Six steps to reducing food waste at home

It’s easy to reduce the amount of food you throw out. Follow these six steps and you’ll be saving money (and the planet) in no time.

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Our Food Smart program is a six-step program with tips and handy resources to help you and your family reduce food waste, save money and help the environment.

Step 1 - Know your waste
Knowing how much food you throw away is one of the best ways to motivate yourself to take action. To work it out, take a container and put all your food waste in it, including plate scraps, leftovers and food that’s gone bad. Measure how full the container is after two days and make a note of the amount, so you can compare your results later on.

Step 2 - Plan your meals
A bit of planning will not only save you time and money, but also help you and your family enjoy a healthy and balanced diet. Best of all, you won’t need to worry about what’s for dinner after a busy day. 

  • Think about what meals you’d like to cook for the week ahead and write down the ingredients for each recipe.
  • How you plan meals is up to you. You can start by planning three dinners or every meal for the whole week.
  • Think about what ingredients can be used in more than one meal, such as mince in spaghetti bolognaise one night and tacos another night.
  • Check what you already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards that can be used up.
  • When cooking meals like soups and stews, consider whether you can freeze the extra portions. That way you just need to reheat them for an easy meal another time.

Watch our video for more meal planning tips

Step 3 - Shop with a list
Here are our tips for a successful shopping trip.

  • Make a list of what you need before you go, including ingredients from your planned meals and a check of the fridge and pantry to make sure you’re not doubling up.
  • Only buy in bulk if you have enough room at home to store it correctly and can use it before it spoils.
  • Include fruit and vegetables that are in season, as they keep fresher for longer and are usually cheaper.
  • Don’t forget to grab your reusable shopping bags before you go grocery shopping.
  • It’s a good idea not to shop when you’re hungry, as it’s much harder to resist impulse buys.

Step 4 - Perfect portions
Cooking or preparing the right amount of food is one of the best ways to save money and reduce food waste. You can follow a recipe or use a serving size calculator to measure the amount of food you need. Our hands are also a ‘handy’ guide to show how much we need to cook.

  • Potatoes, rice, pasta and legumes should be the size of your clenched fist.
  • Fruit, nuts and seeds should be the size of one cupped hand.
  • Vegetables and greens should equal two cupped hands.
  • Meat and eggs should be the size and thickness of your palm.
  • Cheese, spreads and dressings should be the size of your thumb.

Watch our video to learn more about perfect portions or visit Love Food Hate Waste UK for their handy portion planner.

Step 5 - Keep it fresh
Storing food correctly will keep it fresher for longer, so you can reduce the amount of food (and money) that you throw away. It also preserves the nutrients in your food and keeps it tasting delicious. Here are some tips to keep your food fresh.

Fridge

  • Make sure the temperature is between three and four degrees Celsius and check the door seals are working.
  • Wait for food to stop steaming before putting it away, so your fridge doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Keep food covered or stored in sealed containers, to keep it fresher for longer.
  • Keep vegetables from wilting by wrapping them in paper towels to absorb the moisture, then replace the paper towels every few days.

Watch our video for tips on making the most of your fridge

Freezer

  • Make sure the temperature is set to minus 18 degrees Celsius and check the door seals are working.
  • Freeze food in sealed containers, wrap it in foil or use reusable zip lock bags to avoid freezer burn and contamination.
  • Label containers with the date and store food in single or family size portions, so you only need to defrost what you need.

Pantry

  • Use airtight containers for storing rice, flour, cereal, grains, nuts, sugar and pasta.
  • Keep bread at room temperature rather than in the fridge. If you don’t think you’ll finish the loaf before it goes stale, stick it in the freezer.
  • Keep pantry items away from direct sunlight and heat sources like the oven, as they’ll deteriorate more quickly.
  • Store jam, tomato products, long-life milks, sauces and cans in the pantry and once opened, place in the fridge.

Step 6 - Love your leftovers
Leftovers can make a quick, easy and delicious meal. You’ll give the food in your fridge a second chance and reduce your shopping bill too. All it takes is a staple like rice or pasta and a bit of creativity to create an entirely new meal.

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container and place them in the fridge once they’re cool.
  • If you won’t eat leftovers within three days, stick them in the freezer so you always have home-cooked meals ready to go.
  • Before eating your leftovers, make sure you heat them till they’re piping hot.
  • When planning your meals, check what leftovers you have that need to be used up.
  • For recipe ideas, download the Cumberland Council Love Your Leftovers app. Or visit Love Food Hate Waste UK or Love Food Hate Waste Victoria

Watch our video for more tips on loving your leftovers