You’re practically throwing money away when you chuck out perfectly good food.
Most food waste at home can be avoided, whether that’s food chucked out because it’s gone off or we’ve cooked too much. And if you can reduce your waste you’ll also be saving a ton of cash.
Don’t buy more than you need
A simple place to start is to buy less food. Here are the key ways to do this.
Plan what you want to eat
How often do you just head to the supermarket and decide what you’re going to buy as you walk the aisles? The danger here is you buy ingredients that are hard to use in a single meal but won’t fit into meals later in the week.
The way around this is to plan your meals and snacks before you reach the supermarket. You can do this weekly or even daily – whatever works for you.
Write a shopping list
Once you’ve got a plan, make a list of what you need for those meals and when you’re shopping, whether online or in an actual shop, stick to that list. This’ll stop you from buying more items that you probably don’t need and possibly won’t use.
Be wary of big packs and multi-buy offers
Often (though not always), you’ll find it cheaper to buy bigger packs of items or if you buy a couple of packs. The problem is you’re only saving money if you actually use everything. Sometimes you’re better off buying a smaller box or bag at a higher price.
Know what you already have
We’ve probably all done this – you’re at the supermarket and you pick up some of the regulars. Maybe it’s milk or some veg. The things you always buy and always use. But when you get home you realise you’ve already got these items.
That’s not a problem with things like toothpaste or tins of beans, but it could be a problem for anything fresh.
A simple way to avoid this is to take a photo of your fridge and maybe any relevant cupboards before you go to the supermarket.
Don’t cook what you can’t eat
Again, the food preparation and cooking can lead to a huge amount of waste.
Measure the amount you’ll need
Following recipes will really help here, but if you’re used to measuring out quantities by eye, for example with rice, potatoes or pasta, then do some research and even weigh out the amounts you’ll actually eat. If you find these levels are too much or too little, then adjust this and make a note so you don’t forget next time you cook the same thing.
Use more of what you buy
There are certain foods where we’ll use a key part but throw out the rest. But if could be you’re chucking out perfectly good grub. Take broccoli stalks, potato skins or the bits of chicken under the carcuss. And you can use the bones from meat for broth or stock too.
There is an alternative to cooking less, and that’s to cook more than you need with the intention of using it later in the week or freezing. This not only saves time as you don’t have to cook again, but it can also use up more ingredients. Handy if you have bought multipacks or have things which could go off soon.
Eat your leftovers
If you do cook too much and perhaps there’s not enough for a full meal another day, don’t just chuck it in the bin. You might be able to combine it with other things, perhaps whack it in a sandwich or salad.
Avoid food going off
Know how food dates work
Something that people often get confused about is the date on packs. There are two key dates: use by and best before.
Use by should be consumed before the date on the pack, especially when it comes to things like fresh meat and fish. You’ve got more wiggle room with dairy – use your eyes and nose to sense if it’s off or not.
But best before dates are fine to keep even if that has expired. At worst you’ll find the quality or taste might not be optimum, but they are safe to eat (as long as they’re stored properly). In fact there are websites which sell items already past best before dates for a low price.
Many supermarkets are removing dates on fruit and veg, so just keep an eye on everything after you buy it to make sure it doesn’t go off.
Don’t open a new pack until you need it
If you want something to last longer, then don’t open it until you’re going to use it. My friend recently send me a photo of his mother-in-law’s freezer, including three open loaves of bread, two open bottles of milk and two open cream cheese packs.
One way to help avoid this is to put the items with better dates at the back of the fridge or cupboard, and the ones already open or the ones with sooner dates at the front.
Use your freezer
Freezers are fantastic ways to preserve leftovers and half-used ingredients, including many you might not think you can freeze. And of course they help you store items that are reduced to clear that you don’t have time to eat.
If you want to maximise the space in your freezer you can take things out of packs, while labelling what you’ve frozen and when can be a huge help too.
Store things properly
Covering or closing open items, or moving them into airtight containers, can help prolong the life of food and drink. You should also check the temperature of your fridge is at 5 degrees or less – too warm and it could spoil.
Donate to a food bank
If you have food that you know you won’t use, and as long as they have a decent expiration date, then donate it to a food bank.