Shop Smart and Cook Well. 5 Ways I am Trying to Reduce Food Waste and My Shopping Bill

WP_20160807_12_56_16_ProWhen you throw away food, you’re actually throwing away money.  I’ve been in the environmental sector for a long time, but I did not fully appreciate the words ‘you’re throwing money in the bin’ until a year ago when food prices started cropping up.  I’ve always tried to be a savvy shopper, but somehow, I would still end up putting something in the bin. 

Recently though I started monitoring what I was throwing away and how I could stop that, after all, it’s not just my shopping, it’s the money that I’ve spent on it that is going in the bin.  I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to this dilemma, so here are 5 tips that I have been using for the past year to make the most of what I buy. 

The 2 Week Menu 

The following will sound like a bit of a chore, but once you get started, you will find it easier to manage.  You’ll always have your staples which you need day in and day out, such as cereals.  Ignore your staples and build a menu of what you’d like to eat for dinner over the next 2 weeks.  It’s much easier to maintain this menu system if you don’t have to do it constantly that’s why I do a 2 week menu instead of a weekly menu.  I tend to write down what the family would like to eat. It might be something we’ve seen on tv or come across on YouTube or Instagram, for example. 

A Savvy Shopping List

Once I’ve decided on the menu, I make a list of the ingredients that I will need.  Some ingredients will probably already be in my pantry, such as rice and pasta.  I start crossing out what I already have.  This leaves me with what I have to buy.  That forms my 2 week list. I always give myself a 10% leeway for those guilty pleasures, so when I deviate from my list, it’s only a small justifiable deviation.

Stocking Up? 

A lot of people suggest we should stock our pantry as it’s more economical, but I’m not convinced that’s the best way to reduce food waste and cost.  I will stock up on items I use on a regular basis, such as rice, flour, oil, pasta and tomato tins because I use them at least 3 or 4 times a week.  Items that I don’t use on a regular basis I don’t bother stocking up on.  I very rarely fall for the special offer tricks often used by supermarkets to lure us into spending more.  Buying extra takes up storage and I end up forgetting about them, which means when I do a clear out, I will have lots and lots of items to get rid of.  It’s not the best use of my hard earned money or space.  So unless you will use an item regularly, avoid the temptation of stocking up especially items on special offers and reduced prices.

What About Lunch?

When I prepare dinner I cook what’s needed for the evening plus little bit extra at least 4 times of the week.  The little bit extra is what hubby and I can take to work.  Based on an average spend of £3.50 per person, taking a packed lunch to work saves us at least £25 per week on lunch.  We then don’t feel guilty if we go out for lunch one day a week. 

If you love to cook lots, such as soups and curries, make sure you freeze the leftovers, they will come in handy on days when you’re just not in the mood to cook.  I often fall ill during  the winter months, so any leftovers in the freezer are really appreciated.

Leftover chicken tossed in mung beans and mixed salad for lunch

Love Your Freezer

I often found that at the end of the week I was throwing away a lot of fresh produce.  I love shopping at the local market and in the summer take the kids to fruit farms.  Before I started the 2 week menu, I would end up buying ingredients for foods that I thought I would cook.  This resulted in me spending a lot on groceries and then throwing at least 25% away.  Now that I tend to cook by the menu, if I know I won’t be requiring a vegetable until the end of the week or the week after, I give it a wash, chop it and freeze it.  I tend to do this as soon as I get home as I know, I will get lazy and leave it. 

I’ve started to keep potatoes and onions in the fridge, which I make the vegetables last a lot longer.  Fruits that we don’t get around to eating and have overripened, I wash, chop and freeze.  Comes in handy when making smoothies.

Doing all of this is not easy and requires a lot of time and effort on my part, but it also means that my food waste has drastically reduced and so has my shopping bill.  I spend about an hour a week shopping and then at least 2 hours doing the rest, so expect to spend at least half a day of your week in just preparation. 



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