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

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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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Switch it off / Smarter use of energy

Sustainability, Thrifty
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Don’t leave gadgets on standby, it wastes energy – switch them off when not in use

Did you know that appliances still eat up power when they’re on standby and every time you remember to switch them off, you save pennies on your electricity bill, which over the year will add up to pounds. If you are not using your TV, Laptop, Cooker, phone charger etc – don’t leave them plugged in and on standby with the little red light showing – switch them off or unplug them until you do need to use them.

The same goes for light bulbs, do you need every light in the house on if you are only using one room? For an added bonus, instead of using regular light bulbs, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs or LED lighting which drains less power, costing you less money and they’re better for the environment too. If you want to

thrifty sustainability energy saving lightbulb light bulb low energy sustainable cheap low cost

Energy saving light bulbs – conserve energy and save you money

get into super-thrifty mode, use all those candles that you’ve been given as gifts to light your home for a few nights – cosy ambience and zero energy cost.

You might like to consider your water usage, aside from a small cost saving when we reduce the amount of water that we use, we also help the environment by conserving our water. A few ways to reduce your water use… a quick shower rather than a fill a bath tub… don’t leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth… if you have a garden that needs watering, consider getting a water-butt so that you can use the rainwater that is collected instead of tap water.

Heating the home is usually the largest chunk of our energy bill so this is where you can really save some money whilst reducing your carbon footprint. If you are feeling a bit nippy, rather than reach to turn up the thermostat or to put on an electric heater, why not add another layer of clothes, a hat and a pair of socks does wonders to keep you warm as does a onesie.. or add an extra blanket to your bed. Even if you just do this for a couple of hours before putting the heating on, over the year, you will save pounds. You will also be conserving energy.. another eco win! If you do need to have the heating on, try turning the thermostat down a little, and for the hot water too – again, this will save you money.

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Stay toasty! – Wear a hat and a jumper – to save money on your heating bills

Just as popping a hat on your head keeps you nice and toasty and keeps your body heat from escaping quite so quickly, you can insulate your home to ensure that heat (and the energy that you pay for) does not escape willy nilly. If you have a loft, lay down thick insulation up there (a nice warm hat for your home). Check windows and doors to ensure that no draughts are coming in, if they are this is where heat can escape, so apply foam insulation tape to plug the leaks or use draught excluders to reduce heat-loss in the home. It’s worth being thorough because every thing you do to reduce heat loss in the home will save you money when it comes to the heating bill, and every energy conservation step that you take will help the environment too.

If you have central heating and do not need to heat every room in the house, turn the radiator right down, or off, in those unused rooms. If you find you have a radiator positioned directly under a window, this can be pretty ineffective and a big energy-loss. If this radiator is being used, close the curtains and tuck them in behind the radiator to push the heat back out into the room, there are also heat-reflecting panels which you can put behind and above radiators to produce the same result. Or simply fit a shelf above the radiator and below the window.

Being thrifty is all about looking for those small opportunities – When cooking, if you are going to be using the oven to bake something, what else could you bake at the same time to save using the oven for twice as long? If cooking potatoes and vegetables on the hob, why not get a stacked saucepan/steamer and cook both on the same ring to save using two – and save yourself from using twice as much electricity or gas.

If you have a washing machine and tumble dryer, these are both big energy users – consider hand-washing every once in a while, or drying your clothes on a washing line or dryer frame. Try washing your clothes with a 30 degrees setting instead of 60 or 90 degrees, that alone could halve the cost and amount of energy used! The same goes for dishwashers, if you use one, try to cut back on using it every time you have had a meal and wait until you have a full load or wash by hand instead, every little change helps you to save money and to conserve energy.

If you need to buy a new appliance, you can compare the energy ratings of each appliance to see which will be the most energy-efficient and cost-effective for your needs.

You may also be eligible for an energy-saving grant from the government – check here to see if this applies to you – http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/ – the Energy Saving Trust website also has plenty of advice for those wishing to conserve energy use in the home.

Do you have any tips to share, that will save money on household bills? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below. Thank you.

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