How to minimize food waste and save money

The average consumer throws away around 20 per cent of the groceries they buy every year, often because we don’t use produce before it goes off, or because we are unsure what to do with leftovers (we’ve all been guilty of letting veggies languish in the bottom of the crisper tray too long). However, with a little organization and forward planning, you can reduce food waste and save thousands of dollars every year too.

1 - Shop from your fridge first
Before reaching for the takeaway menu or heading to the shops, have a good look through your pantry and fridge and challenge yourself to make a meal with what you already have. Eggs or beans on toast, ‘loaded’ baked potatoes or simple pizza or pasta dishes are easy and quick to throw together, nutritious, filling and hugely versatile.

2 - Use up food before it goes off
Sounds simple enough but it’s easy to lose track of ‘best before’ dates or allow tins or produce to get lost behind other items. A great way to reduce food waste is to move everything that needs to be used up in the next few days to the front of the pantry or fridge, leave leftovers where you can see them. Anything that won’t get used up in the next day or two can be popped in the freezer.

use me first tag on leftover foodHollyHarry via Shutterstock

3 - Make a list and stick to it
This one is harder than it seems! But setting your budget, writing a list and sticking with it will help you to avoid buying items you don’t need and won’t use, and become a more conscious consumer. Check your fridge and pantry before shopping to avoid doubling up unnecessarily. Shopping online, if it’s an option for you, is useful because you can add and remove to your cart to ensure you’re not going over budget, plus you can check specials and best prices more easily.

4 - Try meal planning
If meal planning sounds too boring, just try doing it for three to four days to start with rather than a week or fortnight. You can even base a loose plan around your main ingredients, e.g. Monday try a vegetarian pasta bake, Tuesday make a chicken dish, Wednesday create a meal with mince and so on. This way you still have flexibility and will avoid dashes to the shops for that ‘one extra ingredient’. You can also swap days around according to what you feel like eating that day.

Meal Planningasiandelight via Shutterstock

5 - Monitor your food waste and set goals
Take note of the items you throw out over the course of a week and look at how these foods could have been better utilized. Are you buying zucchini in the hopes you’ll make something with it, but end up chucking it when it gets slimy at the bottom of the vegetable tray? Remember, small changes add up so by making a few tweaks each week you’ll feel more accomplished and can build on your progress.