stop wasting food store food longer - photo courtesy of USDA - reducing food waste, saving money.

How to stop wasting food and start saving money!

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

How to stop wasting food

Stop wasting food store food longer - photo by USDA Flickr

Stop wasting food and start saving money!  – (photo by USDA Flickr)

There are lots of things that we can do to stop wasting food.

By looking at the way that we buy, store and use ingredients, we can reduce food waste and save money!

Plan before you shop

Before you shop, take a look in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. Do you really know what you have already?

A lot of the time we go into autopilot mode when shopping, we pick up the ingredients and items that we know we eat regularly. By shopping this way, we may accidentally buy something that we already have at home. This is fine for food with a long shelf life, such as tinned food, but may otherwise lead to waste.

Knowing what you already have to use up at home is a great starting point! See what needs to be used up in your fridge and freezer and plan your meals around that.

Meal planning

Knowing what you already have to use up, you could create a meal plan for the week. Using up your leftovers and short date food first. Buying additional ingredients for later in the week. This way you will make the most of your leftovers and only buy only what you need.

Make a shopping list

Shopping list, make a shopping list to save money and stop wasting food, thrifty and sustainable

Make and stick to a shopping list to save money

Making a list (and sticking to it!) can really help you to save money and reduce food waste.

Shops are very clever at making their displays deliciously enticing, leading you to impulse-buy food that you might not have intended to buy. These displays are often at the till, on the ends of aisles, or at eye height throughout the shop. Being able to stick to a shopping list can help you to avoid impulse buying.

A carefully thought out shopping list can also help you to stop stocking up on food that you already have at home. How many tins of beans and tomatoes do you really need!

Shopping

As you start to think about what you actually need, rather than shopping on auto pilot, you can stop wasting food and start saving money.

It’s never a great idea to go shopping when you are hungry as you are more likely to be swayed by the impulse buys that the shops have displayed. You are also more likely to opt for snacks and treats that you may otherwise have avoided.

Shops try to encourage you to buy more than you might need with special offers and multi-buys. If you genuinely need and will use the items, this can save you money. If you will not get to use all of the items before the date runs out, can you freeze them? If not, you will have wasted money and food, so it is worth thinking twice before loading up your trolley with these offers. Of course you could go shopping with a friend and share the multi-buy offers between you and save money that way.

When buying fresh food, unless you will be eating it that day, ensure that the ‘best before’ date or ‘use by’ date has enough time left for your needs. Is it suitable for home freezing in case you run out of time to use it?  Do you need to buy all of your fresh food today or can you space out shops to stop wasting food?

Cooking and leftovers

pizza leftovers stop wasting food store food longer thrifty save money sustainability

Pop leftover dinner in the fridge – tomorrow’s lunch sorted

Thinking about portion size can help to reduce leftovers.

Do you often make too much? If you make the same portion size as usual, do you have leftovers? Can you reduce the portion size that you cook, so that there is less leftover? Could you save money by cooking a batch of food and freezing the leftover portions for later use?

If you have leftovers, you can ensure they are not wasted by storing them correctly and labeling them with the date and heating instructions for future reference.

How to store food for longer

Taking a look at how we store the food that we buy, can make a real difference.

Make sure that you take a look at the ‘best before’ or ‘use before’ dates on each item and use the ones with the shortest shelf life first. If you will not be able to use an item before the date runs out, can it be frozen? Can you give it to someone who can use it, such as a neighbour, family member or colleague?

Changing the way that we store some foods can make a big difference to how long it will last and will help us, overall, to stop wasting food.

Fridge / Freezer Temperature

Ensure that your fridge and freezer are set at the optimum temperature. You can take a look in the user manual, or find an online version of the manual if you don’t have one. If you can’t find your specific manual, keep your refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). Your freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C).  These temperatures will ensure that your food is stored safely and will avoid food spoiling.

Freezing leftovers

When you freeze leftovers or surplus food, ensure that it’s stored in an airtight container, or in a sealed freezer bag with the air squeezed out. Label the container with the date it is frozen and with what the contents are.

Try to use frozen food with fresh ingredients, such as dairy or fish, within a month. Most other foods will keep from 3-6 months before they are past their best. Keep an eye on the dates that you have labelled your frozen food with, what do you need to use up soon?

Getting into the habit of checking which food needs to be used up first, will really help you to stop wasting food and start saving money!

Leftover foods that freeze well

* Soup * stews * curries * baby food * fruit purees * rice * double cream * cheese * mashed potatoes * mashed root veg * un-iced cakes * nuts * a plastic bottle of milk (handy) * egg yolks and whites * raw dough for pastry/bread/biscuits etc * breadcrumbs * ground coffee beans * grated cheese * sliced bread (can go straight to toaster) * whole sandwiches (with no salad) * orange juice * herbs * whole chillies * fresh pasta * raw fish * raw meat * left over stock *

If freezing raw meat such as sausages, split into portions first so that you don’t have to defrost more than you need. Ensure that you defrost frozen meat thoroughly before cooking and then do not refreeze it.

Potatoes and root veg

  • If you have a lot of potatoes, carrots or parsnips that you will not be able to use before they run out of date.. Cook them, mash them, store in an air-tight container and freeze them! Add a ‘made on’ date to the container and use it within 3 months. Great for serving at a later date with your roast dinner
  • If you have lots of potatoes to use up, par-boil them, toss them in oil, then freeze in an air-tight container or sealed bag – ready for your roasting tray at a later date

Freezing fresh fruit and veg

frozen food, freezer food, freezing vegetables, frozen vegetables in containers, how to freeze fresh vegetables, fresh vegetables store

Freeze your excess vegetables – thrifty!

Fruit – space out slices of fruit or whole berries over a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then put in a sealed bag, or container, in your freezer.

Vegetables –  boil evenly sized pieces briefly, then cool quickly in iced water, then drain, space out the pieces of veg over a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then put in a sealed bag, or container, in your freezer.

Raw meat and fish

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and fish refrigerated. They should be stored separately from other foods so that they don’t contaminate them. Many fridges have a meat compartment in the bottom of the fridge or you can store uncooked meat and seafood on the lowest rack in your fridge to prevent their juices from leaking onto the other foods
  • Removing raw meat from its original packaging and re-wrapping in foil, can extend its shelf-life in the fridge
  • Wrapped raw fish can last a little longer in your fridge if you store it on a layer of ice cubes in a bowl (adding fresh ice when necessary)

Dairy products

  • Milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products are best stored on the upper shelves of your fridge. The temperature there is the most constant, so they’ll keep longer
  • Keeping milk in your fridge door, whilst convenient, is not the best place for it. The door area is warmer, so your milk will go off more quickly there
  • Mayonnaise will last longer in the fridge door as it is less likely to separate and can last much longer this way
  • Your cheese should be kept wrapped in its original packaging if possible, this will keep it from going mouldy. If this is not possible, wipe excess oil from each face of the cheese, then wrap in waxed paper or parchment paper, to keep it from drying out

Cheese can absorb the flavours and chemicals from plastic wrap, so it’s best to avoid that.

  • Eggs should be kept in a cool dark place, preferably in your fridge. Keep on one of the shelves, rather than in the door of your fridge, and keep separately from other foods. Keeping them in their box is ideal or in an egg tray

Fruit

avocado, keep avocados fresh with lemon juice or oil, stop wasting food, store food for longer, thrifty save money

Keep half an avocado fresh – brush with lemon juice or oil

Some fruits give off a gas that can speed up the ripening of surrounding fruits. These fruits should be kept separate from other fruits and should also be kept out of the fridge. Knowing which fruits give off this ripening gas can really help you to stop wasting food.

Gas releasers: avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes.

  • Citrus fruit and melons are also best kept out of your fridge. Once citrus fruit is cut, it can however be wrapped and refrigerated to prevent it from drying out
  • Most other fruits will last longer if they are kept in the fridge. Leave some fruits out to ripen, but once ripe, store in your fridge
  • Don’t store fresh fruits and vegetables in their own airtight bags or containers, as this can speed up decay
  • Leftover slices of fresh fruit can be kept a little longer in the fridge if you sprinkle lemon juice over them, this will prevent browning and help to preserve the fruit. Similarly you can brush a left over half of an avocado in lemon juice or oil and wrap in foil to keep it from browning, do not refrigerate it
  • Keep these ethylene-producing fruits away from your vegetables in the fridge: apples, stone fruits, mangoes, passion fruit, pears, and kiwis

Do not wash your fruit until you are ready to eat it, as the excess water can speed up decay.

Vegetables

mushrooms, storing mushrooms paper bag mushroom keep fresh thrifty

Keep mushrooms fresh for longer in a paper bag

Most veg can be kept fresher for longer, if you keep them in the fridge. Remove any traces of mould from your veg to prevent it spreading. Do not wash your vegetables before placing in the fridge, as excess water can speed decay.

  • Potatoes and root veg are best kept in a cool dark place rather than the fridge, this will help them to last much longer. If the potatoes have little sprouts, they have not gone bad, simply rub the sprouts off. Your potato will still be fantastic
  • Onions, garlic and shallots should be kept in a cool, dark place, in a paper bag, rather than your fridge. In the fridge, they will lose much of their flavour and not last as long
  • If you have a bag or container of salad, add a sheet of kitchen towel to absorb moisture, this will help your salad to keep crisp and fresh for longer
  • If you have left over celery, wrapping it in foil can help it to stay crisp and fresh for longer
  • Asparagus can be kept for longer if you trim the end off the stems and place upright in a glass with water in the bottom, cover loosely with a plastic bag, keep on your counter rather than in your fridge. This will keep them fresh and crisp for a week
  • Store-bought mushrooms are best kept in their original packaging in the fridge and wrapped with cling film once opened. If you have loose or wild mushrooms, they last longer if kept in a paper bag in the fridge

Herbs

keep herbs fresh for longer, corriander, herb store, stop wasting food, store food longer, thrifty, sustainability, save money

Keep herbs fresh for longer in a glass of water

Here is a tip for keeping your leafy herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander, fresher for longer.. Remove the packaging, trim a small amount off the end of each stem, place them in a glass of water on the counter, much like a bunch of flowers. Cover the herbs loosely, with a plastic bag. This will ensure that your herbs stay fresh for at least a week, rather than go slimy after a couple of days in the fridge.

Bread
Help your fresh bread to last longer, by storing it at room temperature, in an airtight container or a paper bag. You could also wrap it in a clean tea towel. Do not store it in your fridge, keep it on the counter. You can also revive almost-stale bread that is on its last day, by warming in your oven.

Nuts

Storing nuts at room temperature, in air-tight containers, will preserve their natural moisture and help them to last longer. Ideally, you should store them in their own shells.

Other

You will find that refrigerating your soy sauce, can help it to maintain its flavour and last for up to two years.

There are lots of other fantastic food storage tips out there. Search the internet for terms like: clever food storage, food storage hacks, storing food for longer, make food last longer, stop wasting food, storing food correctly etc.. Or feel free to post your own tips and tricks in the comments section below.

 

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chutney recipe jars of caramelised red onion and chilli chutney homemade gift idea

Make it: Caramelised red onion & chilli chutney

Making & DIY, Thrifty

Caramelised red onion and chilli chutney is a great recipe to make this autumn. Once the chutney is sealed in the jars, it will have time to mature to be extra delicious just in time for Christmas.chutney recipe jars of caramelised red onion and chilli chutney homemade gift idea

Getting into a thrifty mindset, it is a great idea to make and prepare DIY Gifts all year round. Have a little stockpile of beautifully-made, special presents, ready to give to your loved ones, family and friends. Making your own gifts can also save you a small fortune at Christmas. It’s easy to believe that the more you spend on a present, the more the recipient will feel loved. The truth is, the more thought and time you put into a present, the more the recipient will KNOW they are loved.

With this gift idea you can put even more thought into the design by personalising and decorating the labels that you stick on each jar.

You will need:

First off you will need clean, sterilised, glass jars with lids. You can shop around kitchen stores or supermarkets during the sales to find cheap, empty jam and preserve jars. You could save even more money by recycling your empty jam and chutney jars.

To recycle your own jars, ensure you wash each jar and lid thoroughly. Then, when you have a good stash, sterilise in bulk, all the jars and lids using sterilising solution. You can buy a pot of sterilising powder for under £2 which will make a few batches of sterilising solution. Available from anywhere that sells home-brewing equipment, or on Amazon – VWP Cleanser and sterilser – 100g

 

Caramelised red onion & chilli chutney recipe:

(this makes about 3 jars so just double up if you’d like to make more)

Ingredients

10/11 red onions (peeled)chutney recipe caramelised red onion chilli chutney homemade gift
1 red chilli  (de-seeded) or 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes
3 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
350g dark muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
100ml balsamic vinegar
100ml red wine vinegar
2tsp ground ginger
A good sprinkle of salt and pepper

Method
  1. Cut onions and chilli into short strips and place into a large, heavy-based saucepan with the olive oil and bay leaves. Cook on a low heat for 20 mins, stirring occasionally until the onions are darker.
  2. Next, stir in the sugar, both vinegars, ginger, salt and pepper.
  3. Cook on a medium-high heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, dark and sticky. You can check if the chutney is ready by taking half a teaspoon of the mixture and popping it in the fridge for 5 mins to see if it is thicker when cool.
  4. Once ready, remove saucepan from heat and take out the bay leaves.
  5. Spoon the chutney, whilst still a little warm, into the sterilised jars. At this stage you can add a piece of cling film over the top of the chutney if you like, to help it to keep for longer.
  6. Finally, seal the jars tightly with their lids and add your own labels. The chutney will mature and the flavours will deepen if you can leave it sealed in the jar for a month or two before opening and enjoying.

You can leave the chutney, sealed in its jar, for a year or two in a cool dark store cupboard – it will still be safe to eat. Once opened, keep refrigerated and the chutney will be fine to eat for a good few months… if it lasts that long!

How to thicken runny chutney

Making chutney is not an exact science and sometimes it can take ages to thicken. The runnyness is due to how much liquid is in the onions that you used and there is nothing you can do other than wait it out.

As you simmer your mixture, the liquid evaporating is what makes the chutney thicker, so keep it simmering and eventually it will thicken.

If you would like to speed up the process, transfer your mixture to a couple of wide-based pans – an increased surface area of the mixture will allow for more evaporation.

Decorating your jars of yummy chutney

There are lots of ways to make the label that you put on your chutney special…

  • You could personalise each jar by writing the name of the recipient
  • You could draw a picture of the ingredients on the label
  • You could write serving suggestions, such as: Great with Sausages, Cheese and in Christmas Sandwiches!
  • You could add the date that the chutney was made
  • You could add 3D embellishing paste to the jars as in this previous article: Make it: DIY gift ideas – 3D embellished glass jars
  • You could add stickers, glitter, whatever… get creative!
If you’re a complete chutney nut, you can, of course, keep the whole batch for yourself and scoff the lot! Enjoy!

 

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Hairy Bittercress wild herb food free foraging forager forage uk thrifty sustainability

Foraging in February – free food in the wild

Free

Foraging for food in the wild is a fantastic way to bulk out your meals for free.

Hairy Bittercress wild herb food free foraging forager forage uk thrifty sustainability

Hairy Bittercress – a peppery mustard flavour to add to raw salads

It’s also great exercise, great for connecting with nature and great for boosting your self-esteem as you start to discover the wealth of free food that’s just poking out of the ground or dangling off a tree in your local area… if you only know what to look for!

Here is a short list of the kinds of foods that are ready to find and pick in February, although free food is far more scarce over winter, there is still something to be found for the eager forager.

Each item in the list is a link that will show you a description on Wikipedia, so that you may identify the food correctly before you pick and eat it.

Foraging in February:

Chickweed     Ground elder    Hairy bittercress    Jack-by-the-hedge    Nettle    Velvet shank

Be safe when foraging, make sure that you are picking something edible and not something poisonous! It is a good idea to use a guide book or to research online before you go foraging. For example, try looking up each of the above on Wikipedia to find an accurate image and description.

I recommend the following books about foraging for free food – they help you to identify, harvest, prepare and preserve your findings:
My favourite is ‘Food for Free‘, because it is a pocket-sized guide that you can take out foraging.

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Ground Elder forage foraging uk free food wild thrifty sustainability save money

Foraging in January – Free food in the wild

Free

Foraging for food in the wild is a fantastic way to bulk out your meals for free.

Ground Elder forage foraging uk free food wild thrifty sustainability save money

Ground Elder – great eaten raw in salads

It’s also great exercise, great for connecting with nature and great for boosting your self-esteem as you start to discover the wealth of free food that’s just poking out of the ground or dangling off a tree in your local area… if you only know what to look for!

Here is a short list of the kinds of foods that are ready to find and pick in January, although free food is far more scarce over winter, there is still something to be found for the eager forager.

Each item in the list is a link that will show you a description on Wikipedia, so that you may identify the food correctly before you pick and eat it.

Foraging in January:

Chickweed    Ground Elder    Oyster mushroom   Velvet shank

Be safe when foraging, make sure that you are picking something edible and not something poisonous! It is a good idea to use a guide book or to research online before you go foraging. For example, try looking up each of the above on Wikipedia to find an accurate image and description.

I recommend the following books about foraging for free food – they help you to identify, harvest, prepare and preserve your findings:

My favourite is ‘Food for Free‘, because it is a pocket-sized guide that you can take out foraging.

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carrier bags carrier bag Shopping trolley cart eco friendly sustainable carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

Why are carrier bags 5p now? – Explanation & alternatives to save you money

Sustainability, Thrifty

You have probably noticed by now, that most shops in the UK are charging 5p per carrier bag at the checkouts. It’s caused some confusion and has caused more than a few cross words over the last couple of weeks, at tills across the country. Lets take a look at why carrier bags now cost you money, and the thinking behind this new cost.

Why shops started to charge 5p per carrier bag:

On the 5th October 2015 the Law in the UK changed making it compulsory for larger shops to charge for every ‘single use’ carrier bag. This law affects all of the shops and supermarket chains with over 250 employees. This law does not affect the smaller shops at the moment, but they can choose to charge 5p per bag as well, if they wish to, on a voluntary basis.

When carrier bags are free:
Some items are allowed a free carrier bag, often due to health and safety reasons. Free carrier bag items are as follows: unwrapped food, raw meat and fish where there is a food safety risk, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers, or live fish.

You can read the full terms and conditions set out for retailers on this government web page about the carrier bag charge.

Landfill land fill environment eco friendly sustainable carrier bags carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

61,000 tonnes of carrier bag waste in 2014

Why the government want us to re-use or use less carrier bags:
Single use carrier bags cause lots and lots of litter (at least 61,000 tonnes of litter in 2014). Because they are currently thought of as quite a disposable item, many are thrown away in the rubbish bin, or discarded in the street, the average person uses 140 single use carrier bags per year! UK landfills are full of all of our old carrier bags. As well as causing lots of litter, discarded carrier bags are dangerous and destructive for wildlife in the town and country. And, lets face it, tumble-weed carrier bags blowing in the breeze are not such a pretty sight.

Reducing the amount of ‘single use’ carrier bags will really help our environment and ensure that our shopping habits are as sustainable as possible in the long term.

Where does the money go:
The 5p charge is not a government tax and they do not get the money raised from the carrier bags. The money goes to the supermarkets and shops directly, the shops have to keep track of their carrier bag income and it is hoped that the majority will put the 5p charge to good causes and charities. The 5p charge is already in place in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The charge in Wales has, so far, generated millions of pounds for good causes, so the government’s hopes were well-placed.

The government estimate that the 5p charge will have the following benefits over the next 10 years:

  • an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy
  • up to £730 million raised for good causes
  • £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs
  • carbon savings of £13 million

You can read a full breakdown of the government’s explanation for the 5p carrier bag charge on their website.

Alternatives to carrier bags:

Shopping bags eco friendly sustainable recycled materiel weave carrier bags carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

Recycled material shopping bags

I’m sure that we’ve all seen some interesting, creative alternatives for carrier bags over the last couple of weeks. As a few irate customers discover the 5p charge at the checkout and decide not to pay it, they invent new ways to carry their shopping home.

Some of the funnier scenes have included an angry chap in Iceland turning up the bottom of his jumper to make a kind of bulky kangaroo pouch to pile his shopping into – A few pedantic patrons marching out of supermarkets with arms full of shopping balanced here there and everywhere, apart from in a carrier bag. Some supermarkets have even trained their till staff to resolve the arguments that the 5p charge might provoke.

Save yourself from feeling miffed, save a stranger from feeling miffed – carry these alternatives to the carrier bag around with you…

    • Bag for Life – often costs 10p-£1 at the checkout, is supermarket branded, thicker and much sturdier than a ‘single use’ carrier bag and lasts for lots of shopping trips and often the supermarket will replace a worn out bag with a new one for free! This saves you lots of money in the long run
    • A fabric tote bag, made from recycled material – they fold, or roll up, small enough to fit into a handbag or pocket, and they are very strong
    • If you have driven to the supermarket – re-use a cardboard box to carry your groceries. Just pack loose shopping from the shopping trolley into the cardboard box in your car boot
    • Similarly, you could re-use stackable, plastic storage boxes from your home, keeping them in your car boot
    • Start wearing a backpack or carrying a large shoulder bag, such as a messenger bag
Shopping trolley cart eco friendly sustainable carrier bag carrier bags charge 5p sustainability

Shopping trolleys – not just for pensioners!

  • a small fabric shopping trolley with wheels. Once the favourite of pensioners across the UK, these useful carryalls are making a comeback for all ages, thanks to how much you can cram into them and the fact that you don’t need to carry the weight of the shopping – the wheels do that for you
  • A fold up, into a little pouch with a clip, fabric shopping bag – these can be found in any pound shop and in some charity shops and are usually water-resistant too
  • According to government research, the average household is supposed to have about 40 carrier bags stuffed around the house – Go through your cupboards at home and find all of those unloved old carrier bags that may be lurking. Grab a handful and keep them in your bag or pockets for reusing at the checkout. You could do a frustrated stranger a favour by ensuring you have enough for them also at the checkout.

Feel free to share your ideas for carrier bag alternatives, or amusing checkout stories, in the comments section below.

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carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability

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