How to prevent food waste – and save money too

prevent food waste

I recently signed up to the bloggers #nowastewithin campaign, to encourage anyone who blogs about food to avoid and prevent food waste when making their creations. I am not a food blogger, but I do post the odd recipe, so I am happy to support this.

Waste of any sort is something that generally irritates me. If I have paid for something I want to get full use of it. I get quite annoyed with myself if I find spoiled and forgotten food lurking at the back of the fridge. We try to be organised enough in our eating habits that we prevent food waste generally. Mr S is quite good at hoovering up leftovers!

We can all prevent food waste

Although the #nowastewithin campaign is aimed at actual food bloggers – who perhaps prepare plates of fabulous food that is lovingly photographed but never eaten – we can all heed the message. There are plenty of actions we can take to try to prevent food waste in our own lives. Doing so can save you money too, so it makes sense to prevent food waste.

Here are some things we do to prevent food waste at Shoestring Cottage.

Do a regular stock take

Go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer regularly to remind yourself of what you have. Then you can make sure you use up the items with the shortest dates on them first.

Plan your meals

Once you know what you already have, you can plan some of these ingredients into your meals. There are a couple of websites that can help you with this, notably SuperCook.com. You can type in an ingredient and get a list of recipes to use that item.

Write a shopping list

There are so many benefits to writing a shopping list. You prevent food waste by only buying items that you need. You also save money and time!

Consider buying loose or frozen fruit and veg

It has taken me ages to realise that I no longer need a family pack of value peppers. The girls are no longer at home! Now I either buy single peppers or, more frequently, a pack of frozen peppers. I can then use just what I need in a particular dish.

Buying loose apples, carrots or whatever is a good idea for a smaller household.

Use your freezer

I wouldn’t be without my freezer. It is so useful for storing leftover food. I keep the following in mine:

Bread ends, either whole for bread pudding or whizzed into breadcrumbs;
Whole loaves of bread – we take out individual slices as we need them to prevent food waste;
Bits of left over mashed potato and cooked vegetables that I chuck into soup or casseroles;
Leftover dinners that make handy ready meals when we are late back from work;
Gluts of fruit and veg we have grown or found in bulk at reduced prices;
Yellow sticker bargains that we can’t use quickly.

Use all of it

When you trim vegetables, use as much as you can. For example, if you don’t like broccoli stalks as a vegetable then save them and the leaves to use in a casserole or in soup. You can also make vegetable stock with all your trimmings and peelings, as explained by Chammy here.

If you are a meat eater, when you roast a chicken save the carcass to make chicken stock. It’s a lovely base for all sorts of dishes.

Only serve what you are going to eat

One of my daughters has a very small appetite. She rarely finishes what is on her plate. When she comes for dinner I often end up throwing her leftovers away, because I serve her too much! Now I let her take what she wants and only what she will eat.

It makes sense to only cook and serve what you know will be eaten.

Find ways to use your leftovers

There are many ways to use up leftovers. With a bit of creativity you can make all kinds of delicious dishes. I have a couple of ideas here and here. The Love Food Hate Waste website has a ton of inspiration too.

Store food correctly

I save glass jars, margarine and ice cream containers to store food, but have also invested in a lot of decent air tight containers. These store leftovers in the fridge or freezer, dry goods in the cupboard, etc.

I make sure loose vegetables are kept in containers to stop them going limp in the fridge. Once opened items such as cheese will also go in a container. Left over bakes beans or tinned tomatoes – in one of my little glass jars in the fridge. This approach will ensure the food lasts a few days at least and is more hygienic too.

Be wary of best before and use by dates

What an absolute load of nonsense most best before dates are! Are you one of those people who chuck perfectly good food in the bin because it has gone past its best before date? Hopefully not, as you are reading this.

Best before dates are just for guidance. They are more for the retailer than the customer, ensuring that older goods are moved to the front of the shelves and sold first. Use your eyes, nose and common sense.

I frequently deliberately buy items that are near or past their best before dates at Approved Food* at huge discounts.

Admittedly, you do need to be more cautious with use by dates. However, a yogurt doesn’t obediently go out of date the minute it reaches midnight on its use by. You can often eat this type of food a couple of days later with no ill effects.

Ilona over at Mean Queen practically lives off yellow sticker items. She buys them on their use by date and is still eating them a few days later! She lives to tell the tale.

Take home leftovers

If you are eating out and can’t manage to eat all the food you have ordered, ask for a doggy bag and take home the leftovers. It might even be worth taking some containers out if you anticipate this might happen. After all you have paid for the food and if you don’t eat it, where is it going to end up? In the bin!

Make compost

If you have a garden, it is quite easy to make compost from uncooked fruit and vegetable trimmings. Many councils also now collect waste cooked food. This can also be composted but not in your average garden heap. Check out your local facilities and, if your council doesn’t collect food waste, contact them to request that they do. People power!

A useful Facebook group

Zoe over at Eco Thrifty Living has a Facebook group called Reduce Your Food Waste UK. If you are looking for inspiration and ideas, go and join. If you are a blogger who writes about food, check out Zoe’s post for more information.

How do you try to prevent food waste? Share your tips in the comments below.

*Disclaimer: this is my referral code and I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you if you do!

8 thoughts on “How to prevent food waste – and save money too

  1. A wonderful post, Jane, so well thought out and written and with such good advice and information. How we all survived before these Use By and Best Before dates, heaven only knows, but of course, more people in those days (or so I would imagine) were being made ill by food-gone-bad and so the powers that be decided we must be better informed about what is safe to eat and what isn’t safe to eat. But what they failed to explain was these were guideline dates, and really we should use our common sense. Sadly, though, common sense as I’ve said loud and often, isn’t common to all! Some people would therefore eat food that would make them ill – for example, my husband hasn’t any sense of smell (dangerous, actually, as he can’t smell gas or smoke let alone a tasty meal cooking!) and he would therefore eat food or drank milk that was actually ‘off”, he relies on me to say things like, “we can’t use this milk, it’s gone off …” (Skimmed milk tends to go off more quickly than semi-skimmed, even if kept in the fridge.)
    But we must be sensible and not throw good food away the moment that Use By date is reached, there is usually 24- to 48 hours after that when it is reasonable to consider it safe,, and of course, it also depends on whether something has been opened and therefore prey to contamination from other items in the fridge, or whether it is still sealed in its container.
    I can’t bear to throw food away, but I would rather do that than make us ill (if I have food that has gone off, then that is my bad housekeeping!) and I’m sure you would agree with that. But, there would be no need to throw anything away if we planned sensibly, and that is what you are encouraging us all to do.
    Margaret P

  2. I would love to be a domestic godess!. But i,m a disaster!. Guess working 4 x 12.5 hour dayshifts then 1 day off then 3 x 12.5 hour nights shifts is a bit of a game changer!. Just stocked up on co op ready meals. Tried buying fresh salads n healthy food but ended up in the bin no time to prepare cook!. Leave house at 06.15 home 2100. So it is what it is. Boiled egg, chicken , ham sandwiches made at home ready meal for lunch n tin os soup for tea. Glass of wine at bedtime. I fail on all levels! No waste that way

    • It’s totally practical, not failing. Sounds exhausting! I would be on ready meals too. As you say, no waste there!

  3. Working nights and weekends i get almost double working weekday shift, so something has to give can,t do it all!. Also have a lodger so is added work.

  4. I must have a cast iron stomach! 😀
    I have a daily hummous & salad sandwich for lunch, and I don;t think a week goes by when I’m using a tub of hummus that’s still within it’s sell by date! The last tub I just finished had a use by date in December, and the current one “expired” a couple of weeks before I even opened it!!
    The rocket is the same, I just pick out the ones that have gone yellow or slimy and eat the rest. do find Aldi rocket has excellent longevity!

    We’re pretty good at having little waste. 5 of us at home now, and we only ever fill one food caddy bag a week, never more, even over Christmas. Mostly it’s crusts, peelings, pistachio shells and chicken drumsticks in ours. I would blitz the crusts for breadcrumbs, but as we never use them, they’d be taking up space in the freezer instead. I suppose I could carry a bag of crusts wherever I go to give to the pigeons instead! 😀

  5. I have followed some of your ideas this week and planned meals too. I have just gone to my weekly shop and it came to £10.50! I’m otherwise using what’s in the cupboard and fridge. Very very pleased as No Spend January was a disaster with every small appliance in the house needing replacing due to them all dying within days of each other. (They were all old and bought at the same time years ago!) Roll on No Spend February!!!

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