Preventing food waste at home

In the UK we throw away 6.5 million tonnes of food from our homes each year, much of which could have been used safely. Reducing our food waste is not only good for saving money, it's good for the planet too.

Here are some tips for preventing food waste at home

How and when to freeze food:

  • You can safely freeze most foods any time before the use by date.
  • Although most food can be safely stored in a properly functioning freezer for up to a year, the quality will deteriorate so it's best to eat food within three to six months of freezing.
  • To prevent food in the freezer from drying out it should be stored in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in foil, freezer wrap or cling film. Try to expel any air from freezer bags.

Defrosting food:

  • Defrost raw food when you need it and cook or eat within 24 hours.
  • Raw meat should be thoroughly defrosted overnight in the fridge, taking care that it doesn't drip on any other foods, and cooked through until it is steaming hot.
  • Never refreeze food once it has been defrosted, unless you are defrosting raw food to then batch cook and freeze as meal portions.

Plan ahead:

  • Check what's in your fridge and freezer before you do your food shop.
  • Plan out what your household is going to eat for the week and make a list of the ingredients you need. This should help prevent any unnecessary impulse buys that can be expensive!
  • When shopping try not to get tempted by 'buy one, get one free' deals unless you know you will definitely use it, or can freeze it to use another time.

Use up your leftovers: Eating leftovers can turn today's dinner into tomorrow's lunch! 

  • Cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 minutes
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within two days
  • Defrost frozen leftovers thoroughly before reheating, either in the fridge overnight or in the microwave if you intend to cook them straight away
  • Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze
  • Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout
  • Don't reheat leftovers more than once

Always check the 'use by' date:

  • Even if it looks or smells alright, food should not be eaten after the use by date as it may be contaminated.
  • You cannot see, smell or taste the bugs that cause food poisoning.
  • Remember that most food can be frozen before the use by date to be used at a later date. 

For more information on use by and best before dates please see:

Useful weblinks

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Page last updated: 05 August 2022

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