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Food & Drink

14 foods you can eat past their best

Wasting food is wasting cash (and hurting the environment)! But did you know you can bring these 14 foods back to life in a few simple steps?

bread slice with sad face

Whether you bought too much in your weekly shop, or just forgot about that half-eaten pizza, no one likes throwing away food – especially if there's a chance it could be salvaged. In fact, around 250,000 tonnes of food thrown away in the UK each year is thought to be edible.

The main reason for food wastage is that many people don't realise that plenty of food can be eaten well after its best before date. These dates are just there as guidance for supermarkets – they'll still be edible a few days afterwards, they just probably won't be at their 'best', as the term suggests.

If your judgement is saying something is past its best, we've got some handy tricks to help bring it back from the brink and make it taste as good as new, along with a few extra tips to help you avoid wasting food.

Foods you can make taste fresh again

With our tips, you can still use these foods when they are past their best:

  1. Soggy pizza

    pizza slice on a paper plate

    Credit: BrokenSphere - Wikimedia

    Leftover pizza is a staple of many student diets. Some prefer it cold with a bit of mayo (the perfect breakfast, some would say), but if you want to bring it back to life, crispy crusts and all, just do the following (no microwaving – this will make it even soggier).

    Put a non-stick pan on a medium heat. Stick your pizza slices in the pan, cover with a lid or a tinfoil constructed one, and heat for four or five minutes, checking regularly.

    Failing that, go for a 190°C (gas mark 5) oven for 10–15 mins.

    Top tip: To save more money on pizza, try this recipe which works out as around £1.50 per pizza!

  2. Stale bread

    broken up brown bread

    Credit: Nick Amoscato - Flickr

    If your bread's gone a bit stale, there's no need to chuck it in the bin – try dampening the outside of the loaf and putting it in the oven (180°C/gas mark 4) for five to 10 mins.

    Or, you could also try chopping the bread into squares, brushing it with a little butter. Then, pop it in the oven for 15 minutes at 170°C (gas mark 3). They'll come out as lovely croutons that you can throw in a bowl of soup. Make sure you store them in an airtight container though.

    Mouldy bread might look like it has the plague (very appetising!) but if you're brave and savvy enough, you can simply cut off the mould (try not to let your knife touch the mould) and pop it in the toaster.

    Mould never passes further than the surface of bread, so if you can handle the process of chopping off the mould before you toast it, you'll save yourself a lot of 'hangry' breakfast breakdowns!

    However, if any of the mould is black, that's when it's time to bin the bread.

  3. Soft biscuits

    Nice biscuit

    Nobody likes a soggy biscuit... at least not before you've got round to dunking it in your tea, that is.

    If your biscuits go a bit soggy (maybe because they're old; maybe because that housemate didn't close the packet after taking one) don't get angry, just pop them in the oven at 180°C (gas mark 4) for five mins.

    Niiiiice.

  4. Wilting salad leaves

    Lettuce on a wooden surface

    Don't you just hate it when your greens go limp? Lettuce help you out with that (hope you liked that one).

    Stop your lettuce from losing its crunch (or from going slimy, if spinach is your preferred leaf) by separating the leaves and putting them in an airtight container with a piece of kitchen roll over the top.

    Pop the container in the fridge, making sure you change the kitchen roll every couple of days, as this is what soaks up all the moisture and keeps the leaves fresh. You can keep leaves fresh for up to 10 days with this method.

    If your lettuce is already soggy, try cutting off any slimy bits and putting it in icy cold water for 30 mins (or an hour if you can bear to wait).

    And, if your lettuce is still attached to the root, one STS reader suggests putting it root-first into a jar of water.

  5. Soggy cucumber

    slices of cucumber

    There's nothing worse than a soggy cucumber, but the good news is that while the ends might look like they've seen better days, more often than not you'll find the middle is good to go (... into your belly).

    Bring it back to life by cutting the ends off, chopping off any dodgy-looking bits of skin and leaving it in cold/icy water for around 30 minutes.

  6. Mouldy cheese

    mouldy cheese

    Credit: Alan Levine - Flickr

    This is a great tip for when your cheese is just starting to go mouldy – unless it's Stilton, which is meant to be mouldy, of course.

    Keep your hard cheeses edible for longer by grating what you don't need and sticking it in the freezer. Perfect for chucking on a hot bowl of pasta!

    If you already spot some mould, don't sweat. Like with bread, the mould should only sit on the surface of the cheese and can be cut off with a knife.

    Soft cheeses, however, need to be binned as soon as anything appears to be growing on them.

  7. Soft bananas

    Over-ripe bananas

    Are your bananas on the turn? Is there a danger of them being more brown than yellow? Act fast.

    Cut your banana into pieces and stick them in the freezer. They can be thrown in whenever you have ice cream, some yoghurt or muesli.

    Alternatively, overripe bananas are great for banana bread or cookies. If the skin is already brown, pop them in the freezer whole and take them out next time you have a baking session.

    But before they do go soft, make sure you're storing them properly and maybe even freezing them.

  8. Stale crisps

    spilled packet of crisps

    If you have the willpower to avoid eating a whole bag of crisps (somehow?!) then you might end up with half the bag going stale in your cupboard.

    To revive them, just put the crisps under the grill or in the oven at 180°C (gas mark 5) for five to 10 mins.

    Keep an eye on them until they regain their ultimate crispiness.

  9. Stale cereal

    cheerios

    Cereal is, and always will be, a student money-saving favourite – for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    If you find that your cereal stays on the shelf long enough to lose its straight-out-of-the-box taste (although we doubt it will get to that stage), pop it on a baking tray and whack in the oven at 150°C (gas mark 3) for five to 10 mins.

  10. Bruised fruit

    Bruised apple

    Fruit can feel pain too, you know. Ok, this isn't 100% true – but it does bruise easily, and nobody wants to eat a mushy piece of apple, peach or banana.

    This may sound a bit too far-fetched for some, but did you know you can actually cut off the bruised parts and still eat as normal?

    Sarcasm aside, you really can salvage a lot of fruit by getting over the bumps and bruises.

    Remember you can also use mushy fruit for making puddings, sauces and jam too.

  11. Dry cake

    Piece of cake

    You'd be crazy to enjoy a cake that's lost its moistness. This tip will let you have your cake, and eat it... anytime.

    Whack that cake in the microwave for 20 seconds and it'll be as good as new. This should work on other baked products such as doughnuts, too.

    Plus, you can prevent cake going stale in the first place by popping it in the freezer. Check out other surprising foods you can freeze in our guide.

  12. Milk that is starting to turn sour

    Will Ferrell from Anchorman drinking sour milk

    Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

    If your milk is starting to develop lumps, it's definitely past its time and is worth throwing away. However, milk that's only just on the turn can still be used.

    If your milk is on the very edge of going sour and you don't fancy drinking it or using it on your precious cereal dinner, you can still use it in recipes.

    Add a splash to any recipe that requires milk, such as a cake, pancakes, cheese sauce and loads more. You won't even notice it's on the way out.

  13. Limp celery

    Pile of celery

    Credit: Zaskoda - Flickr

    These green vegetables do have a tendency to go a bit limp after a few days (especially when cooking for one, as it takes longer to get through).

    You can revive soggy celery by chopping it into sticks and putting in a jar or glass of cold water. The celery will absorb the water and become rigid again – magic!

    This method will also work for asparagus, but just make sure you go for warm water instead of cold, and don't let the water get near the tips.

  14. Lumped sugar

    Sugar cubes

    Sometimes, when sugar's been left in the cupboard for a while, it likes to lump together. This can look kind of gross and usually results in you dumping way more sugar than you need into your tea or coffee (which is also bad for your health, of course).

    If you've left your sugar for so long that it's crystallised, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds to break it down again.

While we're on the subject of food, we've got loads of money-saving tips to save you cash on your weekly shop.