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Clever ways to get organised and save money on food

Clever ways to get organised and save money on food

Loaf of bread in organised kitchen

Did you know that in the UK we throw away 10 million tonnes of food each year? Pretty shocking isn’t it? Especially when you consider that an estimated 8 million people are currently living in food poverty in the UK – a figure that is only set to rise as a result of the cost of living crisis.

But there are many things we can do to become more mindful of our food consumption, reduce waste and save money. By becoming a little more organised and adopting a few new habits, we can all make a difference to our pocket. Here are my tried and tested favourites:

Plan ahead

Planning meals in advance saves time, money and reduces food waste. It also makes it much easier to eat a healthier diet. Just follow these simple steps: Decide what meals you want to eat each day for the following week and write them down. Then make a list of ingredients you’ll need. Because you’ve decided what your meals are going to be, it’s really easy to then make a shopping list, cross-referencing with what you already have in the fridge. Food shopping will be much easier as you are not having to shop and think of meal ideas at the same time, plus you will buy only the things you really need.

Store food well

How you store food really can have a bearing on how much money you spend. In my job as a Professional Organiser, I see so much waste because cupboards are cluttered and food items can’t be found easily. If you can’t see what you’ve already got, you are much more likely to make duplicate purchases and let existing food go to waste. So to start, make sure that all food is visible and easy to access. Group like with like, e.g. all canned food together, then by contents, e.g. baked beans, tinned tomatoes, etc. Try to store in date order – with near date items at the front of the cupboard/fridge. Store taller items at the back of cupboards (risers can be useful for this) so that they don’t obscure smaller items. Label and date freezer food…trust me you WILL forget what’s in those freezer bags!

Batch cook from scratch

This has been a real game changer for me. I save so much time and effort by cooking double portions of meals and either refrigerating or freezing. Not everything lends itself to freezing but lots of comforting meals do, including curries, stews, slow-cooker meals and pasta sauces, etc. Because you’re cooking from scratch, you’re also much less likely to buy expensive, highly processed ready-meals. Batch cooking also lends itself to buying in bulk, which is a more economical way to buy food. I have to admit that I love the evenings where I don’t have to make a meal from scratch and can just pull something out of the fridge, reheat and supplement with veggies or a salad.

Buy frozen

I was never a fan of buying frozen – until I realised that frozen food is often half the price of fresh and lasts much longer. This especially applies to frozen fruit and vegetables, which are just as nutritious as fresh and easy and quick to prepare with no wastage. Cook just as much as you need, putting the rest back in the freezer for another day, so your food is being stretched further. I use frozen veg for soups, stews and casseroles. Frozen fruit is great for desserts, baking, smoothies and cereal topping, especially when fresh fruit is out of season. Make sure the food in your freezer are grouped by type – meat, fish, veg, etc. and use tubs or sturdy bags to carve up the space

Reduce meat

There are health and environmental reasons for reducing meat consumption, but it’s a good way to save money too. Meat is often the most expensive item in the shopping trolley, so even if you only have one meat free day per week, you could be saving money. You could also try reducing the size of the meat portion on other days and replace with extra vegetables, pulses or grains instead.

Know your dates

When it comes to food consumption and safety, do you know the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates? Best before relates to the quality of the food rather than safety. The use by date determines whether it is safe to eat. According to W.R.A.P (Waste and Resources Action Programme) items such as crisps, biscuits and cakes can last between one and six months after their best before date. If in doubt, you can always do a basic sight and smell check to determine if the food really is beyond redemption. So don’t bin it until you’ve sniffed it!

Love your leftovers

According to Friends of the Earth, the average family spends £470 on thrown away food, with bread being the item most wasted. So what can you do with bread that has gone a little hard? Toast it, make eggy bread or breadcrumbs, make crispbread or croutons for soup, make Summer or bread puddings…and if all else fails, feed it to the birds!

There are other ways to reduce food waste more generally. Put soon-to-expire foods into their own compartment in the fridge. Make sure everyone else knows that these foods are to be grabbed first for a snack or lunch. Use up vegetables by making soups, pasta sauces or adding to new meals. Omelettes and Frittatas are my go-to for using up salad leaves left in the fridge and tomatoes get chucked in to a tray into the oven (only when the oven is already on) with olive oil, rosemary and chunks of anything else that happens to be lurking!

I hope this has given you a few ideas. Just adopting one or two new habits can build up to a decent saving over time. Let me know how you get on!

Need more help?

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