Just moved out of home for the first time? Not sure where to start when it comes to preparing food healthily and safely? Take a look at our tips to make sure you get off to the right start!
Keeping the kitchen clean will help food preparation to be hygienic and make cooking a bit easier. Cleaning kitchen surfaces, dishes and utensils as you use them will prevent harmful bacteria from building up and spreading onto food.
Effective hand washing and regularly washing cloths and tea towels are also important.
Make sure to follow these rules:
- always wash worktops before preparing food,
- always wash worktops and utensils thoroughly after they have been touched by raw meat, including poultry or raw eggs,
- never put ready-to-eat food, such as salad, bread or fruit, on a worktop or chopping board that has been touched by raw meat or poultry unless you have washed it, and thoroughly first.
Planning meals and food shopping
Eating healthy meals could be tricky if you don’t make a plan - before going shopping, think about some meals for the week ahead.
Checking use by dates as you shop helps you to know when food needs to be used by and can help avoid food poisoning and food waste. Planning can also help to make sure you have healthy meals. Before going shopping, think about some meals for the week ahead;
- ask yourself, ‘what did you normally eat at home and what do your new flatmates like to eat?’
- check what you have already and make a list for what you need, and
- take a list with you when you shop so you can keep on track of what you need and don’t end up buying too much that might not fit in the fridge.
Always check the food label
It’s important to always look for the instructions on food packaging when storing and cooking it. Try to remember:
- food labels also include the use-by date (for perishable foods such as sliced ham), so read labels carefully to ensure you are storing food correctly and eating it before it goes off
- the only way to tell if food is safe to eat is to use the use-by date,
- use-by dates are for ensuring safety and best-before dates are for ensuring quality,
- when shopping look for foods that have longer dates so you know you won’t waste the food, and
- avoid myths such as the ‘sniff test’ or looking for signs that it’s gone off - only use the use-by date.
Basing meals on starchy foods
Starchy foods such as different breads, pasta, rice and potatoes, noodles, tapioca, plantain and sorghum are an important part of a healthy balanced diet;
- they’re an important source of energy and a good source of a range of nutrients in our diet such as fibre, vitamins, calcium and iron,
- these foods can fill you up for longer, especially wholegrains, and
- they're usually cheap, often available on multi-buy offers, are long-lasting and are generally easy to store in your room or your part of the cupboard. (These will also keep well if you need to isolate and you can’t get back to the shops.)
If you’ve cooked food that you aren’t going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible and store your leftovers in the fridge to eat the next day.
Batch cooking meals if you have a freezer is a great way to store food for later and minimize food waste.
To help prevent food poisoning, just make sure you;
- cool food within 2 hours and then store it in the fridge,
- don’t keep it for longer than 2 days and only reheat once, and
- make sure any reheated leftovers are steaming hot to kill any bacteria that might cause food poisoning.
There’s a few things you need to be careful of when storing food in your fridge;
- keep raw meat and ready to eat foods on separate shelves in the fridge,
- store raw meat and poultry in clean sealed containers or packaging, on the bottom shelf of the fridge so they can’t touch other food,
- reusing plastic takeaway containers to store food or other containers is useful for ensuring harmful germs from raw foods can’t drip into ready to eat foods,
- for a fridge to keep food safe it needs to be kept at a temperature between 0-5°C,
- try not to overfill your fridge to avoid the temperature rising – planning meals can help with this, and
- save space by avoiding chilling food which can be safely stored at room temperature, such as a jar of peanut butter or soft drinks.
If you're not used to cooking for yourself, or are cooking more often than you're used to, there's a few things you need to remember:
- always check your food is steaming hot in the middle,
- some meats have to be cooked properly and should not be eaten rare, such as burgers, sausages, pork, turkey and chicken,
- some cuts such as beef or lamb can be eaten rare in the middle, but the general rule is food be steaming hot, with no pink meat and the juices run clear (if you are cooking meat)
- the best way to tell if food is cooked thoroughly is to use a food thermometer - cooked meat, such as chicken or burgers, should reach 75°C in the thickest part, and
- a food thermometer would be a good first purchase after leaving home, or it’s worth putting one on your Christmas list!
To stay hydrated, try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid every day. It helps you to concentrate and is essential to keep your body functioning normally;
- water is the best choice, but tea, coffee and juices count,
- when you’re out and about, take a refillable water bottle to class and making sure to drink water,
- in Scotland, tap water is safe, free and better for the environment that plastic bottles and cans of soft drinks.