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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Use-By Dates for Homemade Foods

We're all trying to avoid food waste these days. Well, many of us have been trying to avoid food waste for decades. It's just that right now, it's more expensive than ever to waste food that we've purchased. I wanted to show you something I do that helps in the war on food waste.

Commercial products have use-by dates printed on the container or package. Home-packaged foods, whether they be leftovers or a food you've made, lack these motivating labels. A while ago I began putting use-by dates on our refrigerated homemade foods, such as homemade soy milk, stock and yogurt, or containers with leftover cooked rice or oatmeal, or a quarter of a green pepper that may or may not get used before rotting, or the remains from an open can of veggies, or half a beaten egg, or reconstituted powdered milk . . . you get the picture. 

As I'm packaging a food for the fridge, I use a sharpie to mark a use-by date onto the containers themselves or onto a "label" I make out of a small piece of duct tape. I estimate use-by dates, erring on the side of caution. Mostly, these dates serve as reminders to use up the food soon. They also take the guess work out of remembering when a food was refrigerated, such as cooked rice or oatmeal. With a use-by label, I know when I need to use my home-prepared and packaged foods. 

As a bonus, Sharpie markings can be cleaned off of glass jars or wiped off of duct tape. I reuse the same piece of duct tape many, many times, that is until it loses its stickiness.

I was originally motived to do this when I found mold on the inside of a jar of homemade soy milk that had been sitting in the fridge too long. It pained me to have to throw that away. Unfortunately, I didn't learn my lesson. A few weeks later, I found some strained yogurt (to use as cream cheese) in a container  that had molded. You'd think I'd have done something at this point. But no. I'm a slow learner, I guess. Shortly after the yogurt molding, I found a jar of homemade pancake syrup that had spots of mold colonizing the surface of the sugary solution. I knew I needed to change something if I wanted to see less waste. That's when I began use-by dating foods that went into the fridge.

And it worked. We're seeing less food waste since implementing this small trick. Which reminds me, I need to use up a few foods soon. Time to make some soy milk-rice-oatmeal pudding with a side of olives and cooked beans.


  1. Good idea. I try to get stuff into the freezer if I think I won't be using it soon lest it linger in the back of the fridge until I have to throw it out. Looking forward to your oatmeal-olive pudding post. :)

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I try to use the freezer for a lot of items, too. My freezer tends to be something of a Bermuda Triangle, however, and foods go in and disappear, from memory at least.
      I'll get right on the oatmeal-olive pudding experiment.

  2. Excellent idea. I didn't know that Sharpie markings could be wiped off of duct tape. I find that holidays tend to lead to food waste if I'm not careful--there is more food sitting around, often food that isn't part of our typical meal plan, and it's easy to forget about it.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Duct tape makes a great write on-wipe off surface, using a dry piece of paper towel, tissue, or rag for wiping off. I have semi-permanent labels on several freezer containers that I simply wipe off the old information and add new as needed.
      I agree with the holiday food waste. I try to be more vigilant, but that's also a time when I'm overworked and not as mentally together.


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