Zero Waste Week – 2020 Day One

First up, we’re going to send you off to your fridge. Open up and take a look inside.

We’re going to create an “Eat Me First” shelf.

In a hurry? Skip to here for your 10 minute challenge and you can think about the reasons later!

For those of you who have the time and want to know why, read on…

You know that feeling when you are rummaging in your fridge and you come across not one but two open packs of ham, one of which is seriously past its Use By date and wearing a silvery green shimmer. How did that happen?

You were in a hurry when you put the shopping away, so rammed everything in wherever it would fit, before rushing to the loo, grabbing your things and dashing off to your next appointment. Child number one comes home from football practice starving, raids the fridge, sees the packet of ham you just bought, opens it and grabs a handful, to ram into a sandwich before heading to the shower. Next time you are rustling up a quick pasta supper, you see the open pack of ham (you knew you had an open pack), grab it without looking at the date – because it was the open pack you knew needed using first. Only a couple of weeks later do you suspect something is amiss when you go to get the new pack you assumed was still there. That’s when you find the shimmery silver green remains lurking behind the mayonnaise jar.

That’s why you need an Eat Me First shelf, right?

Here’s how…

You pick one shelf – ideally the one at eye level of the biggest fridge raiders in your household. Your Leftovers, your small portions that remain after meal prep, everything in a open packet, or fruit and veg that needs eating up soon goes onto that shelf. Every other shelf is strictly out of bounds to anyone not making a full meal for the family. 

Rustling up a quick lunch, dinner for one or a keep-me-going snack all has to come from the Eat Me First shelf and nowhere else unless there is absolutely nothing on that shelf (very unlikely). 

This is the very best way we’ve found to avoid the slimy ham, the hard cheese (that isn’t actually Parmesan), the yogurt with a blue fur coat, the hot cross bun that now resembles a rock cake or the scotch pancake that could well serve as a frisbee.

Our challenge for today is to create your Eat Me First shelf. 

If you have been with us a while and have your Eat Me First shelf already, you’ve probably adapted yours and have your own tried and trusted rules that run your Eat Me First shelf in your way. Please share your system in the comments below, so you can help others get their Eat Me First shelf and make it in to something that works for them. One of you Zero Heroes will have the perfect solution for one of our newer readers. How did you start, how has it helped reduce food waste, what problems did it solve, what are your rules? That’s what we want to know. Feed us your story to whet our appetites on day one of Zero Waste Week 2020.

Before you all go off to do your challenge for the day, here’s some really crucial information that you need to know.

It is really important to have a good understanding of Used By and Best Before dates. You need to be able to tell the difference between these two different dates in order to be able to complete today’s challenge.


Use By and Best Before dates

One other thing before we move on to today’s challenge, we’re inviting you to write down everything you throw away – all through the week. You know that saying…

You can't manage what you don't measure

So grab yourself a scrap of paper and pop it near your food waste bin or just your bin if you don’t have separated waste.

Oh yes… just one last point. We’d like you to only throw something away if it is past its Use By date (unless it’s eggs) or mouldy (unless it’s blue cheese)! If it is beyond its Best Before date, please indulge us and we’ll tell you more on Thursday.

Here goes… 

If you don’t yet have an Eat Me First shelf, let’s get to it right now.

Monday challenge – Make an Eat Me First shelf

Here’s the 10-minute version. 

Here’s the student/shared household version.

Read on for the Full Monty – if you’ve got forty minutes to an hour (this one includes lunch and/or dinner!)


A bowl of hot water with washing up liquid.

A clean cloth

A clean tea towel

Six scraps of paper and a pen or pencil

Your phone

Your fridge


  1. Open the door and take a photo to send to us.
  2. Take out everything of the fridge and spread it out as much as you can on your kitchen table or worktop so you can see what you’ve got. 
  3. Get some hot soapy water in a bowl and find a clean cloth.
  4. If the shelves comes out easily get them all out and wash them down. If not wipe them over in place. Empty out the vegetable drawers onto the table and give them a good clean. 
  5. Dry the shelves and salad drawers with a clean tea towel and put them back in if you removed them.
  6. Now you are going to start putting things back in this order.
  • pick out everything with a Use By date. Make some space on the counter top and get your scraps of paper. Check the date on each item of food and if it is today or it is an open packet, put it straight back in the fridge on the eat me first shelf.
  • Item, by item, if the Use By date is after today and it is in an unopened packet, put it into the space you made on the counter top, scribble down on a scrap of paper what it is and its use by date. 
  • Now put all these items onto the shelf below your eat me first shelf, ordering them from left to right by date.
  • Next deal with any fruit and vegetables to one side
  • if it is in an open packet put it on the eye level eat me first shelf 
  • anything that has a Use By date of today goes on the eat me first shelf.
  • anything past its use by date (unless it is eggs) or mouldy (unless it is blue cheese!) put to one side
  • now check the fruit/vegetables and if they are looking a bit tired then they are going into soup. If they will live to fight another day, but maybe not two – it’s the Eat Me First shelf. The rest can be put away at the end once the fridge is entirely cleaned and reorganised. 

7. Before throwing anything away, take a photo of it and send it to us. Then jot down everything you throw away onto your audit sheet.

8. Take everything else out from the next shelf, putting it onto either the eat me first or the other shelf that you cleaned following the rules in point six. Repeat until you’ve checked over every shelf and the vegetable drawers/door racks and everything that needs eating soon is on the new Eat Me First shelf.

9. If you are doing this before lunch, then select your lunch from the eat me first shelf. You’ll be making dinner from here too. Get creative and it doesn’t matter how unusual dinner turns out to be. Send us photos of what you create. Contact us on social media if you need ideas. Use the hashtag #ZWWUseItUp to find out what other people are creating.

10. When you’ve put everything away again, get your scraps of paper (or post-it notes) and arrange them in date order (the nearest date at the top). This is going to be your meal plan for the week. If you’ve got too much for the week, or a Use By date is after the date you will use it on, then put it into the freezer, right now.

Don’t forget to tell the rest of your household what the new shelf is all about and the rules about the rest of the fridge.

The Eat Me First Shelf

Send us the before and after pictures of your fridge (hashtag #ZWWEatMeFirst on social media) and don’t forget to send us the photos of everything you threw away! Don’t worry – these will remain anonymous. We won’t tell.

If you planned to go shopping today or tomorrow or even later in the week, unless you genuinely have no food in the house – don’t go!

Stop! Don't shop!

Tomorrow we have a new challenge and you will see why!

Posted in

Anna Pitt


  1. […] Waste Week – is new one on me, but it goes hand in hand with my previous tip. Setting up an Eat Me First shelf is a great way to help modify eating habits to prevent […]

  2. Angela Almond on September 7, 2020 at 8:41 am

    We had three lots of cereal on the go. Only smallish amounts left. I’ve mixed all three into one container. So new packets opened till the cheerio rice Krispy flakes are all gone!!

    • Anna Pitt on September 16, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      My Dad always does this! I only eat oats from a refill shop so it is much easier to make sure I use my own FIFO rule, but putting all the bits into one box and then not opening another until it is gone is definitely a great idea. I actually love my Dad’s “pot-luck” cereal tub as a change from oats.

  3. Helen Butt on September 7, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I don’t have food in packets with a best before/use by date anymore – apart from cheese but we only ever have one block at a time.

    The two things I need to keep tabs on are the eggs (no bbd as they are straight from my local organic farm with no stamps on or packaging) and milk (bottled from milkman and no bbd either).

    • Anna Pitt on September 16, 2020 at 12:43 pm

      I used to have problems with milk (from the milkman) until I labelled the shelf on the fridge door to say “Use from this end first”. Sorted it!

  4. Gala Copley on September 7, 2020 at 9:07 am

    This is a great idea – thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to reorganising the fridge 🙂

    • Anna Pitt on September 16, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Great! Hope it saves you lots of waste. Let me know!

  5. Suella Postles on September 7, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Areally good idea to have such a shelf.

    I work around my husband who only has a cheese andwich or museli for lunch. Left overs get mixed with an inexpensive bottled sauce or used in a hot meal for dinner.

    And moldy stuff gets assesed, scraped and then if looking ok cooked and frozen. As there are only two of us. I won’t risk either of us, if I feel the mold is a risky problem. Our biodynamic eggs Demeter organic do have dates and boxes, but get used well before use by date as they are so special.

    • Anna Pitt on September 16, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      Mould is a risky area, so avoiding the mould in the first place is always the best way. (Except for cheese!) I’m looking forward to further discussions with you on Monday!

  6. Jags on September 7, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    This is such a brilliant idea! We waste so much in our household when it comes to food! I actually end up throwing unopened packets in the bin because I forgot that they were there! The shelf idea is fab especially for someone that’ works full time, plus runs her own business as well as taking care of two kids!!

    • Anna Pitt on September 16, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you! Let me know how you get on 🙂

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