Reduce food waste with Count On It labels

Filed in Product reviews by on May 13, 2009 12 Comments
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count-on-itI received some labels from Lyndsey at Count on It this week. Lyndsey found our site one day when I was having a bit of a todo over an emergency food waste prevention week.

If you remember, I’d opened my fridge to find lots of half used foods which were in desperate need of rehoming in a caring owner’s stomach. I had a few days before my food waste for that week provided a mountain of food for the landfill.

Luckily I got through it unscathed, but Lyndsey offered me an opportunity to prevent this problem happening again, in the form of her ‘Count on it‘ labels. These labels are designed to help you reduce food waste.

The box of labels arrived beautifully packaged in a thick cardboard tube with brown paper around it. Little Miss Green cooed at the parcel and said ‘What LOVELY packaging’. She was right! It was a work of zero waste art with a 1940’s twist!

Inside was a small pink box containing my personal assistant for the week – 25 scratch-off adhesive labels with the promise that I could peel, stick, scratch and relax – Now that’s my kinda life!

The idea is that whenever you open an item of food; say a jar of pasta sauce or you freeze something, you pop one of these labels on, scratch off the relevant date and you get an instant visual reminder about how long things have been opened. This should encourage us to start using things up before they go off and prevent you from throwing things away that are still ok to eat.

Lyndsey recommends creative use of these labels elsewhere around the home too – medication, contact lens solution, water filters … it seems you are only limited by your imagination.

I duly stuck one of our sticky friends on the milk bottle straight away to see if some miracle would start to happen in my fridge. Would I metamorphose into a magnificently organised person? A domestic Goddess perhaps? Or just a woman that was free to peel, stick, scratch and relax her way through life would do me!

Now herein lies the problem for me. I really wanted to rant and wave about how magnificent these labels were, because I kind of understand the concept, but I think they are missing something.

There is a magic ingredient x that is not working for me.

I have been known in the past to jot the opening date of something on the label with a pen or chinagraph pencil. So there is nothing to stop me continuing to do that. Scratching off a label is certainly no easier than reaching for a pen.

Next, my issue with food waste is that I forget that I’ve put something in the ‘fridge; not that I’m worried about when I opened it or whether it is fresh when I finally fish it out from being iced against the back plate.

I must admit, I think, along with absolving responsibility for our waste, we tend to have forgotten how to take basic care of ourselves too. Sure, use the use by dates on food as a guidelines, but use your eyes, sense of smell and taste to check the freshness of food – we were given those senses to guide us through life and they’ve been serving us for millions of years.

Let’s face it, the food manufacturers want us to buy, buy, buy, and what better way to ensure this than by putting the fear of God into you by utilising a ‘use by’ date on things that will last a good 48 hours longer than they say?

On the box of ‘Count on it’ labels is the tagline “Takes the guesswork out of freshness – at a glance”; but really, I don’t need a label to tell me that. By glancing at the contents of the jar, tub or pack I know whether it is fresh. Doing my own old-fashioned scratch ‘n’ sniff test has kept me alive for 30 something years.

So these labels may be useful for some, but they are not for me. Sorry Lyndsay; I hated writing that! They don’t actually help me achieve anything.

These labels have been endorsed by celebrities, get rave reviews from users and are now stocked by Lakeland; who carefully select all their products. In addition, WRAP include a box of these labels in their ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ goody bags. So I’m happy to admit that it’s just me who is unable to rave about them at present!

I think, more useful would be to count on a few days and scratch off on the day you want to USE UP the item. For example, if I opened some ham which I know lasts three days, they might be useful to put the date on when I should use it by.

Maybe for someone using medication they could be very useful. There are other instances where I can see a use for them – childminders, for instance, who must not take a risk with food, or people running an old people’s home who must not compromise their client’s immune system.

For me, I could use them for freezer food, but at the moment I just write on the bag or box and I can continue to do so. I don’t need to replace that method with an adhesive label.

To that end, I’m offering up these Count on It labels for someone else who feels they can make use of them and I’ll continue to count on my eyes, nose and taste buds.
Now Lyndsey, if your labels could talk and tell me that there is something that needs using up in the ‘fridge when I opened the door, you would get a huge thumbs up from me!

If you can see a value for the ‘Count on it’ labels in your own life, then leave a comment below briefly stating why and I’ll pick someone at random at the beginning of next week to send this box to. In exchange, come back to me within a month and write a review for me to share on the site.

Deal? Good! Fill in your details below!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (12)

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  1. Elizabeth B says:

    So wait… in an effort to reduce waste, we’re supposed to buy single-use labels that get thrown out once their dates have passed?


    I’m with you, Mrs. Green: a $1-or-less grease pencil (porcelain marker) works just fine.

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Sticky paper is my least favourite type for composting/recycling so Reduce is the way to deal with it. This system would not suit me either as it is just another repetitive source of waste.

    There does seem to be a push to educate the public at large about the home food waste issue. We just have to see what works.

    My own food use consists of cooking meals from scratch (no Ready Meals), buying, at most, week-lasting pieces of fruit/veg and freezing as much as is practicable.

  3. Kira says:

    To help me use up things in the freezer I’ve put a laminated chart on the front of my freezer so that I can write things on there when I put them in and wipe them off when they’re used up. I’m thinking of extending it to the fidge as well. It’s just stuck on with magnets and I think it’s helping so far.

  4. @Elizabeth B: You took the words out of my mouth Elizabeth, I was thinking it is all very well having zero waste packaging but when the item itself produces waste, that on a first glance can’t easily be reused or recycled, then something is wrong.

  5. Poppy says:

    Another thumbs down from here too 🙁

    Sorry Lyndsey, but this is not what we’re about.

  6. just Gai says:

    Very attractive but ultimately pointless. Rather than reducing waste I believe that it will actually increase it, with people throwing out perfectly edible food just because the Count on It label indicates it’s no longer safe to consume. Have we become so detached from our senses that we need a sticky label to tell us when food has gone off?

  7. Deb from Boston says:

    With an over sensitive olfactory and gag reflex I have no promblems knowing when something has spoiled – However, I think these stickers would just end up in the junk drawer creating clutter, and not get used.

  8. Kira, – I like the laminated freezer list. My brother in law has a paper list on his freezer which I always thought was organized, but this takes the cake.
    I do like the idea of ‘date opened’, but I usually just write it on the label, and yes, I like to know of that spaghetti sauce is three weeks old or 3 months old even if it doesn’t have mold on it! (no special tags necessary though).

    Good job Mrs. Green on an honest review. I know that you might sometimes feel obligated to support a company who gives you free stuff, but the public really does need to know what works and what doesn’t.

  9. greenlady says:

    Hmm. Ok, random knee jerk reactions here. Firstly, the labels themselves. My initial thought was ” those labels don’t look very recylable “. Also, I have jars, bottles and all kinds of containers in my fridge that would defy the shape/size of those labels, causing me to stick them in places not ready seeable ( stop smirking at the back there ). I suppose this *could* be corrected by using card labels that are adjustable and that would slot or clip round a variety of different sized containers. But then why not just write out a good old fashioned luggage a la Paddington – ” please look after this food and get it down yer neck before it grows fur ” ? Or perhaps the food manufacturers could have a dedicated space on the label for us to write in the info ?

    Secondly, whilst serving as a timely reminder when one opened something – which is important for some things which could cause food borne illnesses if not kept a careful eye on ( I am all for common sense and trusting your senses but I think there are some these days who are getting a bit *too* blase about food safety, from one extreme to another ) it doesn’t magically solve the problems of remembering to use food up. That’s a case of trial and error and getting into the right mindset.

    And let’s not forget, the manufacturing/selling process itself is far from perfect – who hasn’t had stuff ” within date ” that is patently not fit to use ?

  10. greenlady42 says:

    Oops ! I meant to write ” luggage label like Paddington “…*wanders off muttering about must declutter brain*

  11. lyndsey says:

    Hi Mrs Green
    Thank you for taking the time to review Count On It labels and for posting your feedback. I am sorry you were disappointed with Count On It labels and appreciate they are not for everyone, as many are confident and/or organised enough to know whether their food is still safe to eat. However, there are many more who aren’t and we believe Count On It labels can assist them reduce unnecessary edible food waste.
    Thank you for sharing your experience, I wish you well with your quest and will continue to read your future blog posts with interest. Yours, Lyndsey

  12. Mr Green says:

    This has been an interesting discussion, with some surprising responses. When we first saw these labels, we were skeptical, because it was ‘just another thing’ to get wasted. Then we looked at the usefulness of the label and purpose of it.

    We had some problems with usage. The labels did not stick well onto a plastic (PET-1) milk bottle, even though it was dry and grease free. The plastic stippled surface does not adere well.

    For our usage, we found a china graph pencil a better option, because it was more durable and less wasteful.

    However, we can see that for many users The Count On It labels would be a good choice, especially people in a catering trade, who needed a more formal and obvious means of tracking food dates.

    Any idea that works to prevent food wastage and spoilage is a thumbs up for us and if Count On It labels work for some people, we recommend them, even though they may not suit everyone.

    Thank-you Lyndsey for the opportunity to review your product and your gracious response to our not-so-favourable comments. The success of Count On It labels proves that many people DO like it and we wish you all success for the future of the product.

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