Eight simple ways to reduce food waste

Miss Thrifty24 January 10, 2014

8 ways to reduce food waste

The average UK family is throwing away almost an entire meal daily, and wasting nearly £60 a month.  So if you are looking to save money this January, take a look in your fridge. I hate food waste, and I wrote up eight of my favourite tips and ideas for Tesco Living. You can view the full list here, but these are some of my favourites.

Invest in a slow cooker. (Well, you know I love my slow cooker!) Inexpensive and simple to use, slow cookers are a great way to cut down on food waste. They turn your leftovers, along with any meat and fish that you have hanging around, into delicious soups or stews. Add your ingredients to the pot in the morning, then come home in the evening to a delicious dinner. I recommend the 3.5L Morphy Richards slow cooker (currently reduced to £22.49 on Amazon UK), which is large enough to feed a family and has three heat settings, plus a removable aluminium bowl to make washing-up easier. If you are a first-time user, you can pick up a slow cooker recipe book for less than £5.

Turn leftovers into pies. Alternatively, I throw all my leftover or ageing vegetables into a pastry-lidded vegetable pie:  I use a simple recipe from Delia’s Vegetarian Collection (you can find my “frugalised” version of the recipe here). You can also draw inspiration from the Pieminster book. A superb recipe called Leftovers Pie is guaranteed to use up all the leftover meat and vegetables you have in the house.

Battle garden pests. Cucumber on the turn? If you have a plant under attack from slugs or other bugs, slice the cucumber and place it as close to the plant as you can, on an aluminium pie case or piece of tin foil. The cucumber reacts with the aluminium to create an undetectable odour that is kryptonite to garden beasties.

Put a sponge in your salad drawer. Place a clean, dry sponge in your salad drawer, to absorb excess moisture. This simple idea means that foods that are prone to mould and mush, such as strawberries and tomatoes, stay fresher for longer.

Upcycle old fruit into cakes and jams. When bananas soften and blacken, turn them into delicious banana bread. When apples and berries soften, turn them into crumble or jam. Although it isn’t a fruit, it’s worth saying that old root ginger – and let’s face it, everyone seems to have a hard, withered chunk at the back of the fridge – can also be turned into a delectable toast topping. This blog features a great reader recipe for rhubarb and ginger compote.

Your freezer is your friend. If you waste food because you can’t eat it all in time – say, if you live in a small household and always end up with half a loaf of mouldy bread, or if your favourite recipes fill the fridge with opened tins –  don’t under-estimate what can be preserved in the deep freeze. I freeze everything from opened cartons of passata and ground coffee, to cakes and packets of butter. Herbs freeze particularly well: I freeze bay leaves and curry leaves whole, to preserve their freshness, alongside freezer bags filled with chopped mint and parsley.

You can read the full rundown of my tips on the Tesco Living website.

I’ll bet that if you’re a Miss Thrifty reader, you have a few nifty tips of your own up your sleeve. I’d love to learn more and share some of the best ideas, so please leave a comment on this post if you know of anything I have missed…


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24 Responses to “Eight simple ways to reduce food waste

Mary says:

Very helpful article, thank you! Just a couple of points, the Morphy Richards slow cooker has a non stick aluminum bowl, not a ceramic one – I bought one on your recommendation last year and it’s fantastic! Also, tomatoes should never be kept in the fridge – it ruins their chemical composition and thence their flavour.

January 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

April b says:

I keep root ginger in the freezer then cut off as much as I need for a recipe so don’t have the problem of it going mouldy in the fridge.

January 10, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Amie says:

I love reading this blog! There’s only two of us in our household so when I buy onions (cheaper in larger packs) I like to dice them and place them into individual bags where I freeze them. That way, none of them go off in the cupboard and they are readily chopped whenever I come to do some cooking!

January 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Jilly Moulton says:

Just made ‘Bottom of the fridge’ soup. Leftover kale & vine tomatoes from last night’s supper Plus stir-fry veg on its last legs. Add oxo veg stock, heat whizz, eat! Delish (although a rather alarming colour!). More for future lunches in the freezer.

January 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Louise Darcy says:

Thanks for the tip with the sponge I will try that. I have just had a freezer audit and meal planned for the week. I am trying to use what I already have in and only spend £10 on milk and bread (family of 5) I’ve done it before and saved a weekly shopping bill. Meal planning is the best though as you only buy what you need, takes the stress out of deciding what to make and you can often take the leftovers for lunch.

January 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Jane says:

My tip is with regards to root ginger. When you buy a root, cut it into useable pieces and then freeze the pieces. This way you always have fresh ginger in useable sizes always available. It is difficult to cut a whole frozen root.

January 10, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Amandah says:

Hi Miss Thrifty
SO SO glad you did this post. I’m a single lady & even though I do let a few things go to waste from time to time, 90% of the time I freeze stuff.
It still beggers belief that people still don’t use their freezers as much as they could do to cut down on food waste.
When I buy more than one loaf of bread (I’ll mini stock pile when my Gluten & Wheat free bread is on offer, coz it ain’t cheap) 2 immediately go into the freezer, whilst the one in use goes in the cupboard.

Another way to soak up that pesky water in the salad draw or in your fruit punnets, is to put in 1-2 sheets of a GOOD quality Kitchen Towel.
I began doing this 2 years ago and it has saved me so much from ‘mouldy-too-quickly’ Salad, Veg & Fruit.

I also do the herbs etc. freezing :Garlic, Coriander, chillis, Butternut Squash, excess gravy, the list goes on. This way I always have those essential ingredients to hand as I cook a lot!!

January 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Miss Thrifty says:

Wow, some really interesting comments – thanks guys!

Mary – you are right, it is an aluminium bowl. I don’t why I listed it as ceramic, when I have already posted about that bowl in loving detail on another post! I have corrected the post. That is also an intriguing point about tomatoes. I hadn’t heard that before. I am very very tempted to carry out an experiment for the purposes of this blog…

April B & Jane – you two are GENIUSES. I have never thought to do freeze root ginger, despite freezing most of what I buy. Thank you! I sense another post in the works. Gosh, I love you lot… 😉

Amie – do you fry the onions first? I am wondering because I know that some people do, and some don’t. What works best, in terms of keeping texture & flavour, I wonder?

Jilly – I have never heard of the Bottom of the Fridge Soup, but love the idea and I am totally going to try it. Once my salad drawers have something in them other than spring onions and lemons, that is. I’m not so sure about that particular taste combination.

Louise – I quite agree. I tend to shop for a month’s worth of food at a time, which makes planning difficult unless there is lots of contingency built in for changed shifts, short-notice outings and the like. So I’m in a halfway house at the moment: partly planned, partly freestyle baby.

Amandah – I am loving your comments on the Miss Thrifty Blog. The kitchen towel is a good idea. My mum used to do that when we were growing up. Maybe I’ll do a moist-off with kitchen towel and sponge, and see which works best. In the meantime, when is the Amandah Blog launching? I want to read. 😉

January 13, 2014 at 1:07 pm

em says:

We are a bit rubbish sometimes at leaving things to languish in our fridge but my boyf is a whiz in the kitchen and turns most of the left over fridge stuff into soups in our house. My trick would be to freeze any bananas that are bit beyond their best for baking with. Once they defrost they are a perfect mush to turn into banana bread.

January 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Joy says:

I always wrap carrots individually in a single sheet of tissue (as in Kleenex). I then put them into an open ended plastic bag and into the salad drawer. They last for a couple of weeks at least like this. In order not to use too much tissue, I separate the sheets into their constituent layers. Thrifty indeed! !

January 13, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Amandah says:

Loool! Thanks Miss Thrifty.
It’s good to find a worthy blog that is funny, quirky, informative & done often.
Hence why I follow you.
As for my own blog?……think I’ll leave that up to the experts like you & Lucys Stash (she’s a nail art blogger). I wouldn’t have a clue & probably no time ether, what with studying, helping to run a class of 28 (with an additional 27 added on come Free Flow time) and my Card making/designing.
But I’ll add tips etc. where I can.
Looking forward to the weeks ahead with what ever you have planned 🙂

January 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Alex says:

I love the idea that our freezers are our friends. They are a good source for saving. I should probably defrost mine soon though because the poor chap has been overloaded with leftovers etc.
A slow cooker is a good one too, and I’m getting one as a gift soon so I’ll be doubly fortunate!

January 20, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Kim says:

Love the article, but instead of spending £5 on a slow cooker book why not pop down to your local library and borrow several for free, then you can choose the recipies you like and copy them.

January 27, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Emma Thompson says:

Great post 🙂

I hate throwing food away and always try to reuse it in anyway possible. One leftover recipe I love to do is bubble and squeak tastes so good!

I’ve not had my slow cooker long but agree its great for using leftovers up. I got the Morphy Richards one also I actually did a review of it here http://www.cookbakeeat.com/morphy-richards-48703-slow-cooker-review/ if anyone is thinking of getting one.

February 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Mevsim says:

In Turkey there are never leftovers! Any leftover veg is mixed up with a bit of feta cheese or spiced mashed potato (curry spices do well), wrapped in Yufka to make a cigar shaped roll (which is a kind of filo pastry and that does just as well….or you could even use pancakes, if you can’t find either). The pastry rolls are lightly fried in olive oil. A perfect snack or lunchbox item or nibbles with wine. Traditionally they are made with feta cheese and chopped parsley, but in reality everything leftover is chucked in. They are called Sigara Boregi (ie like cigars) http://mideastfood.about.com/od/dessertssweetspastries/r/sigaraboregi.htm. And I haven’t met a child that didn’t like them!

March 10, 2014 at 10:32 am

Miss Thrifty says:

Mevsim: sounds like a great idea and I will be trying it! Filo is quite pricey around here, but I will keep my eye out or try making it myself. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

March 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Mevsim says:

If you have any middle eastern food shops then Yufka is sold in massive quantities and not too expensive usually (in the south it isn’t bad). Filo is a bit more flaky and I definitely wouldn’t recommend puff pastry – although you could bake it and make ‘sausage rolls’! Here’s a recipe for yufka http://www.indiajoze.com/ftcookery/recipes/2_mezeler/borek_yufka.htm although I have never heard of anyone making it as it is a bit like making pasta dough. It has to be very thinly rolled.

My mum used to do something similar with pancakes and bake with a cheese sauce and call it ‘cannelloni’. I didn’t realise it wasn’t until I was an adult!

March 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Jeanette says:

Great tips! I always stick my ginger straight into the freezer and grate it as I need it, chillies too, otherwise I never get around to using them before they turn.
Also bananas, my hubby is T2 diabetic and while bananas sustain him during the day at work where his job is v physical, I can’t let him eat ones that are too ripe as they’re just too high in sugar. So what I do is just as the last couple of uneaten bananas begin to over ripen, I peel them and pop them in a sandwich bag and stick them in the freezer. I usually break them in 1/2 first, this way if someone fancies a smoothie, the Frozen bananas are perfect! Saves having to add ice to it too.

August 7, 2016 at 6:29 am

The sponge in the fridge with the veg is a belting idea!! I tend to throw any spare veg getting close to date straight into a soup!

December 9, 2016 at 9:42 am

Miss Thrifty says:

That one seems to tickle a lot of people! While I can’t claim credit for the idea, I reckon I’ve done my bit to popularise it in the UK over the past few years. 🙂

December 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Slow cookers are great. I got mine at argos for 12 quid and cannot fault it. If you’d like a few simple recipes to start you off, I blogged mine at https://flashsays.com/2014/01/05/foolproof-recipes/

Banana bread is wonderful as you say. I use this simple one-pot recipe from masterchef Australia. All I would do different is, after an hour put tin foil on the top, then cook another 20 mins till skewer comes out clean. Otherwise if you stop when the top is done, the middle is raw, but if you go longer without a tin foil cover it will burn. Don’t let that put you off! Quick to prep, only one bowl to wash, and sooooo tasty: https://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/masterchef/recipes/rockstar-banana-bread-or-muffins

January 30, 2017 at 3:33 pm

The slow cooker has been our friend lately. Not only does it help with budgeting food costs, but time as well. We have strange work schedules but with a slow cooker we can set it and forget it (pardon the Ronco pun).

November 2, 2017 at 8:07 pm

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