Save money on food shopping and reduce food wastage

We often find ourselves buying too much food, having ingredients that we don't know what to do with, or simply cooked too much and ended up throwing away the lot. But if we do take some time to plan ahead, throw in a little imagination and a handful of adventurous experiments, we can save lots of money whilst reducing food wastage.

  1. Plan ahead. Have a menu for the week
  2. Prepare a shopping list
  3. How much can you put in your refrigerator?
  4. Shop more frequently if you can
  5. Check out the marked down corner first
  6. BUT beware of unwanted marked down items
  7. Separate and freeze food in small portions
  8. Cook in bulk and freeze some for future
  9. Make your own condiments and sauce base
  10. Make full use of leftover food
  11. Grow your own herbs
  12. Make compost

Plan ahead. Have a menu for the week

You'll be surprised how organised people can save the most money from food. Jan, a user of says that she is extremely organised, to a point where she has her family's weekly menu planned out a week ahead. She will then do her shopping according to her menu, and they are planned in such a way that many of the ingredients can be shared between different dishes so that she won't end up having an odd item which she can't cook with any of the other ingredients. "Call me anal," says Jan, "but it has saved me so much money as well as the time and stress going through the supermarket aisles wondering what to buy."

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Prepare a shopping list

Before you head out for the supermarket, spend some time to do a thorough check in your kitchen so that you know what you are out of, and what you really need. Make a shopping list of the items so that you don't spend more than you need to. You certainly don't want to end up buying something that you still have loads stacked up in the kitchen cabinet.

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How much can you put in your refrigerator?

Take a mental snapshot of the interior of your refrigerator and freezer before your head out for your shopping trip, so that you don't end up buying more than your refrigerator and freezer can contain.

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Shop more frequently if you can

If you have the luxury of accessing the market easily or without having to drive to the shops, try making your shopping trips frequent and current. Buying only what you need for the day and not the week means that you can get fresher food and have better control of fridge and freezer space.

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Check out the marked down corner first user Ryan suggests to head down the clearance corner before you does your routine round the shop. Ryan will see if anything on his list is on discount so that she can save some money on that. If he is tempted to get any marked down items that are not on his list, he will take a few minutes to think of possible dishes to make out of them - if possible - with any of the items on his list. For example: there are often very ripe (usually expensive) fruits at 50% off, but you can make cake, compote (to eat with pancake or plain yoghurt), pie filling or puree then freeze for future use.

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BUT beware of unwanted marked down items

Always have a solution of what to do with the food you are buying especially when they are reduced at tempting prices. If you can't think of a solution, then that very temptingly discounted item will be a waste if you had bought it.

Our user Mindy wrote in her email to us: "I live in Southeast Asia where guacamole and avocados are only available on import and are too expensive so I won't normally buy them although I really love them. Recently I walked by the supermarket's marked down bin and saw avocados on 50% discount. These are close to the end of their shelf lives, soft but not rotten, and will go right to the landfill if they aren't sold. So I bought several, cleaned, stoned, mashed and made a whole tub of guacamole - just in time for a little dinner party I held at home. I will visit the discount corner more often from now on, but with a clear head."

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Separate and freeze food in small portions

Produce like meat in supermarkets often come readily packed in certain weights and it can be too much for 1 serving. As soon as you get home from the shop, unwrap and cut them into smaller portions before you put them in the freezer in separate containers. This way you can thaw just the amount of meat you need for the day and won't end up cooking way too much. But if you are buying meat from your local butchers, ask them to custom cut the meat into portion size you are going to cook in, and freeze each portion separately.

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Cook in bulk and freeze some for future

If you do end up having to thaw a whole chunk of meat much more than you need, then cook the whole lot but freeze some in individual containers. This is a good way to save money and time as you can just defrost and warm up dishes for a quick meal especially when you have no time to cook. Great for when you've just come back from a holiday.

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Sort and label food before freezing

When frozen, most things become unrecognisable. So it's wise to label everything so that you will have no problem getting the right stuff out to thaw. The label should be complete with the type of food, its usage and the date it's frozen, for example: "Beef for stew. 12 Aug 2010". This will help you keep a healthy first-in-first-out consumption system.

Picture by Eco Home Projects

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Make your own condiments and sauce base

Things like spaghetti sauce, curry paste, mint sauce, apple sauce, and flavoured dipping oils are not that cheap to buy and are often packed with too much sugar and other additives. But they can be easily made at home, to the exact taste that you like, without the additives, whilst saving you loads of money. And if you do make a lot of them, pack them in sterilised used jam jars and give them as festive gifts. Otherwise, you can also freeze them in jars - just make sure that the jars are not filled all the way to the top and to leave the cap loose until the content is completely frozen before tightening it (liquid will expand when frozen which may break the glass).

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Make full use of leftover food

Although a good size freezer is the kitchen's best friend, we don't have to freeze everything. Sometimes, some leftovers can be turned into a completely different dish which you can have the very next day. For example, roast potatoes or boil potatoes can be mashed down to make shepherd's pie topping, or to make fishcakes with a can of tuna.

Leftover roast chicken can be kept in the fridge and used for making chicken sandwich the next day, or add it to a bowl of soupy noodle; whilst the bones can be used for brewing chicken stock.

Some recipes call for only egg yolks, such as coconut jam, but you can use up the egg white to make a low cholesterol English pancake or give yourself a pore-tightening facial.

Old (not stale or mouldy) bread can be turned into bread and butter pudding, breadcrumbs, or croutons. You can also make bread sauce with it and freeze ahead for Christmas. The list could go on and on, but all we need is a little imagination.

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Grow your own herbs

Modern homes often don't come with big gardens, especially those living in apartments. Growing your own staple vegetables and fruits if you have the space is a great way to save money and ensure healthy and safe produce. However, if space is limited say, to just a little balcony, growing herbs can be a big help.

You can get seeds or ready grown seedlings from most supermarkets or plant nurseries. But some herbs such as basil and mint can be grown easily from cutting. So the next time you get a bag of cut fresh herbs, keep a couple of stalks for that purpose. Just remove the bottom leaves and keep in a jar of water and you'll see it root within a week or so. Once the roots get thick and long you can plant the cuttings in the soil. Once harvest, you can make your own mint sauce and mint jelly.

Source: Eco Home Projects

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Make compost

Buying organic produce can be really costly, but the use of pesticide and chemical based fertilisers in vegetable and fruit is still a nagging concern. So if you do grow your own, making your own compost is the closest to having organic produce. And it also greatly reduces the amount of waste going from your home to the landfill. You don't need too much space or to buy a compost bin. An unused flower pot (pictured right) can be used as a compost bin if space is an issue for you.

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Got any tips on saving food and money? Share your wisdom here with everyone.