We all know we waste too much food, and as a mum, it’s not easy to stop feeding the bin.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that over 7.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK a year, so what can we, as a family, do to try and stop it?
I bang on about this a lot but meal planning can save you hundreds!
Write a menu for the week then plan your shopping list around it. If you don’t have time to do on ‘shopping day’ then do it throughout the week. So every time you use something, write it back on the list and plan your meals that way. (Works well if your kids only eat the same two meals, like mine!)
Start by making an inventory of all your food, remembering to check for lunch and snack items too. Keep on top of what needs using. Your meal plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. If something is going off then use that first.
Only buy what you need, and check the cupboards and freezer as well. It sounds obvious but there’s no point buying just to keep the freezer full. Is there anything that you could use this week?
I have a repertoire of meals that make use of random left overs, such as soup, veggie omelets, pasta bakes and stir fries. Make pasta sauces, curry sauces and soup from leftovers. All can be prepped the night before or made quite quickly with a whiny toddler around your ankles.
Get inventive. My kids won’t touch anything green, so everything gets grated. I am one of those “chuck it all in and see what happens” cooks, and for kids, this is the best way to be.
So what if it doesn’t look like your normal Saturday night curry or your Spaghetti Bolognese is really just tomato puree with grated veg? If it works and stops the waste, then try it.
For more inspiration, have a look at my £1 meal ideas.
Measure Out Portions
Pasta, cereal, and rice; anything that’s hard to measure by eye can be weighed. It takes the guess work out and stops you adding an extra handful because it doesn’t look enough.
Check Your Fridge Temperature
Milk and other perishables go off quicker in heat, so make sure your fridge is set between 0-5C.
Love Your Freezer
Freeze before bin is my motto. (Yes, I am that sad.)
Freeze bread, cook food past its best and freeze it via portion size.
I also buy as many of my vegetables frozen as possible. That way I can put as much or little as I want. Mushrooms, peppers, mixed vegetables even onions! The plus side is they’ve already bee cut and can be chucked in with anything straight from frozen.
Anything left over gets frozen for the next day.
Which leads me on too….
I’ve pre-dished up food for the past four years, but last month I let the kids pick their own. It’s been a lifesaver. They now pick what they want (however small) and I can still use the rest of leftovers.
Use Common Sense
We all get confused about sell by and use by dates. I still do, especially in the discount stores.
Using your senses is the best advice I can give. Does it look off? Smell bad?
The only time I don’t use this method is with eggs, obviously.
Revive Fruit and Vegetables
Anything going off goes into my stock pop which I keep to make stocks or soups, peelings included.
Ready meals are now a no go, as I make my own. (I promise, I’m not a good chef, a just enjoy cooking.) Nothing gets thrown that could be eaten, even if that includes eating a meal with food that may not traditionally go together.
Bananas are a real pain in my house, especially it’s the only fruit the youngest will eat, but they go off so quick!
I use Supercook a lot for inspiration. You just type in the foods you have left over and it will come up with some great recipes.
I find that storing my fruit and veg properly extends their life.
Iceberg lettuce lasts longer if I wrap it in kitchen towel then pop it back in its poly bag and squeeze all the air out. It stays nice and crisp right to the last leaf!
Take potatoes and carrots out of their plastic bags and keep them somewhere dark.
Put things like salads in the fridge as soon as you get home.
Filtered milk seems to last longer than ordinary milk. Refresh bread and bakery items by putting them in the oven for a few minutes. Experiment! See what works.
Loyalty doesn’t pay.
Use markets and local shops so that you can buy just the amount you need. Local butchers will often do a deal for you on the meats and you can then freeze in the quantities in which you will use them.
If you don’t have a discount supermarket near you then don’t drive to it, as there’s a chance the difference will end up costing you more!
I can now our shop down to under £18 a week if I have too. It’s not easy, but reducing our waste has helped keep more money in our pockets.
Have you tried any of these? Is waste a bit issues for your family? We’re getting better, but what tricks have you found to reduce your waste?