10 tips to stop wasting food and boost your savings

10 tips to stop wasting food and boost your savings

Every year, consumers in rich countries are wasting food almost equal to the entire production of sub-Saharan Africa. Aside from being absolutely horrendous for the environment, wasting food is terrible for our bank balances. After all, food is the third largest expense most of us have (after accommodation and transport).


Wasting food


If only there were some way to minimise how much we are wasting food. Well, as luck would have it, Captain Thrifty presents…


10 quick tips to stop wasting food

1. Beware the special offer. Offers like “Buy One Get One Free” seduce us into buying more than we really need. Particularly for those of us with frugal impulses, bulk buys can be a siren call that’s hard to resist. If it ends up going in the bin, though, the only winners are the supermarket’s shareholders (which could be you, of course).

2. Fill your fridge strategically. Yes, really. Due to the way fridges are build, how you order the contents does make a difference. Want to know more? Food Republic has a useful infographic for what to put where.

3. Don’t put everything in the fridge. Some things, like bread, bananas and potatoes actually keep better at room temperature.

4. Watch out for ethylene. Ethylene is a plant hormone that triggers ripening. Some fruit and veg produces it, some is sensitive to it. For example, if you keep carrots and potatoes together, you risk ending up with rotten carrots before you can use them. Check out this handy list to work out what you should store separately.

5. Work with what you have. It can be tempting to go out and buy food to make an exciting new recipe. That’s cool, but complex recipes often leave you with leftover ingredients. The internet can be a real help here if you’re not a natural cook. Sites like SuperCook will let you input your ingredients and find recipes to match what you already have.

6. Monitor your waste. Much like budgeting and tracking expenditure, what gets measured gets managed. I can almost guarantee that for most ordinary people, just tracking how much you are wasting food will come as a shock.

7. Consider preservation. Can it, pickle it, whatever. Enough said.

8. Use your leftovers. Using your leftovers – perhaps even to take to work for lunch can be a good way to save money and avoid wasting food at the same time.

9. Eat the whole thing. My grandma always told me eating the crusts on my bread would give me curly hair on my chest. Leaving aside the dubious science of that – never mind whether it’s actually desirable – eating your bread crusts and the skins of your apples and potatoes is good for you and your bank balance, and will stop you wasting food. Win, win, win.

10. Don’t throw out good food. This may sound super obvious, but don’t be intimidated into throwing out good food just because it has passed a date on the packaging. Understanding the difference between sell-by and use-by dates is particularly important.



So, there we go. Do you do any of these things? Do you have any of your own tips?



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The Captain


GentlemansFamilyFinances Posted on11:04 am - Jul 30, 2018

10 very good tips.

If you think just about the human effort and environmental impact of the whole food system – everything – the fact that the average person wastes so much of their own food is just a tragedy.  And perversely, the foodbank phenomenon in the UK shows how messed up the whole system and our relationship with food is; after all, there is no calorie shortage in the UK.

    The Captain Posted on9:20 pm - Jul 30, 2018

    Hi GFF,

    Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of those areas where there’s a massive synergy between FI, environmentalism, and possibly even morality. And you’re totally right to point out how inefficient the whole thing is at *system* rather than just individual level.

    I never mentioned it in the post, but the vast majority of global food waste is actually pre-retail. The tips above are obviously relevant to the post-retail part of the chain, as this is where the FI wins are to be found. From an environmentalist/system perspective, though, the real big wins are probably further upstream i.e. before the food even hits the shelves.

    As to food banks, I agree there’s no calorie shortage. Again, there’s maybe synergy with the FI movement to be had there. You’ve got to wonder whether in some cases just improving financial literacy could get people to the point of at least food security.

      GentlemansFamilyFinances Posted on10:55 am - Aug 3, 2018

      I have some idea that the whole world wants to eat perfectly presented and packaged food at the time of their choice – whilst the rest of the world is destroyed in the pursuit. In the UK there has been a lot of coverage of wonky veg that supermarkets reject from the farmers because the consumer wants beautiful food.
      Changing personal habits is needed but I don’t know if it’ll happen, so waste will always be with us unfortunately.

        The Captain Posted on4:52 pm - Aug 3, 2018

        If it doesn’t look nice, I’m sure a lot of people mistrust it, though I guess there’s probably others – chiefly in the aspirational parts of the middle class – who would be almost the opposite and think wonky fruit was more “authentic” (whatever that really means).

        Your comment also reminds me of this:


        It’s meant to be a myth buster about how the EU isn’t as dictatorial as some would have it, though the way I read it does still imply a certain amount of fussiness about fruit…

          GentlemansFamilyFinances Posted on8:11 am - Aug 5, 2018

          The system should be better designed to reduce waste – how they do it is up to policy makers, enterprises and consumers- And i think we can only really be responsible for our consumer choices.

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