How to save money on food;

Our top tips on saving money on your food in and beyond Christmas for the New Year.

The Love Food Hate Waste campaign in the UK has found that the average family throws away around £60 worth of food per month, that’s a massive £720 per year! This is not just scraps from the plates but food that is sitting in the fridge that has been forgotten.

This doesn’t just hit our pockets but has a serious impact on the environment as well. Think about the way food is grown, prepared and packaged and how much energy goes into that. The campaign has worked out that if we stopped throwing away all the edible food that we waste each year we could save the equivalent of 17 tonnes of carbon dioxide which would take 1 in every 4 cars off the roads!

So, before you panic and think that you have to stop buying your favourite biscuits or your indulgent cheeses, this blog is not about getting you to eat healthier, it’s about making sure that you are not wasting any of the food that you buy, and in doing so, throwing money in the bin!

Two main reasons for food wastage are that we cook or prepare too much and we don’t eat in time and the most wasted foods are fruit, vegetables, bread and cakes. So, here are a few ways that you can help yourself!

Get to know your fridge and freezer better.

Look in your fridge and check all the use by dates. If you have perishable items which have got some time on them and you don’t fancy them now, then put them in the freezer. Think about what’s most expensive such as meat and fish and try to save them.

Think about the dairy that is in your fridge. If your cheese is heading past their dates, how about grating it and putting it in the freezer, or grating it into breadcrumbs in a pie. Yoghurt can be used as a cereal topper or a smoothie with left over fruit – I’ll bet you have that in the fruit bowl!

When you do your shopping, think about what could go straight into the freezer, put the majority of it in there, and then plan ahead with your evening meals so that you have time to let your food defrost naturally by pulling the necessary items out of the freezer first thing in the morning before you go to work.

Those of us who use our phones for everything, you can take a photo of what is in your fridge before you go shopping so you can easily see what you have in it! Also, there are apps available on the internet to help you with shopping lists and menu planning.

Make the most of your fridge and freezer.

  • Your fridge should be around 3 degrees, any warmer and your food will go off quicker.
  • Your freezer should be around -17 degrees.
  • Don’t put bread in the fridge, it goes stale much faster.
  • Do refrigerate – apples, pears, all the berries and in the packaging they came in.
  • Don’t refrigerate – bananas, pineapples, potatoes or onions. They need to be kept in a cool dark place.
  • Keep everything packaged up, and make sure that if you take it out of its original packaging, that you replace it with something else and keep it sealed.
  • Leftovers should be cool before they go in the fridge, cover them up and they can keep for two days.
  • Food can be frozen before its use by date. Once defrosted, use within 24 hours.

If you are wondering about the use of food labelling, then here is a handy guide.

  • Best before: this refers to quality, not food safety. The food will be at its best before this date. Flavours may fade afterwards but the food will still be okay to eat.
  • Use by: this is for food safety and it is not recommended to eat or drink anything after the date.
  • Display until and sell by: these are not for consumers, but for shop staff.

If you want to know more about food labelling and fridge and freezer savvy, then have a look at the http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/ website.

Look after your store cupboards.

Keep your staples stocked. The tins, packets and jars which can be used to make a tasty meal, should be well stocked in your cupboard, so that you don’t have to rush out to the shop while you are choosing what to eat or in the middle of cooking dinner. So make a note what you have just used and get a replacement when you next shop.

The store-cupboard staples can be used to rustle up a meal with leftovers from the fridge too. Canned tomatoes are always handy for various different meals and rice and pasta go well with almost anything.

Portion control

This is not for dieting, but for making sure you are not wasting your rice and pasta when cooking. Many people are not sure about how much to cook and therefore once they serve up the meal there is normally a handful (a portion) left over. Rather than put it in the bin, carton it up and put it in the freezer for another evening’s meal. It can easily be defrosted and added to the freshly cooked portion. If you are not sure, then start to use cups or mugs to measure rather than your hand and then work out which cup you use for rice for the family in the future.

Bread often gets left over or goes off long before you eat it. So, how about cutting a loaf in half, and put half in the freezer to be brought out when the first half is nearly finished. If you have toast every morning, well put a loaf in the freezer and use that loaf for toast.

For an idea of portion size, we’ve worked out some amounts based on the average two adults and two children family. If you are cooking pasta then it’s approximately 320g. Measure some out and see how closely it resembles your own measurements. If you want rice, then you are looking at approximately 220g or ½ a mug and 5 tablespoons.

Think about your leftovers.

If you like your Sunday roast, then think about what can be done with the leftover meat. Maybe bubble and Squeak the next night, sandwiches for school / work and if you love cooking you could boil up the carcass for soup. Leftovers can be boxed or bagged up and frozen as a meal for anyone eating on their own one evening. If you have infants and toddlers, then those small amounts leftover can be a tasty dinner for them.

Leftover bread can be made into breadcrumbs and frozen. They can be used for stuffing or toppings. Cake and biscuits can be used in the same way. Fruit can be stewed and frozen for sauces and puddings. Bananas don’t freeze well, but can be mashed and used in breakfast muffins or a quick banoffee pie.

Being clever with food is just a matter of thinking before you throw it out and you could surprise yourself with new recipes that you have never tried before. There are several websites out there that you can put in the ingredients you have and they will give you some tasty recipe ideas that you can use with those exact ingredients.

Start to plan

Planning out your meals in advance is one of the most effective ways that you can save money and time. When you go shopping, check your cupboards, fridge and freezer first, so you don’t duplicate.

Write a shopping list! So many people don’t do this and then get to the shops without any idea of what they are going to buy, this leads to over spending and duplication of food already in the house.

If you have a week of meals planned, you can shop specifically for that food and ignore everything else. This can be hard at first and it takes willpower BUT it can save £££ off your shopping bill and actually save you time during the day as you know what you are going to cook so you can get the ingredients out of the freezer first thing.

If you want to look budgeting for the new year then check out our FREE budget planner download, perfect for helping you reach those financial goals you dream of.