First published: 21/06/2023 -

Last updated: 21/03/2024 -

Verified by our Editorial Panel

Storage and shelf life

A little more storage planning and a little less food in the bin is a way to reduce our impact on the planet and save money. In Wales, by 2030 we aim to cut food waste by 60%.

Food lasts longer when stored correctly. Throwing away less edible food will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced during each stage of its journey – including production, transportation and processing. 

What can we do?

Small changes and consistency can really make a bigger impact. Saving money on food is easier with these good food habits:

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Understand the different date labels

‘Use-by’ dates are about safety, which means you should never eat food that’s gone past it, whereas ‘best before’ dates are about quality – meaning the food could be safe to eat after the date shown on the product, but might not be at its best. But are use-by and best-before dates accurate? It depends. If food has been frozen, it’ll be edible for longer (make sure you thoroughly defrost before eating). If you’re keeping food in the fridge, follow the food’s storage instructions. Find out more about food date labelling. 

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Improve your food storage

Have you tried the first in, first out (FIFO) method? Check the product labels before storing them in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. Move the older foods to the front of the shelves so you can use them first. This’ll help you use your food before it expires and keep your kitchen organised. Explore more tips to make your food go further.

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Use airtight food containers

Airtight containers prevent oxygen from spoiling the food, preserve its freshness and block moisture which can cause mould.

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Freeze your food

Bread is one of the most wasted ingredients – UK homes throw away 20 million slices a day. There are lots of ways to use it up, turning it to breadcrumbs, croutons or storing it in the freezer for up to six months. Pickling, fermenting or conserving can also extend your fruit and veg’s life. Explore more sustainable eating ideas.

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Buy what you need and use what you buy

Check what food you already have in your cupboards and fridge. Make a shopping list of the ingredients you need before you go to the shop to avoid buying anything you already have or don’t need. This’ll help you stay in control of your shopping and means you’re more likely to use up your food before it can no longer be eaten. 

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Adjust your fridge to the right temperature

Make sure your fridge temperature is below 5oC to keep food fresh for longer and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria – Love Food Hate Waste has a guide to help you check this. Also try and keep your shelves well-organised and not too crowded, to ensure the air can circulate freely and the temperature stays steady. 

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Use local sharing apps

Feeling guilty for throwing away food, or want to help somebody else by using up ingredients they can’t? Use apps like Olio that enable us, local shops and food businesses to share surplus food. Neighbourly and FareShare Go work with charities and community groups to redistribute surplus food and other products to people in need. Find other redistribution groups here.

Why take action?

Food has a big environmental impact. Each stage in its journey – including production, processing, transportation and cooking – requires resources and energy, and releases carbon emissions that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, contributing to climate change. That’s why it’s important to make sure that no edible food ends up in the bin in the first place. Storing food properly can prolong its shelf life and:  

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Prevent spoilage

Follow the storage instructions to extend a product’s shelf life. This will give you more time to eat food before it goes bad, which can help prevent spoilage and food waste.

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Keep food safe

Some food may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning if not stored at the right temperature. It’s essential to understand date labelling and the difference between best before dates vs expiry dates. 

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Maintain freshness

Properly store your food so it maintains its flavour and texture - this will make your meals more enjoyable and save them from the bin.


Save money

According to WRAP, over two thirds of household food waste is food that could’ve been eaten. This is estimated to be worth around £60 per month, or £700 a year, for the average family with children. Wasting less food saves us money.

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Help reduce edible food waste

We tend to throw away extra food and leftovers, leading to unnecessary waste. Buying only what we need and using what we buy reduces food waste. Recycling or composting inedible food, we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Minimise your environmental impact

Buying less and not wasting as much edible food decreases the harmful carbon emissions resulting from its production.

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