One of the simplest things you can do to save money is to stop wasting food. For a family with children it could mean a saving of up to £70 a month and for the average person, up to £19 per month. Food matters. So why do more than 7 million tonnes of it – enough to fill Wembley Stadium nine times over – end up in the bin every year?
Here, the Love Food Hate Waste campaign Link opens in a new window shares some thoughts on what we can all do to ensure we get value for money and look after the planet, too. Food that ends up rotting in landfill creates methane gas and as we try to combat climate change, saving food plays a crucial role in that too. Shocking fact: if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
Luckily, it’s a lot easier than you might think to make a difference – to help your pocket and the planet.
1. Plan your shopping
Meal plan and make a shopping list before you go to the supermarket – and stick to it. It pays to be organised, and a simple shopping list can not only save you time, but it can also save you money, as you should only get things you need rather than coming home with impulse buys.
Top tip: If you really don’t have time to keep a list, on the day you go shopping think about taking a photo of your fridge, freezer and store cupboard contents – a ‘shelfie’, if you like – to remind you of what you already have in stock.
2. Know your food-label dates
Meat, fish and ready meals are often the most expensive things we buy, and so regularly checking and using up these foods in date order can stop them from ending up in the bin, and therefore help to save you money.
There are only two types of date label you need to know about:
- Best Before – these dates refer to quality rather than food safety; foods with a Best Before date should be safe to eat after the date, but they may no longer be at their best.
- Use By – these dates refer to safety: food can be eaten up to the end of this date, but not after, even if it looks and smells fine. Always follow the storage instructions on pack.
Top tip: Did you know you can freeze food right up to the ‘Use By’ date? If you don’t think you’re going to eat it in time, freeze it. The freezer acts like a ‘pause’ button and your food is safe until you’re ready to use it.
3. Get your portions right
Preparing, cooking and serving too much food is one of the main reasons we waste food. Why not use the Love Food Hate Waste Portion Planner Link opens in a new window to help you work out how much you need per person per meal (it’ll work out kid-sized portions too). It’s especially handy for helping to portion those pesky products, like pasta and rice, which expand when you cook them.
If you’ve got large packs of chicken or fish, then why not divide them up and freeze in smaller portions. Use a marker to write on the pack/container what’s inside, so you don’t end up with Unidentified Frozen Objects (UFOs).
Top tip: A mug-full of uncooked rice is enough to serve four adults. Yes – really!
4. Eat the whole apple
Love Food Hate Waste have a campaign called ‘Compleating’, which is designed to get people thinking about and eating the whole ingredient or food and letting no edible parts go to waste. ‘Compleating’ means you get the best value from the food you buy and makes the most of the nutrients locked inside, often just under the skin. It also saves the hassle of peeling, while releasing a whole load of flavour potential.
Top tip: Eating the whole ingredient or food not only saves you money, but it also reduces food waste, which means it’s great for the planet too.
5. Love your leftovers
It’s amazing what you can do with leftovers – and sometimes they can taste even better than the original meal. For example, if you enjoy a roast on a Sunday then why not use the leftovers on a Monday for lunch or dinner? Who wouldn’t love a fresh chicken salad wrap for their lunch or a tasty curry to come home to?
If you have a small amount of dinner left over, think about transferring it to a bag or airtight container and popping it in the freezer. Ta-da! A ‘ready meal’ for one. Smaller amounts of leftovers can also be puréed for baby food or served as a kid’s portion for lunch the next day.
Top tip: Boil up leftover meat carcass or bones to create a stock to use at a later date – simply store in the freezer for when you need it.
6. Be savvy with storage
Research has shown that keeping your fridge at the right temperature – between 0°C and 5°C – can also help your food last longer. Up to 70 per cent of our fridges are too warm, meaning food won’t last as long as it should, especially for staples like milk. Check your fridge temperature today Link opens in a new window to make sure your food is chilling at the perfect temperature.
Top tip: Keep potatoes and onions in a cool, dark, dry place like a pantry or store cupboard or even a garage or shed. If your spuds get a bit ‘sprouty’, that’s fine: just trim and use as usual.