How to stop throwing money and food away

Most Sundays I make a ‘clear the fridge’ soup. I don’t follow a recipe but I use it as an excuse to empty my fridge, give it a good wipe and make something from the odds and ends that are in there.

I like to start the week with an empty fridge so I know I’ve not wasted anything. Food waste sends me bonkers. On a basic level I hate the thought of wasting money on food I don’t eat. The only reason I can afford to buy good quality organic ingredients and well-raised meat and fish is because, hand on heart, none of it is wasted.

On a higher level, I hate the thought of all the wasted resources spent growing/making and transporting that food only for it to end up in the trash. We throw away a third of the food that we produce globally, in the US it is 40%. Just horrible. Near where we live in California we can drive past field upon field of crops being grown with precious water and being picked by people who are bent over in the searing sun all day. I think of them when I have food that I’m not sure what to do with. I rarely throw anything away and I’d love it if you could try to join me.

How I minimise waste:

1. Menu plan, menu plan, menu plan

If I buy things without a menu plan, I buy things I don’t need. If I buy things I don’t need, I don’t use them. Simple. Read more about how to write and stick to a menu plan here.

2. Sunday clear out

On Sunday or whatever day you grocery shop (and we’ve spoken about only doing it once a week haven’t we?) go into your fridge. Pull out all your perishable stuff (dairy, deli stuff, fruit and veg etc) and have a good look at what you have. When your fridge is pretty empty, give the shelves a quick wipe with some hot soapy water or an antibac wipe. I bet you can make another day or two of meals (and a save a chunk of your budget) from what you have. If you have a store cupboard that is pretty well stocked with pasta, beans and flavour-boosters then you should be able to create something easily. I tend to make:

  • A big, chopped mixed salad is usually a winner for me.
  • Or a big pan of soup.
  • Try making pesto with any random greens and herbs. You can use it in a sandwich tomorrow, stir it through pasta or some cooked vegetables or use it to stir through your soup.
  • Make my end of the week veggie stew
  • Make a frittata from whatever random vegetables, herbs and ends of cheese you need to use

3. Challenge yourself 

Use your pile of randomness in one or two dishes. What is the worst that can happen? At best you’ve made dinner out of things you’d usually throw away. Who cares if your kids don’t eat it (it was going in the rubbish bin anyway) so be a bit brave with the flavors and combinations you use. If you’re looking for inspiration, just search my recipes for the main ingredients you have.

4. Use your freezer

Rather than leaving leftovers to fester in the fridge, pack them properly in containers like these, label them and freeze them. I’m much more inclined to eat leftovers a week or two after I have the original meal that spawned them. And it is always lovely to have a meal with minimal prep on a day your fingers would usually hover over a take out menu.

5. Learn if things are bad or not

If a vegetable or herb is a bit floppy it can still be cooked. Things on or past their use by date are usually fine as long as they don’t have any mold or strange smells. If in doubt, do what our great-grandmas did and give it a sniff!

For more ideas of how to cut food waste read this.