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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Using Solar Power – save money and live sustainably

Sustainability, Thrifty

Solar power is an important natural resource that we can use more often, as we embrace a thrifty and sustainable lifestyle.

solar power solar panels powered energy save saving sustainability sun sustainable

Solar Panels absorbing the sun’s energy

You don’t need to know a lot about solar energy to make the most of it and you don’t need to spend a fortune. There are solar panels for every budget – they sell them in Poundland (yes, they cost £1).

The sun’s energy is unlimited and free to use. Did you know that the amount of solar energy that hits Earth in one hour, is equal to the amount of energy used in one year by our entire planet!

Imagine if we could get better at harnessing all that free, environmentally-friendly energy. We could be using it to power all of our gadgets, to heat our homes, or to fuel our cars. Things would be very different, bills would be much cheaper and our planet would have a healthier environment for longer.

Turning sunshine into electricity

We can collect some of the sun’s energy using PV (Photovoltaic) cells. PV cells allow the photons of light in sunshine, to excite the electrons in the PV cell and cause them to flow – which generates electricity. PV solar panels are the ones that you see used all over the world to help to power homes and communities, they also help to power street lamps and parking meters. Lots of the surplus electricity created by PV solar panels is fed back into the national electricity grid for everybody to use.

Solar panels will soon be much cheaper

There are new developments in solar panel technology which will increase the effectiveness of the panels and also make the panels much cheaper – which is fantastic news.

An Australian company called Dyesol are developing a new version, the Perovskite Solar Cell, which should be available commercially from 2017.

If you would like to read more about this technology, Wikipedia do a great job of explaining it all here: Perovskite Solar Cells

Making money from Solar Panels

You may have noticed that more and more houses in your local area (with a south-facing roof) have solar panels.

roofs with solar panels solar power sustainability energy saving alternative

Households making use of free solar power

These lucky homeowners will not only be benefiting from free, sustainable electricity but they are also able to sell any surplus electricity back to the national grid, for a nice chunk of extra income each year.

The initial set-up can be expensive (£5,000 – £8,000), although there are government schemes in place to help with the cost. Solar Panels should be considered as a long-term investment.

The government have recently reduced the amount of money that you can make by selling your surplus electricity in the UK, but let’s all hope that they see sense and make alternative energy an attractive option for everyone.

There is a really good Money Saving Expert article about making money from Solar Panels here: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/free-solar-panels

Also, Which have a great overall guide which breaks down different Solar Panel options: http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/how-to-buy-solar-panels/

If solar panels on your roof are not an option, why not look into all the other ways that you can use solar power to save money on your energy bill.

Solar Power in the home

There are many ways to use the sun to create free electricity in your home, each way will save you money in the long run and will help the environment. Why not search the internet for a solar-powered phone charger, tablet charger or a laptop charger. Use solar-powered fairy lights around your window or use solar panel garden lamps. There are a few suggestions at the bottom of this post.

For a very simple way to use the sun’s energy instead of paying for electricity… dry your wet clothes outside in the sunshine, instead of using a tumble dryer.

Sun oven

Solar power cake in a solar oven sun energy solar power powered cooking

Baking a cake in a solar oven

If you fancy a DIY project with a difference, why not have a go at creating a sun oven – a way to cook food using the power of the sun. This is definitely a project for a hot and sunny day!

Here are the step-by-step instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-and-Use-a-Solar-Oven

There are so many ways to use the sun to save money on your energy bill and to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Why not google ‘using solar energy’ or ‘solar power’ or ‘renewable energy’ or ‘alternative energy in the home’ to get more inspiration.

Please feel free to share your solar-powered or alternative energy tips in the comments section below.

 

How will you start using solar power?

Solar powered fairy lights for garden outdoors lighting Solar power motion security sensor light Solar power phone charger laptop charger solar panel devices charge solar power phone charger portable charger
Solar power off grid lighting solution solar panel lighting Solar power garden lights pack of six solar panel lights solar powered fan and desk light solar panel lighting

 

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Upcycle, reuse & repurpose – Inspirational ideas

Making & DIY, Sustainability

Upcycle, reuse and repurpose unwanted items. Make the most of your rubbish and maybe even make something beautiful.

Take a look at these weird and wonderful ideas. Hopefully they will inspire you and help you to look at your rubbish in a whole new light.

Just click through each slide using the yellow boxes at the bottom of the pictures, or by clicking on the actual pictures. Enjoy!


Upcycling – by ThriftySustainability.net – Created with Haiku Deck

Why Upcycle?

Upcycling unwanted materials helps our environment, one repurposed item at a time. Creating something from our waste will save that waste from going into a landfill site. It will save the energy and transportation that would have been used to process the waste.

Repurposing can also save us from buying something new, if we can make what we need, out of what we already have lying around… we can save money as well as live sustainably.

Upcycled items can also make fantastic gifts, just take a look through the slides above for some great thrifty and sustainable DIY gift ideas. Or take a look at this previous post for another upcycling idea: DIY gift idea

Some of the most inspirational upcycling ideas are those which use our rubbish to create something beautiful and that puts something in the world that will cheer people up a little when they see it. That’s got to be worth the effort!

What will you upcycle? Do you have any upcycling ideas? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Happy Upcycling!

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making a budget working out budget budgeting saving money finaces budgets

How to make a budget & save money

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Thrifty

Making a budget gives you a clear understanding of your finances. Some people get into all sorts of trouble with debt, simply because they spend more than they earn. Working out exactly how much money you have coming in and how much is going out each month, will give you control over your finances. Once you know the facts, you can see where you are wasting money or overspending without realising.

Understanding and having control over your finances will not only help you to steer clear of debt, but it will empower you and give you an extra boost of self-confidence.

If you are already in debt, taking a good honest look at your spending habits and working out a plan of action to change those habits, is a strong first step in getting out of debt.

If you have tried working out a budget before and found it unsuccessful, it may be because you were purely focusing on the monthly spend and forgetting to look at the big yearly picture also.

making a budget working out budget budgeting saving money finaces budgets

Grab a cuppa and a calculator…

Often there are things we spend money on which happen at different times throughout the year and not in any set month, for example, holidays, dentist appointments, gifts for friends and family, house or car repairs etc… and whilst you cannot always know how much these extras may cost, you can at least allow a portion of your monthly spend to go into a saving pot, which can help to pay for those events throughout the year.

Life is full of surprises and if you need to pay for an unexpected repair, or move home in a hurry, having savings put by for an emergency can make all the difference between getting things sorted or getting into debt. I know that building up savings is way easier said than done, but using the strategy below is a good solid start.

It’s going to take a while, but it is worth your time. Grab a cuppa, grab a calculator and start on the first step to taking control of your finances.

Making a budget:

1) To start off on the right foot, it is really worth being as thorough as possible. Collect as much information about your finances as possible. Gather at least three months of recent bank statements, or even take a look over the past year’s spending to see where the unexpected spends occurred. If you have credit cards or store cards, collect the statements for those to see how much you are spending there. Collect your payslips and information of any money that is coming in. Gather all the details that you have of household bills, council tax, tv licence etc. Gather any receipts that you find lying around too, as these may help you to break down further how you are spending your money when shopping.

2) Often, just looking at where you are actually spending money will be a real eye-opener. You will probably be surprised at just how much money is being spent on impulse buys, a coffee in town, a quick supermarket trip where you went in to buy one thing but came out with a basket full, a night out, energy bills at different times of year etc.. These things all add up over time and starting to have a conscious awareness of where and how you spend your money will really help you to get into a money-saving, low-cost, thrifty lifestyle mindset.

Once you stop spending so much on things that you don’t need or use, you can start to put your money towards things which make your life more worthwhile.

make making a budget working out budget budgeting saving money finaces budgets

Work out where you are overspending

It can be quite upsetting when you see, for the first time, where you are overspending. You may be tempted to ignore certain areas, like credit card spend or how much you spend on alcohol and luxuries. It is really important to be totally honest with yourself when creating your budget. If it helps, just keep it to yourself and remind yourself that no one will read it but you. It may help to create it on the computer and make a password-protected file. Do not be ashamed of where you are overspending, just be aware of it and make the decision that you will now be in control of how you spend and that in a year’s time your finances will be in a much better state.

3) To build a picture of monthly spend, make a list of all the regular, known outgoings that you have, such as rent/mortgage, council tax, contact lenses, any debt repayments etc. Work out the average monthly energy bill – do this by adding the last 12 months of energy bills together and dividing by 12 to get an average monthly bill – Do the same thing for your food shopping as well. Keep working out and adding the average monthly spend for things like gifts, christmas, clothes, holidays, car tax etc.

There are many templates for creating a budget online if you do not want to make your own – here is a good tool from the money-saving expert website: https://budgetbrain.moneysavingexpert.com/budgetplanner or simply Google ‘Budget Template’ to find something to suit your needs.

Now add up all the monthly outgoings and put it at the bottom of the list as your outgoings total. Finally take a look at all your income from employment, benefits, selling online etc, put that total on the budget aswell.

If your outgoings are more than your income… don’t worry, don’t feel ashamed, it’s completely normal and completely fixable. You’ve taken the first step, discovered that there is a problem and now you can take positive steps to fix that problem over time. Keep reading for a few ideas to get your outgoing spend right down.

If your outgoings are less than your income, well done indeed! Perhaps your next step would be to look at where you are overspending so that you may put more of your income into savings and into enjoying new life experiences.

4) Now that you have your budget list of exactly how much you are spending each month on average, it’s time to go through each item on the list and consider if you can make a saving.

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Each small monthly saving adds up over a year

Examples of where you might save:

  • could you live somewhere cheaper or move in with someone to split bills?
  • If you own your home, could you get a lodger to help boost income?
  • If you buy contact lenses and pay monthly, could you make significant savings by purchasing them, in bulk, online, or wearing glasses for half the week and buying half as many contact lenses? If you pay £30 per month and reduce this to £15 per month, that’s a yearly saving of £180
  • Could you set yourself a lower allowance for monthly food shopping, and stick to it? If you can cut down on your food shopping bill by £30 a month… that’s a yearly saving of £360 – You could cut down much further by bulk buying approved clearance food or by switching from brands to non-brands
  • Could you cut out one of your morning coffees on the way to work and make a free one when you get to work instead? If you cut out one £2.30 coffee per week, that’s a yearly save of £119.60
  • Could you switch energy providers and save money there?
  • Are you on the cheapest phone tariff for your mobile?
  • If you pay for a gym subscription but rarely go, could you cancel it and exercise by going for brisk walks and practising yoga or weight training in your living room instead? Cutting back on the average gym membership of £20 per month, could be a yearly saving of £240
  • Can you cut back a little on spends such as cigarettes, beauty products, magazines, take aways, nights out, cinema trips, extravagant gifts etc.
  • Can you reduce the cost of your fuel bill by switching appliances off and wearing a jumper? Check out the article Switch it off: Smarter use of energy for ways to save on household bills


Every little saving that you can make will add up significantly over time.

5) Keeping the achievable cut-backs in mind, draw up a new budget plan that you will do your best to stick to. Keep going back to it every week to make sure that you are sticking to it and to consider where there may be potential to cut back further, or to switch provider and save.

make making a budget working out budget budgeting saving money finaces budgets piggy bank-savings

Take control of your spending & start saving

Once you have a budget to follow, and when you are honest about where you are spending your money, you have control over your finances and can start to steer them in the right direction.

If you have trouble sticking to a food shopping budget, it may be because you are paying for food, as and when, on your card, and not realising that you are overspending. At the beginning of the month, take out the allotted amount for the month’s food shopping in cash. Divide it between 4 envelopes, one for each week, and don’t spend more than you have in the envelopes!

6) If you have a low income and the money going out is way more than the money coming in, it’s time to start thinking about ways to change that. As well as saving on the amount that you spend, there are lots of positive steps that you can take to increase your income.

Long-term financial security and peace of mind is achievable if you can just get a handle on your budget. Each time you go to spend money, check-in with yourself – do I really need it? Can I find it cheaper elsewhere?

Making a budget and sticking to it, is well worth the effort. Over time, having conscious control over what you are spending will change your life for the better.

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Cheap food – approved clearance food

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

approved food clearance food cheap food breakfast cereals thrifty sustainability shopping cheaper save moneyHow can we save up to 70% on the weekly shop & help the environment at the same time? Make use of the cheap food that is available for everyone, if you only know where to buy it.

In the UK we throw away a tremendous (and disgustingly wasteful) amount of food and drink each year – 7.2m tonnes – most of which could have been consumed. When you think of the energy put into making, packaging and selling that food, you can begin to see why stopping that waste is a sound idea for an eco-freindly, sustainable lifestyle.

One way to cut down on the UK’s food waste whilst also saving yourself a lot of money is to buy Approved Clearance Food.

If you look at food packaging there is usually a ‘use by’ date and a ‘best before’ date to advise us when to eat it by. It is not advisable to eat anything after it’s ‘use by’ date, however, you CAN safely eat food that has passed it’s ‘best before’ date. Best Before dates are only there a guide to advise that  after a best before date the colour or texture might not be immaculate.. but the food is still completely safe to eat and what’s more… it’s a fantastic way to buy very cheap food in bulk and make huge savings on your food bill!

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Visit the Approved Foods website now to discover how you can cut your food shopping bill right down by buying approved clearance foods. You could bulk buy and stock up on store cupboard essentials such as tinned foods, dried foods and cleaning products at a fraction of the price!

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