Ten tips for making the most of food

The average family of four can save £730 a year by reducing their food waste! Here are our top tips for reducing your food waste and pocketing the difference.  

1. Turn your fridge down 

The average fridge in UK homes is set to 7C, which is far too high for most foods, meaning they go off quicker and get wasted. Checking and changing your fridge temperature to 0–5C can make food last up to three extra days. Use this fridge thermometer tool to find out how to check and adjust your fridge temperature.

2. Shop Smart

Make a shopping list and stick to it! Don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry and you’ll find it easier to avoid impulse buys. Use a scan-as-you-shop device to keep an easy tab on how much you’re spending. Check the use by dates of everything you buy and be careful with offers such as BOGOFs (buy one get one free) as they encourage you to buy more. If you don’t eat the items in time, you’ll be left worse off than before.

3. Store foods correctly

Storing food correctly can prolong its life and mean you’re less likely to find limp lettuce, stale bread or over-ripe bananas lurking in your kitchen. This handy A-Z of Food Storage gives top tips on how best to store food.

In the UK bread, milk and potatoes are among the most likely foods to be thrown out unused. Bread can be frozen for later use (just don’t put it in the fridge where it goes stale faster). Milk can be frozen before its use by date, and potatoes stored in a cool, dry and dark place last for months. Don’t store them with onions however, as gases released by the onions make potatoes sprout faster. (If they do sprout it’s still ok to eat them, just remove the sprouts.)

4. Plan a weekly menu

Planning your weekly meals in advance can seem like a faff but it will help you to shop more sensibly, buying what you need rather than what seems appealing as you wheel a trolley around the supermarket. You can also plan several meals around one key ingredient such as using meat left from a Sunday roast as a second meal the next day.  

5. Use your freezer

Almost all fresh foods except those with a high water content (such as salad leaves and cucumber) can be easily frozen for later use. Store foods in airtight containers, and blanch vegetables by boiling briefly then immersing in ice water and drying thoroughly before freezing. 

6. Use your leftovers creatively

Got egg yolks left after making meringue? Extra meat from the Sunday roast? Stale bread in the bread bin? Limp veg? There are lots of recipes that require leftover ingredients such as soups, omelettes, curries and classics like bread-and-butter pudding. A great source of inspiration is the Love Food Hate Waste Recipe Generator which tells you exactly what you can make from your leftovers.

7. Organise your fridge

An over-full fridge makes it hard to find anything inside it. Ingredients stuck at the back getting close to their use-by date will never be seen and leftovers in a bowl on a high shelf will be easily missed. Organise your fridge so that you can easily see use-by dates on packages and rotate the position of items on each shelf so that those that need to be used first are sitting right at the front to remind you!.

8. Manage portion sizes

Add up all those last few bites of food left on a dinner plate, that bit or rice or pasta that wasn’t eaten and is now stuck to the bottom of the pot, and the crusts of bread left behind by the kids, and you’ll realise that this hidden food waste is costing you a lot of money. By managing your portion sizes so that everything gets eaten or cutting off the crusts to use in another recipe will save you a lot of money in the long run.

9. Batch cook

Cooking a large quantity of food once a week not only means you’ll have the joy of realising you don’t have to cook when you come in late from work, but also cuts food waste by allowing you to use up ingredients and freeze them in individual portions so you have just the right amount when you need it. If you’re looking for ideas, we love Jack Monroe’s ‘cooking on a bootstrap’ recipes.

10. Understand ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates

Use by dates are about food safety and food or drink should not be used past this date, even if it looks and smells fine.

Best before dates are about quality. The food won’t be harmful if eaten after this date but its texture or flavour may not be at its peak. Bear this in mind and you’ll find yourself throwing away far less food.

For more tips on cooking and growing nutritious food with zero waste, sign up to our monthly newsletter.

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