How to waste less food and save money at the same time

The average UK household wastes £470 per year by throwing away food (Photo: Shutterstock)The average UK household wastes £470 per year by throwing away food (Photo: Shutterstock)
The average UK household wastes £470 per year by throwing away food (Photo: Shutterstock)

Collectively, UK residents throw away seven million tonnes of wasted food and drink every year, according to Food Standards Agency figures. The majority of this discarded food is completely safe to eat.

As well as the environmental impact and ethical dilemma this level of food wastage causes, there's also the financial element to consider. The amount of food and drink thrown away costs the average UK household £470 per year.

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If you, like many, you would like to cut down on the amount of food you are wasting (while also saving a little bit of extra cash in the process), here are some tips on how to do it.

Meal plan

If you plan out all of your meals on a weekly basis (or monthly, if you prefer), it means that you will know exactly how much food you need to buy, rather than guessing and potentially buying far too much.

Factor in any plans you might already have to dine out, and then decide what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.

There are plenty of varied recipes available for free online to inspire you, or you can just stick with your tried and trusted favourites.

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Meal planning before you go food shopping will help you to only buy what you need (Photo: Shutterstock)

Write a shopping list

This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times have you left the house without a shopping list and come home with lots of items you didn't plan to buy and - more importantly - without everything you needed.

You'll save money (not to mention time) and avoid wasting food if you just write a list before you head to the supermarket.

Stick to your meal plan

You might be tempted to stray away from your planned evening meal in favour of a takeaway or meal out, but always remember that the food you planned to eat will probably end up going to waste.

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From a financial perspective, you have already paid for your meal - why spend more money on extra food?

Dedicate time to meal preparation

To keep your life as easy as possible, make sure to dedicate time (even just a few hours per week) to food preparation, looking towards the week ahead.

This could involve anything from cooking up several portions of bolognese sauce to go in the freezer, to chopping up vegetables to eat as snacks during the week. The more prep you do, the easier it will be to stick to your meal plan and avoid wasting food.

If you can, donate any unwanted food to a local food bank so that it does not go to waste (Photo: Shutterstock)

Know the difference between 'use by' and 'best before'

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Foods which can quickly go off and become unsafe to eat (such as raw meat or dairy products) often have a 'use by' date printed on their packaging. Once this date has passed, it is inadvisable to eat the food (unless it was frozen before the use by date).

However, 'best before' dates are not quite as strict. Sometimes foods that have been properly stored can still be fresh and perfectly safe to eat after their best before date.

Bread, fruit and vegetables are the most commonly thrown away foods, so make sure to pay attention to the freshness of the food itself, rather than just binning it because the best before date has passed.

Use your freezer

If you are lucky enough to have a freezer, use it to reduce the amount of food you are wasting.

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Meat, fish, bread and many other fresh food products with short shelf lives can all be frozen and used at a later date.

For example, if you have several bananas that will soon go off, peel them and freeze them (in a suitable container) rather than throwing them away. These can then be used to make smoothies or desserts further down the line.

Use your freezer to eliminate food waste and to be more prepared (Photo: Shutterstock)

Donate unwanted food

Whether you give any food you know you will not use to family and friends, or donate it to a local food bank, you can make sure that it does not go to waste.

Eat your leftovers

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We are all guilty of putting our leftovers in the fridge and never looking at them again - until they are no longer edible and it's time to scrape them into the bin and wash the container.

Where possible, try to take your leftovers to work for lunch, or freeze them (if it is safe to do so) to enjoy on another day.

Challenge yourself to use what you have

Most of us have plenty of dry ingredients (such as rice or pasta) in our cupboards that we rarely use up completely.

Challenge yourself to go through your cupboards and fridge regularly and put together a meal using just what you have - Ready Steady Cook style.