5 tips to reduce food waste

When money is tight, the easiest way to reduce our essential spending is our food budget.  One of the biggest things we can do to save money on food is to reduce the amount of food we throw away.  On average, a family with children throws away £60 worth of food each month (WRAP, 2020).  Let’s look at 5 simple ways to reduce food waste and save money.

1.    Make a plan and a shopping list

Making a meal plan for the week helps to pull together tight shopping lists.  You are less likely to buy more than you need or can use, with a good list.  If you need some help with planning, Nutrition Scotland has a wonderful meal planning guide.  Remember that shopping when hungry makes us far more likely to make impulse purchases that lead to food waste and a bigger shopping bill.

2.    Be a savvy shopper

It can be tempting to buy pre-bagged, netted or packaged fruit and vegetables where it is cheaper than loose.  There are other perishable foods that can be cheaper in bulk.  Only buy larger pack sizes of perishables if you are sure that you can use, freeze or preserve the whole quantity.  If you can’t, then only buy what you need. 

Foods can often be found for discounted prices at the end of their shelf-life.  They can make a really cheap meal if you can eat them on the day that you buy them.  But think before you throw them in your basket – it is only a bargain if you eat them and they don’t make you ill.  If you can’t eat them on the day, you may be able to freeze them for another day.

3.    Can you save things from the bin?

Some of the most common foods that end in the bin are fruit, vegetables, bread and bagged salads.  Here are some examples to save them:

  • Ripe fruit can be chopped and put into bags and frozen to be used later in smoothies, used in puddings or baking, added to breakfasts or made into ice-lollies. Fruit will keep well in the freezer for between 8 to 12 months.
  • Vegetables that are past their best can be made into soup or added to casseroles, curries and other one-pot dishes.  They can be used to make stock or can be peeled and chopped to be frozen in freezer bags for soups at a later date.
  • Bread that has become too dry can be turned into breadcrumbs and frozen.  Perfect for gratin toppings or coating fish cakes, chicken etc.  Breadcrumbs can be used to make Glamorgan sausages, extend meat dishes such as meatballs, meat loaf or homemade burgers etc.
  • Bagged salad or lettuce can be turned into interesting pesto for a quick pasta meal or for use on salmon or chicken.

4.    Good storage saves money

Food lasts longer if you store it properly so follow the storage information on the packaging.  Other storage tips include:

  • Keep the foods with shorter use-by dates in front of those with a longer shelf life so that they are in sight and close to hand.
  • Have a list of what is in your freezer.  Label fresh food that you freeze with the date it was frozen.
  • Freeze things in portions so that you can defrost only what you need.
  • Store lettuce in a plastic bag with a few squares of kitchen paper.
  • Store mushrooms in a paper bag or at least remove the plastic film – never store them in plastic.
  • Check your fridge temperature is below 5 degrees centigrade for storing chilled foods.
  • Some fruit and veg should never be stored in the fridge.  For example: onions, squash, potatoes and bananas are best kept out of the fridge. 

Check out Love Food Hate Waste for more advice on storing food well.

5.    Careful Cooking and Serving

It is easy to cook too much and a lot of the food we waste is scraped from plates before washing up.  Here’s some simple things that can help:

  • Think carefully about how much you need to cook – if you make more, ensure that you have a plan to use the extra.
  • When serving, it’s better to give too small a portion than too large.  Leftovers in a pot can be kept and reused.  Allow people to serve themselves and encourage children to think about how hungry they are.
  • Re-use your leftovers and use them to make another meal or freeze them.  It’s important to only freeze meals that were freshly cooked and not frozen before cooking for food safety.

For more advice and recipes to help you reduce food waste and eat well on a budget, check out the new ebook ‘Eating Well on a Budget’ from Registered Nutritionists: Lynn Burns and Dr Laura Wyness.  The ebook is full of information and practical advice, as well as a selection of simple, nutritious recipes to help save you money and time.

Authors: Lynn Burns and Laura Wyness

Photo source: Canva Pro

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