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Food & Drink

16 foods you can eat past their best

Wasting food is wasting cash (and hurting the environment). But did you know you can bring these 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 Domino's pizza, no one likes throwing away food. But what if we told you there's a chance it could be salvaged? Every year, around 4.5 million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK 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 after its best-before date. These dates are there as guidance for supermarkets, and the food should still be edible a few days afterwards – they just won't be at their 'best', as the term suggests.

So, if your judgement is saying something is past its best, we've got some handy tricks to help make it taste as good as new.

Foods you can make taste fresh again

You can still use these foods when they are past their best with our tips:

  1. Soggy pizza

    pizza slice on a paper plate

    Credit: BrokenSphere - Wikimedia

    Leftover pizza is a staple of the student diet. Some prefer it cold with a bit of mayo, but if you want to bring it back to life, crispy crusts and all, we've got you covered.

    First off, avoid the microwave, as this will make it even soggier.

    Instead, put a non-stick pan on medium heat. Chuck your pizza slices in and cover the pan with a lid (or some tinfoil). Then, heat it for four or five minutes, checking regularly.

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

    To save more money on pizza, try this recipe which works out at around £1.50 per pizza.
  2. Stale bread

    Most of the time, it's completely fine to eat out-of-date bread.

    Don't eat bread if it's mouldy, but stale bread should be fine.

    You can 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 and 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 croutons that you can throw in a bowl of soup. Make sure you store them in an airtight container.

    And remember, bread should be kept in the cupboard to make it last longer.

  3. Soft biscuits

    Nobody likes a soggy biscuit... at least not before you've dunked it in your tea.

    If your biscuits go a bit soft (maybe because they're old; maybe because an annoying housemate didn't close the packet after taking one) don't worry. Just pop them in the oven at 180°C (gas mark 4) for five minutes.

  4. Wilting salad leaves

    Lettuce on a wooden surface

    Don't you 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 your spinach from going slimy) by separating the leaves. Then, put 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. 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 ice-cold water for 30–60 minutes.

    And if your lettuce is still attached to its root, one Save the Student reader suggested putting it root-first into a jar of water.

  5. Soggy 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, you'll usually find that the middle is still good.

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

  6. Mouldy cheese

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

    On hard cheeses, if it's grey, blue or white mould and it's sitting on the surface, it can be cut off with a knife. However, if it's red or yellow mould, don't eat the cheese.

    If you do cut off a bit of mould but it still affects the taste of the rest of the cheese, you'll need to throw it out.

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

  7. Soft bananas

    Over-ripe bananas

    If your bananas are starting to show more brown than yellow, you have to act fast.

    Cut your bananas 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 when you have a baking session.

    But before they go soft, make sure you're storing them properly. Bananas are also foods you can freeze safely.

  8. Stale crisps

    If you have the willpower to avoid eating a whole bag of crisps (somehow?!), you might end up with half the bag of out-of-date crisps in your cupboard.

    To revive them, put the crisps under the grill or in the oven at 180°C (gas mark 5) for five to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them until they regain their ultimate crispiness.

  9. Stale cereal

    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 put it in the oven at 150°C (gas mark 3) for five to 10 mins.

  10. Bruised fruit

    Bruised apple

    Fruit bruises easily. Nobody wants to eat a mushy piece of apple, peach or banana, right?

    Luckily, it's easy to eat them as normal. Just cut off the bruised parts. Remember you can also use mushy fruit for making puddings, sauces and jam.

  11. Dry 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.

    Put the 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.

    Depending on the cake, you could prevent it from going stale by putting it in the fridge or the freezer. Check out other surprising foods you can freeze in our guide.

  12. Milk that's starting to turn sour

    If your milk is starting to develop lumps, it's 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, homemade pancakes, cheese sauce and loads more.

  13. Limp celery

    Pile of celery

    Credit: Zaskoda - Flickr

    These green vegetables tend to go a bit limp after a few days.

    You can revive floppy celery by chopping it into sticks and putting them 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, make sure you go for warm water instead of cold. And don't let the water get near the tips!

  14. Lumped sugar

    When sugar's been left in the cupboard for a while, it can lump together and look less than appetising. You also may accidentally dump 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, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to break it down again. Easy!

  15. Eggs past the best-by date

    Just because the box says your eggs are expired, it's not necessarily true. While you shouldn't eat expired eggs, you can check whether they're still good to eat, even after the best-by date.

    To do this, simply pop your eggs in a glass of cold water. If they sink to the bottom and lay flat on one side, they should still be good to eat. If they float or stand up straight, you should throw them away.

  16. Old chocolate

    Chocolate is almost always good to eat after its best-by date. Since chocolate doesn't contain any water, it's harder for bacteria to grow in it.

    However, old chocolate can taste a little different. So instead of throwing it out, you can melt it in the microwave to use in baking.

    Just make sure the chocolate doesn't show any other signs of spoilage (like mould).

While we're on the subject of food, we have loads of supermarket money-saving tips.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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