1. Shop smart
Shop smarter with these top tips:
- Write a shopping list so you only buy what you need. Keep a pen and notepad in the kitchen, or download a free shopping list app here – it will help
you keep track of items as they run out.
- Buy foods that can be used for several different dishes
– it will give you flexibility to create different meals.
- Look for food with the longest use by date or fresh foods which can be frozen in case you don’t eat them in time.
- Buy local, seasonal food – it’s often cheaper, supports the local economy and has travelled fewer food miles.
- Avoid BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) deals if you don’t think you’ll eat the free item before its use by date.
2 . Meal planning
Whether you live alone or in a large household, planning your meals will save you time and money and help you make the most out of the food you buy.
Research shows that people who plan their weekly shop are less likely to over-buy.
Before you go shopping, have a meal plan in mind and check your fridge, freezer and cupboards to see what you need and what needs using up.
If it seems daunting, start off with planning a couple of meals a week and then build up as you go.
3. Be a freezer hero!
You can freeze pretty much everything! Some items change texture once defrosted so they may be better suited for cooking with instead. Did you know you can freeze:
- hard cheese
- eggs, including boiled eggs
- bananas: peel and wrap them or place in an airtight container before freezing
- baked goods
- rice: read our safety tips here
Anything with a high water content such as strawberries and tomatoes will go squishy but are still fine to cook with.
Frozen strawberries are ideal for blending into smoothies!
When you get home with your shopping, transfer as much as you can straight into the freezer. If you have large packets of meat or fish, divide them up into reusable airtight containers or freezer bags and freeze.
Liquids expand when frozen so make sure there is enough room to avoid spillages. It’s a good idea to write the contents on the bag or container so you know what it is in 2 months’ time.
Never re-freeze defrosted raw meat (including poultry) or fish without cooking it first. Once defrosted, it must be cooked and cooled before refreezing.
You can only re-freeze cooked meat and fish once.
Scenario: You defrost raw mince and make spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. Can you freeze the leftovers?
If you said yes, you are correct! As long as the food is cooled before freezing, you can refreeze the leftovers to eat another time.
Frozen raw foods can be defrosted once and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours before they need to be cooked. www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-store-food-and-leftovers/
4. Know your dates
No food lasts forever in perfect condition, however well it is stored. Most foods carry either a “use by” or a “best before” date, or both.
34% of people admit to throwing away food because it had gone past its “use by” or “best before” date.
“Use by” dates refer to food safety. Officially, food and drink should not be consumed after the “use by” date – it can look and smell fine but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat, especially meat and fish. It’s always best to plan meals around “use by” dates, or freeze any food that won’t be used in time.
“Best before” dates are for foods with a longer life and refer to food quality. They show how long the food will be at its best. Eating food past its “best before” date is not dangerous, but it may lose its flavour or texture.
5. Portion size
One of the main causes of wasted food is from cooking too much. It’s easily done – it doesn’t look like much and we fear not having enough to go around, so we make a bit more to be sure.
Even if you plan to use leftovers for another meal, they can sometimes get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about.
Portion planning will make sure you only cook what you need.
As a guide, here are the standard portion sizes suitable for one person for one meal:
- 75g uncooked dried pasta
- 75g uncooked rice
- 65-100g of chicken
- 65-100g of beef
- 150g white fish
- 80g vegetables
After you have weighed your uncooked rice or pasta the first time, pour into a mug and make note of the volume filled. Next time you cook again, pour straight into the same mug up to the level as before. No need to weigh every time!