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Saturday 2nd March 2024

Save money by reducing food waste

Be honest with yourself. How many times have you thrown food still in its packaging in the bin because it has turned into brown sludge in the fridge or smells weird? Or it looks ok but is out of date?

We have all done it occasionally, but if you regularly chuck out some of your food purchases, you can save money by reducing food waste. Here’s how.

It takes just a little thought and organisation to begin reducing food waste in your household.

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As ever when it comes to money saving, we tend to procrastinate when something feels like a pull on our precious time. However, think of it as an investment. It will save you cash!

Not only are we in a cost-of-living crisis, but food waste is also an issue contributing to our climate crisis. Take a look at these statistics from Friends of the Earth to get you motivated:

  • 50 million chickens are wasted in the UK each year.
  • 100 million pints of milk are tipped down the drain every year in this country.
  • The average UK family spends £470 on food that ends up in the bin annually. That could pay your energy bill for a couple of months!

Luckily, there are some simple actions that you can take to save money by reducing food waste.

Check what you have

If you have a lot of people in your household, the fridge and food cupboards can get pretty crammed. So it is easy to forget about the food items lurking at the back.

I like to do a regular check of what we have in the fridge particularly. It is a good idea to pull the items that need to be used quickly to the front and incorporate them into your meal plan (more on meal planning shortly). 

You could also have an ‘Eat Me’ shelf. When your family go foraging for quick snacks, make sure they go to the Eat Me shelf first to consume the yoghurts, cheese, ham slices and leftovers before they go bad.

Keep your freezer and cupboards tidy, and undertake an audit of the contents every now and then. This way, you won’t end up with 5 jars of pasta sauce but no pasta!

Only buy what you will eat

It sounds like a no-brainer to buy only the food that you will realistically consume. However, as we already know, a lot of food gets wasted. Write a meal plan each week to ensure you only purchase what will be used. As mentioned in the previous section, incorporate the foods that must be used first. Then make a shopping list and try to stick to it. 

If you see a fantastic reduced bargain, be prepared to change your plan (I take the meal plan to the supermarket along with my shopping list to jog my memory!). Meal planning saves significantly on my grocery bill, as explained in this post.

Check the use-by dates on perishables and buy your food as fresh as possible. If you find yellow-sticker discounts, these will obviously save money, but only if you eat them! Incorporate them into your meal plan or freeze them as soon as possible.

Store food correctly

Ensure you refrigerate or freeze foods with a use-by date, such as meat and dairy products. Check food labels to see if you need to chill a product after opening, and transfer the contents to an air-tight container. The Food Standards Agency recommends keeping your fridge below 5°C. 

If you freeze food, it should be defrosted and used within 24 hours, so only thaw what you are sure you will use.

Non-perishables like rice and pasta are best stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Flour can attract weevils and other pests, and its oils can go rancid. It should be stored in a cold, dark spot in an air-tight container. If you have the space, you can store flour in a fridge or even your freezer, as explained here

Use your leftovers 

Bread is a commodity that is regularly wasted, but stale bread can be used in many ways to create delicious dishes. FoE has an excellent article full of suggestions for bread that might otherwise end up in the bin here

Soup can be an excellent way to use up odds and ends. I keep a plastic container in my freezer and collect leftover vegetables. Then, when I am making soup, I chuck them in. 

I also freeze stalks from broccoli and cauliflower to add to soups. Bones from the Sunday roast and chicken carcasses make an incredible stock too. 

There are many ideas for using leftovers on the Love Food Hate Waste website.

Sign up for food waste apps

You can save money and help stop surplus food from going to landfill by using apps such as Olio and Too Good to Go.

Photo Credits: Unsplash

Shoestring Jane

Mouthy Blogger

Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.

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