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Hints & Tips

Tips on How to Reduce Your Food Waste at Home

Savvy food shopping tips – tips for how to be a savvy shopper and avoid waste

We buy and then throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year for two main reasons: we cook or prepare too much or food goes off before we’re able to eat it. It’s costing us £12.5 billion a year in food we have bought but then wasted – that’s £200 we could EACH save every year.

It’s not just the money either: in terms of the environmental impact producing, storing and getting the food & drink to our homes uses a lot of energy, and natural resources such as water. Most of this food also reaches landfill sites where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. If we stopped wasting all this food & drink, it would save the equivalent of at least 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.  That’s equivalent to  taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads.

Ultimately the best thing that can happen to food is to be eaten. If we can’t eat, use or store it for later then the compost bin at home for peelings or the local council food waste recycling service is the next best environmental and financial option.

labelling your food with a use by date

Here are Love Food Hate Waste’s top 10 tips for being a savvy shopper:

Tip 1: Check your cupboards/fridge/freezer and make a list before you go shopping so you only buy what you need.

Remember to take the list with you to the shops and stick to it! A good way to make this quicker is to keep a pad and pen in the kitchen (torn scraps of paper from junk mail are a cheap and easy way to do this). When you’ve got through the last of your favourites such as milk or cheese scribble it down on the list. Try to shop for specific ingredients with meals in mind too – watch the Love Food Hate Waste planning animation to get you started and then try the Love Food Hate Waste meal planners

Tip 2: Get to know your date labels.

As you know, ‘use-by’ is the only one that counts as that’s about safety. Best before though is just about quality, so it will be at its best on the date but perfectly safe, if it smells and looks ok to eat after the date. Display until and use by are just for the staff and not for shoppers so ignore those! When shopping look for food with the longest use-by date or for fresh foods check if they can be frozen in case you don’t get round to eating them in time.

Tip 3: Schedule to eat at least one meal from the freezer each week.

That way you can skip it if your plans change at short notice or you can have a night off cooking. Have a quick rummage through the fridge, freezer and store cupboard; it’ll end those evening runs to the local shop for essentials.

Tip 4: Check out your labels.

Only 13% of us realise that packaging can play an important role in protecting food in our homes and the majority of us don’t check out our labels enough. It also provides information about how to store food to keep it fresher for longer, and new pack innovations which can help you make the most of your food. Many packs also offer re-sealability so that it stays fresh for longer in the home – such as on cheese pack with zip locks, frozen peas with zip locks and pasta packs with re-sealable sticky labels.

Packaging has been developed to help maximise how long you’ll have at home to eat it and some packaging has been further improved to give you even longer than standard packs. For example strawberry packaging that acts as an ‘ethylene remover’ (ethylene is what causes fruit to ripen); vacuum packing steaks to give them a longer life; using white bottles for milk because they protect the milk from prolonged visible light that, over the life of the product, could affect its shelf life etc. More information on innovative pack which are available instore now.

Tip 5: If you always find you end up throwing half a pack away and you don’t have much room in the freezer look out for split-packs in the supermarket.

These include split packs of ham, baguettes, bacon etc. Once opened you often need to use fresh foods within 3 days whereas an unopened pack will last much longer. By splitting them you only need to open one pack at a time giving you longer to eat it.

Tip 6: Leave your pack on!

The majority of us, 61% in fact, mistakenly think fruit and vegetables will sweat and go off quicker if they’re left in their original packaging. However the evidence shows that if we keep our food in its packaging and store it according to the label when we get it home, we would have more time to eat it – up to 2 weeks longer for fresh fruit and veg if stored in their original pack in the fridge. If you choose to buy your veg loose then keeping it in a lightly tied plastic or paper bag will have a similar effect. More information on how packs can help keep our food fresher for longer

Tip 7: Make the most of offers!

Too many of us think in-store offers will only make us waste food but actually we can make some real savings – just get into the habit of checking first if you can use the ‘other one’ and don’t buy it if in doubt. Does it say it’s suitable for freezing – buy one, freeze one? Could you cook double and freeze half for another time? If it’s a BOGOF could one of your family, friends or work colleagues make use of the extra one – buy one, share one?

Tip 8: Check out what’s in season and therefore good on price.

Food in season such as courgettes and beans at the moment, is often cheaper than other fruit and veg you might normally buy. Grate a courgette into a spag bol, swap aubergine for courgettes in Italian recipes and mix and match veg in recipes. If you get some really good prices try freezing a batch for the months ahead – most veg can be swiftly blanched (plunge into boiling water for 5 mins before adding to cold water, and drying) – and then frozen for another time. Courgettes can be fried and frozen for adding to casseroles etc.

Tip 9: When possible, substitute inexpensive sources of protein such as beans and eggs for more expensive meat, fish, or poultry.

A great way to do this is in spag bol where lentils bulk the dish out but absorb the flavour of the meat. If you want to try cutting back on meat even more think about having a meat-free day a week – there are loads of meat-free and economic recipes for you to enjoy such asvarious veg crumble, or  smoky bean burritos..

Tip 10: And finally if eating from the freezer once a week works well try eating from the freezer and cupboards for a week.

Allow yourself a trip to the shop for milk but everything else should come from your kitchen. If you have frozen portions of leftovers then have a homemade takeaway night – the family can choose their dinner – lasagne, curry, pie..? It’s amazing how much we shop by habit and buy what we already have so give it a go and get creative! Check out the Love Food Hate Waste recipe pages, click on the food you have and want to use up and hey presto – hundreds of options for tonight’s tea!        .

Whatever you do buy only what you need, eat what you buy or store for later! Simple!

Emma Marsh

Emma Marsh

Community User

Emma Marsh is head of Love Food Hate Waste. The group was launched in 2007 by non-profit recycling company WRAP to help raise awareness of the amount of food waste we produce and how this is effecting the environment, and our wallets.