one side and then take a photo, before you dispose of it in whatever way you can.

4. Let’s work with the rest. Sort out anything that has a use by date. If the Use By date is today, then you are going to cook it or freeze it.

5. Anything with a Use By date of tomorrow onwards put it in on the right hand side of your shelf.

6. Anything with a Use By date of today put on the far left of your shelf. Even better, if you have an empty large plastic tub like an ice cream tub (of the cheap variety not the posh ones) then you can use that to house the things that need using up – so place that on the far left of your shelf. That’s your Eat Me First tub.

Need to save a bit of space:

7. Going forward always restock from the right (unless you’ve bagged a bargain because it was near its Use By date – in which case it it goes in your Eat Me First tub.

8. Always cook / snack from the left as this is the food that needs using up first. When you have emptied a packet and are lucky enough to already have a new one in stock, then once you’ve opened the new one it goes to the left not back where it came from.

And there you have it, your Eat Me First shelf squeezed into an ice cream tub!

Here are some great tips for your future fridge management from Lizzi, a student at the University of Bath. Lizzi did a four year degree, living in halls for year one, then shared houses each year after that. She then went on to do a Masters – another shared house – and now she is in the third year of her phd in the same shared house but with different people coming and going.”

Lizzi says:

Lots of things depend on the relationship between the flatmates but some ideas could be:
  • If you have food you know you’re not going to be able to use before it goes bad (perhaps you’re going away for the weekend) tell your flatmates they can use it – send a message if you won’t see them before you go, or stick a post it note on it/ on the fridge door to tell them they can eat it.
  • If you notice something that’s been taking up precious fridge space for ages it could be that your flatmate has forgotten it’s theirs or forgotten about it full stop. You could casually say, did you know you have XXX in the fridge? If you don’t like it I’d love to use it up. Or suggest a way for them to use it, taking into account what you see them normally do with food so that you think your suggestion would be within their comfort zone.
  • (Not sure I’ve ever actually done this but could work..) If you see that there’s an item on your flatmate’s shelf that is starting to look worse for wear/close to use-by date and you have a much fresher version that you’re planning to cook with that day, ask them if they would be happy to swap.
  • If they’re moving out/leaving for a period of time and you’re staying a bit longer, tell them you’re happy to deal with any food they haven’t used, rather than them throwing it in the bin before they go.


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Anna Pitt

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