On a day-to-day basis, it is important that each of us can do something, however small, to reduce food waste. This includes not systematically throwing away food that has reached or exceeded its best-before and use-by dates. Some foods are still perfectly edible as long as their appearance, taste and texture have not been altered by time.
But, let's get to the products that should not be given a second chance, as they can cause upset stomachs or health problems.
In general, when red meat is no longer good, it is noticeable. It gradually turns an unattractive brownish colour and becomes slimy on the surface. Then the smell changes and becomes nauseating. This applies both to rump steak and minced beef. The latter requires twice as much care. If you have bought it in the supermarket, you have more leeway, as it can be refrigerated and even frozen for long preservation. However, if you have bought it in a butcher's shop, you have a maximum of 12 hours to consume your red meat before it goes bad.
If, despite its dubious appearance and smell, you want to take the risk, be aware that you risk food poisoning or even a bacterial infection such as salmonella or listeria, as not all bacteria die during cooking. So, when in doubt, keep this in mind.
Note that this also applies to poultry, which should be discarded as soon as it becomes discoloured and starts to smell bad.
Fish and seafood
Fish is an extremely fragile food. This means that it is also sensitive to external influences, especially when it is very fresh. If you have been to the fishmonger's this morning, you only have 24 hours to cook and eat your seafood. You can save some for the next day, but no more. Like red meat, it quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that cause digestive problems.
If you see your fish turn a strange colour and its eye also starts to change colour, discard it. Do the same with seafood that has been in the fridge for more than two days. At the slightest change in colour or smell, it is advisable to throw it away so as not to endanger its health.
When you think of snacks, you think of ham, sausages and other cured meats spread out on trays between three pieces of cheese and bread. The only problem is that while dried, smoked or vacuum-packed sausages can be kept for weeks, raw or processed sausages only last 2 to 3 days. Those bought in slices from the supermarket or butcher should be consumed the same day. So take them out for special occasions or when you are really hungry if you want to avoid waste, because once they have been in your fridge for too long, you will have to get rid of them.
Fresh fruit juices
We don't mean the juice cartons on the supermarket shelves, but the ones kept in the fridge. They have not been pasteurised before bottling and should be consumed within a few days of purchase to avoid unpleasant surprises. Strictly adhere to the best-before date on the packaging or on the cap, and do not try to tempt the devil.
For freshly squeezed apple, lemon or orange juice, the limit is about 5 days before the juice turns sour and becomes unfit for consumption.
Like all the foods mentioned above, eggs are fragile. Although they are protected by a membrane that is invisible to the naked eye, their shells are still porous and therefore prone to bacterial attack. In general, we have 28 days from the date of laying to consume a raw egg. To prevent them from spoiling too quickly, choose the most recently laid eggs by checking the date on the carton or shell. This will give you time to decide what to do with them, and you won't end up making pancakes or cakes in a hurry to avoid throwing them away.
On the other hand, once the egg is cracked open or cooked, the shelf life is radically reduced. Count on 6 or 7 days for a hard-boiled egg, about the same for an egg white and only a few hours for a yolk, before bacteria proliferate.
A carton or bottle of pasteurised or sterilised milk can be kept in the refrigerator or under the kitchen sink for up to 6 months. This often means up to, or even slightly beyond, the best-before date on the packaging. On the non-negotiable condition that it is sealed.
Once the milk has been opened, you have a maximum of one week to drink it before it spoils. Remember to put it in the fridge once opened, as at room temperature the time is reduced to only 24 hours. After this time, throw away the bottle or box as a precaution. In any case, given the lumpy appearance and smell of expired milk, it is unlikely that you will want to drink it.
Like milk, fresh cream bought in the supermarket can be kept in the refrigerator for a few weeks as long as it is closed. As soon as it is opened, the cream is no longer sterile and therefore vulnerable to bacterial attack. You have a maximum of 2 to 3 days to incorporate it into a dish and consume it.
If you want to keep it for longer, you should know that fresh cream cannot be frozen. However, nothing prevents you from freezing a dish of pasta carbonara or a potato au gratin. Mixed in a dish, it keeps much better than on its own.
Raw milk cheeses
Reblochon, Roquefort, Brie, Morbier and Mont d'Or belong to the raw milk cheese family. Raw milk cheeses are much more fragile than pasteurised cheeses, which can be consumed within a few days to a week after their best-before date. Raw milk cheeses and fresh cheeses, on the other hand, can be kept for 2 days to 2 weeks.
Lack of pasteurisation increases the chances of bacterial contamination and thus intestinal infections in humans. Do not improvise as a home cheese ripener, unless you have purchased hard cheese. This cheese can be left at home for months without any problems. However, watch out for changes in colour, texture, odour and mould growth. At the slightest sign of spoilage, you know what to do: trash it!
Now you know a little more about foods that have a quick shelf life: be aware of changes in smell, appearance, taste, time of purchase and when you opened it is important.