How to eat well on a budget

Top tips for planning your weekly food shop and saving money

Experian – Consumer Credit Reference Agency

by Love Food Hate Waste | Championing practical actions to reduce food waste

Helping you manage your household food waste

From those first messy mouthfuls to tasting independence as a student, from romantic meals for two to full-on family feasts, food plays an important part throughout our lives. 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 – part of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – shares some thoughts on what we can all do not only to enjoy the food we buy, but to also ensure we get value for money and look after the planet too. They work with food retailers, manufacturers and brands in engaging consumers to understand what they can do to make the most of their food – providing information, tools and practical advice that helps everyone to act.

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. And did you know that single-person households generate more food waste per person than larger households? This is largely due to not using food before it goes off, which could be down to it being more difficult to buy the right amount.

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. 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. Here are some top tips to help you to feel good about your food (and your wallet).

1. Plan your shopping

Do you make a shopping list before you go to the supermarket? It pays to be organised with your food shopping, and a simple shopping list can not only save you time but it can also save you money, as you should only put items in your basket that you really need. This of course requires will-power, and a good mantra to follow is: ‘If it’s not on the list, then it’s not going in the basket.’ 

At home, keep a pad and pen close to hand or set up a list on your smartphone. Then during the week, as and when you run out of something simply add it to your list.

2. Know your food-label dates

Another way you can make your food go further is by knowing your food date labels. 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 should 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. 

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 to help you work out how much you need per person per meal (it’ll even 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 – well-wrapped or in an airtight container, of course. Use a marker to write on the pack/container what’s inside, so you don’t end up with Unidentified Frozen Objects (UFOs)!

4. Make your food go further 

The latest Love Food Hate Waste campaign is all about ‘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, releasing a whole load of flavour potential. 

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 in their lunch box 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. 

6. Use savvy storage

Research has shown that keeping your fridge at the right temperature – between 0°C and 5°C – can also help to make your food last longer. Up to 70 percent of our fridges are too warm, meaning food won’t last as long as it should, especially for staples like milk. Check out your fridge temperature today to make sure your food is chilling at the perfect temperature.

Also, 13.5 billion ‘5 a day’ portions are thrown away each year in the UK. Forget the fruit bowl: the fridge is the best place to store most of your fruit and veg where it will last much longer (except bananas and pineapples – keep these cool but don’t refrigerate).

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.