Zero Waste Week 2020 – Day Four

Welcome to Day Four of Zero Waste Week

Today’s topic is inspired by Zero Waste Week Ambassador, Claire Carter.

Claire took our Zero Food Waste Heroes Training Course and one of the lessons reminded her about this:

“Several years ago for Zero Waste Week, we had the hashtag #letsignorebestbefore. It was really interesting to see how long after the best before date, foods were still good to eat. I remember that week eating a tin of sardines that was 18 months past the best before date! They were fine and so was I.

I find many people don’t realise they can freeze something right up to the Use By date. Because instructions always say to freeze as soon as possible, this is often taken to mean that food must be put in the freezer straight away and if this window is missed then you can’t freeze it. I think a lot of food is wasted because of misunderstandings around date labels. Helping people to better understand them, will go a long way to reducing household food waste.”

So, we thought we would indeed reintroduce the #letsignorebestbefore hashtag. For all you newbies, joining us more recently and for anyone who needs a reminder, we all got creative and posted pictures and recipes of ways that we used up food that was beyond its best before date.


Here’s my #letsignorebestbefore… a fab way to use up an old unloved jar of fig jam.

Remember, of course, that the best before date is not a safety guideline. It is not to be confused with the Use by date (which IS a safety guideline).

For anyone who needs a refresher, or missed out on Monday’s message:

Use By and Best Before dates

Today we are going to go right to the back of our store cupboards.

Day Four Challenge

If you want a ten minute version of the challenge here it is:

For students and shared households, the 10 minute version will work for you too, so I’ve included it in a post for you. I’ve added some suggestions from Lizzi  at University of Bath and Jen at Cardiff University on how to cope with the extra challenges of sharing a kitchen but still making the most of your food and that of your housemates even!

For the full read, let’s carry on.

Today we are going to revolutionise your food store cupboard (if it needs revolutionising – otherwise it will just be a stock check and forward planning opportunity). Grab a bowl of hot, soapy water, a clean cloth, clean tea towel and a pencil and paper or download our Zero Waste Week Store Cupboard Meal Planner. You can either fill this out on your phone or print it and grab a pencil. Other great options include a chalk board or a wipe clean surface such as a document wallet with our planner inside and a felt tip pen.

Download our store cupboard meal planning assistant

Ready? Here we go!

Pick one entire food cupboard and take everything out.

Give the cupboard good clean and dry it thoroughly. I’m going to assume you have three shelves (including the bottom of the cupboard). You can achieve similar with just two shelves though.

Whilst everything is out, make a note of what you have or take a photograph.

As you put things back, write up some store cupboard meals that you could make from what you have in stock or what you know you usually like but have run out of. If you need menu ideas see our blog post here, or get onto social media.

Store cupboardmeals help reduce food waste

Don’t get hung up on the menu plan right now, just jot down your ideas on it when they come to you and finish it off later with a bit of help. That’s why you took the photo of what you have.

 Once your cupboard is clean and dry, start putting things back following these rules:

  1. Everything you have bought this year and is unopened and has a Best Before date well into the future, goes onto the top shelf of your cupboard if it is a wall mounted one or the bottom shelf if it is a floor standing unit. The reason for this is that these items will be the ones harder to reach, so when you are rushed and stressed, you don’t break your own system.
  1. Everything from last year or with a Best Before date in the next three months and that is unopened goes onto the next shelf up or down, so it is in the middle.
  1. Anything opened, nearing or past its Best Before date goes on the bottom shelf if your cupboard is on the wall – top shelf of it is floor standing. This should be the easiest shelf to reach and the one that will catch your eye first.
  1. Pick one thing that is past its Best Before date if you have anything, take a photo, post it on social media with the hashtag #Letsignorebestbefore or post in the comments below either asking for ideas or with your own idea of how you are going to use it up before the end of the week.
  2. Pledge to eat it by the end of the weekend!

Keep your menu plan to hand and add to it as you see new ideas for store cupboard meals. If it is a recipe that needs things you haven’t got, you add them into the shopping list section of your meal planner. Then going forward as you use up stock, you add it to the shopping list.

The Zero waste version of this meal planner is, as I mentioned a reusable board or sheet inside a document wallet that you already have.

Other options might be to use the back of a cereal packet if you buy boxed cereal, as you can still write on your box before you recycle it.

Years ago when I took the plunge from living a lifestyle where I just avoided any products in non recyclable packaging, to seriously reducing the amount of packaging I relied on, I started to miss some of the packaging items that I was no longer getting. Cardboard boxes and ice cream tubs were the main things I missed. But here’s a thing! … I just started asking friends and family to keep me a few of theirs. Funnily enough, or maybe because this Zero Waste thing is such a feel good thing (don’t you think?), I kept having to ask different people, as more and more people were realising what I was doing and started doing it too.

So, as we move towards the last day of Zero Waste Week 2020, think of this… maybe you feel you have just taken your first few steps or your next few steps towards your method or level of Zero Waste living, but before you know it you might find that some of your friends are walking along that path with you.

Being here together, doing these simple challenges (okay, yes not simple for everyone, but I promise they get easier when you’ve done them a few times) and telling the world what we are doing, it is being watched. We are being watched, and what I really love, is that we are being watched with intrigue and admiration more and more.

I can remember a conversation with a group of experts talking about “the problem of plastic” at The Guardian that I shared with them me feeling that I used to feel like I is was part of  about 0.03% of the population who want to live in this way – we call it Zero Waste, but it is mostly about being respectful of resources – but now I feel like I might be part of around 30% of the population.

We zero heroes are a growing band! Together we make a huge difference.

We are becoming the new normal. So let’s keep at it, hold our heads up high, be proud to boast that we’ve brought in leftovers for lunch in an old ice cream tub (that wasn’t even ours in the first place). The World is watching and liking it, and that means businesses are responding. You… we… are part of a positive revolution that will be crucial to our ongoing survival on this planet.

See you tomorrow and go and make some noise for Zero Waste Week!

Posted in

Anna Pitt

1 Comment

  1. john on September 10, 2020 at 9:48 am

    i remember in the late 60 visiting a friend with a baby and the baby food had run out i went to a local late opening shop and got some tins when we opened one it looked a bit watery. i parcelled it up and sent it to the manufacturer later we got a letter saying that it was perfectly good to eat and that it had just been on the shelf longer than they would have liked later a box arrived with a set of samples from the company as a thank you for letting them know i now sometimes buy food when the food has passed the best before date very often food that would be classed as luxury and out of my price range

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