Love food, hate waste – How to make the most of the food that you buy

Do you ever find yourself buying lots of food, but then feeling frustrated, because you haven’t got the ingredients that you actually need?! Or maybe you keep saying that you’re into saving the planet and want to go ‘meat free on Mondays’, but you simply don’t know what goes with what and so end up having the same meals that you’ve always had?

Well this piece may not make you the best cook, but it may help you to save time, money, your sanity and even the planet!

And you’re not alone in this. Loving food and hating waste is actually a national campaign check out:

But what does this mean for you personally? Well making the change can:

Save you money – And what’s not to love about that!

According to Wrap  £20 billion is lost every year in the UK due to food waste. Now that does include retail, the food and hospitality industry and manufacturing, but the figures for household waste are staggering, because they make up an enormous 69% of the pie.

Now pay attention because this bit’s, especially for you. It’s estimated that the average family could save about £810 a year if food wasn’t wasted. You may think, that’s not much, but really think about it. That’s a new I-Phone, a holiday in the sun or at least the heating bill covered for the year. Can you really afford to throw away eight hundred and ten pounds?

TipSet a budget. Now I know that this isn’t particularly exciting, but as someone once told me, much of life is drudge (I don’t know if I agree with that, but it can be said that a large portion of life is built on routine). So, set a shopping budget. And if you’re feeling particularly wild, take cash out instead of simply putting things on your card.

Use your loyalty card. By simply doing this you could get a ‘free’ shop or even two at the end of the year. And remember they’re often not only redeemable in the supermarket, but also in other stores as well. As Brucie used to say; ‘what do points make (you got it!)….. prizes’!

Forget BOGOF. Unless it’s something that you’d normally buy, DON’T DO IT. Having 6 tins of water chestnuts, peanut butter, pickles or endless packets of exotic crackers in the back of your cupboard is NOT useful. You’ll also find that they’re probably out of date before you even get to use them.

Check the date. I’m astonished when I’ve scouted through people’s fridges and kitchen cupboards (all in the line of work you understand, not simply because I’m nosey) that there are copious amounts of foods developing something that Louis Pasteur would have been excited about. If it’s growing something or out of date, THROW IT OUT.

Save you time – The most precious commodity of our time is, our time. And also how we use it.

Let’s say on an average day, the average person spends 7 hours sleeping, 7 hours working, 1 hour travelling, 3 hours socialising/leisure/sports (includes TV) 1 hour on personal hygiene, 3 hours on tech (and according to an article in the Telegraph last year which said that the average person spends 1 whole day online a week, so this is a very liberal estimation, but that’s another issue). That leaves 2 hours throughout the day for cooking, eating and clearing up (although that may be an over generous amount for some).

But, can saving on food waste, really help with the time that we spend on preparing in the kitchen?

I think so.

Tip – Plan. Now I know that there may be some resistance to getting this one into play. But, as Benjamin Franklin said; ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’. So maybe think of it as short-term pain, for huge, HUGE long-term gain.

You see by working out  your meals, you ALSO get to see what ingredients you’ll need for all of your meals. And this is where the saving comes in, because using the same ingredients for multiple meals cuts down on time and money.

For example, a bunch of carrots and 6 tomatoes can be made into 4 meals; 1) a salad, 2) a soup 3) a base for pasta 4) a base for a Bolognese. Make sense?

Choose the day. Doing a main food shop once a week saves time (and money). Popping into the shops’ on multiple occassions during the week simply creates a temptation to browse, and it encourages us to pick up additional items that we don’t need. If you’re going in, again, be focused and strategic. If you see something that you don’t need. LEAVE IT!

Save your sanity – One thing I see all the time is busy people food shopping, prepping and cooking different meals for themselves and either their partners or kids. This can drive you barmy.

Tip – Buy online. Now as a foodie, there’s nothing more satisfying than scowling the produce isle or markets, oohing and aahing at the new seasons finds. Fresh beetroot, crisp cabbage, curly kale, butternuts, mangos and I could go on. But it’s not for everyone. So, shop online if it helps you.

Buy loose and fast. Even if you’re shopping online, it’s an idea to get used to the shop that you’re buying from. AND have a list, because when you know what you want and where you’re going, it simply saves time, money and sense!

Bulk cook. Now this can be a real winner. You don’t even have to make whole meals, simply having things that can be added to, or used as bases will help.

Cook rice, mash potatoes and pasta and freeze them (separately of course) in different ‘meal’ sized containers. Make mince (veg or meat) bases that can be made into a Bolognese or shepherds or cottage pie or even nacho toppings. Or make and freeze a batch of lentils to add to mince bases or for turning into a soup.

Did you know that butter and cheese can also be frozen!

Stock tinned or frozen – Don’t turn your nose up at these. They can be great emergency backups. Of course, rinse off tinned as they’ve often been sitting in excess sugars or salts, but frozen’s a great way to bulk out a meal.

Also think of keep a stock of tomato ketchup, soy sauce or marmite on hand to add a zing when you’re lacking a sauce.

Simple and nutritious meal ideas for surplus, leftover or degrading stock

Spinach or kale – Add to rice dishes, pasta, to a smoothie or use to bulk out pesto

Potatoes – Add to soup, put in a frittata or make into a breakfast hash

Bananas – Add to a smoothie, make pancakes, add to a porridge or into banana bread

Avocados – Add to a vegetable smoothie or make into guacamole

Rice – A day or two old is the best way for a stir fry!

Risotto – Turn left over risotto into a risotto pie

Pasta – Bulk out leftover pasta with lentils, beans or lessening veg (carrots, aubergines, celery, tomatoes or onions).

Oranges – Squeeze them into orange juice

Bread – Make into bread and butter pudding or breadcrumbs or better still, buy less and freeze into smaller batches

Carrots – Make into soup, or cheesey carrot flapjacks, or juice if they’re hard enough to stand without bending!

PeppersChop or blend with tomatoes to make salsa, or soup, add with a chilli to make a harissa paste, or simply grill and add to a salad

Apples – Turn into apple sauce (which can also be frozen)

Save our planet – We know that our planet’s finite and as so many headline’s show, diminishing rapidly through much fault of our own.

According to the Love food Hate Waste project, here in the UK (alone) we waste 5 million tonnes of edible waste a year. Wrap say that,…4 million tonnes of waste prevented would fill 430,000 rubbish trucks, which – if parked bumper to bumper – would stretch from Glasgow to Istanbul’. Now that is truly astonishing.

Our most commonly wasted foods

It is estimated that on a daily basis we waste an average of:

Bread, 20 million slices. Potatoes, 4.4 – 5.4 million. Ham, 2.2 million. Bananas – (A main bug bare of mine!), 1.4 million. But we can make a difference:

Tip – Forget the packaging. Check out the ‘price per kg’ on veg. It can actually be cheaper to buy individual veg rather than in a packet and it also saves on package waste. If you do buy vegetables in the packet, take them out when you get home because the moisture within the packets makes the veg limp and slimy meaning that you’re more likely to throw it away sooner.

Also look out for the reusable mesh veg bags that many supermarkets are now selling.

Support local. If you’ve got excess tins that you’re never going to use (and they’re in date), donate them. Or when you do your weekly shop, think about giving one tin out of your packs of 4 away. There are so many ways to support charities with your excess produce, initiatives like:


Community Fridge projects


Food Cycle

UK Harvest

Food should be fun, guilt free and not cost us the earth. So go forth, waste not, want not but instead simply enjoy!



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