Best before to save families money by cutting food waste

A community project which aims to reduce food waste and save families money, is hoping to expand in the New Year, with the backing of a local councillor.

The Best Before Project Shop in Bury St Edmunds educates people about the difference in meaning between the ‘best before’ and the ‘use by’ labels on food and drinks.

Hilary Whitwell a key member of the Best Before Project in Bury St Edmunds said: “The average family throws away around £700 of food each year. It is just mad, and a lot of it is simply down to people not understanding food labels.  Food items that are past their ‘best before’ dates are perfectly fine to eat and drink. It is only when something is past its  ‘use by’ date, that people should avoid consuming it.

“Our Best Before Shop opened in Elsey’s Yard off Risbygate Street in August.  We receive food donations from Tesco via our partnership with Fareshare, as well as Far Away Foods in St Johns Street and The Bodhi Tree in The Traverse. That food is then available in the shop for free or a small donation. In 2018 we want to expand not only in terms of the amount of businesses that donate food to us which will enable us to stay open for more than one day a week (at present we are only open on a Tuesday 10am-2pm) but also in the amount of people that we can reach and educate about ‘best before’, in turn helping them save money.”

The Best Before Project is a non-profit organisation and received locality grant funds from Suffolk County Cllr David Nettleton towards the initial set up costs of the shop

Now Cllr Julia Wakelam, a St Edmundsbury Borough Councillor for the town’s Risbygate Ward, has given £300 from her locality budget to help cover the costs that will enable the growth of the shop.

Cllr Wakelam said: “I was delighted when this project started and would like to congratulate Hilary and her helpers as well as the businesses who are supporting them. Not only is it directly helping those who take the donated food, but, hopefully, it is also educating us all – no one likes to throw away food if you are a family, just think what you can do with the £700 saved by not throwing away perfectly good food

“Here in Bury, we have a number of community organisations helping people in crisis such as the Bury Drop-In Centre. It is my hope that as it gets further established, the Best Before Project will be able to work with these groups who are supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“For businesses, meanwhile, this is about doing what is ethically right. Something that is past its Best Before date may not be at its absolute prime best which is why many places may not wish to sell it, but it is still in a good enough condition to eat and this offers the business a way to ensure that there is a local outlet for these food items, rather than simply throwing them in the bin. I hope many more businesses will follow the example set by Tesco, Far Away Food and The Bodhi Tree, and will start donating to the Best Before Shop in 2018.”

Anyone is welcome to come along to the shop to do some ‘best before’ shopping. It is open every Tuesday from 10am-2pm. The Best Before Project Shop is also looking for volunteers to help in the shop or with the food pick-ups. You can find out more about the project via its Facebook page at or Twitter @BestBeforeBSE . You can also contact the Best Before Project Shop by emailing . Any businesses interested in donating can also get in contact via the email address above or by phoning Hilary Whitwell on 07528 205084.

Aldi in Bury St Edmunds will be donating surplus food on Christmas Eve while Tesco has given the group a voucher to spend on Christmas goods so that the group can hold a Christmas celebration for its customers and supporters. The shop also plans to be open for a while on Christmas Eve. For more details as to when this will take place, keep an eye on the Best Before Project’s Facebook page.