If you’re trying to tighten the purse strings at home you might try to cut back on dining out or spending on luxuries. But what about cutting down the amount of food your household wastes?
Research by Sustainability Victoria revealed that the average Victorian household throws away a whopping 20% of their yearly grocery budget, or about $2,200 a year.
Put another way, we throw out 1 in every 5 bags of food we buy.
Which is crazy when you think about it – you would never just leave a bag behind at the store every time you go shopping. All of that food was bought with the intention of eating it but then somehow it ended up in the bin instead.
So Sustainability Victoria’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign and ASIC's MoneySmart have teamed up to give you some tips and ideas on how to both reduce your food waste and save on your grocery bill.
Plan your meals
ASIC’s MoneySmart says that saving money on food begins before you set foot inside the supermarket. Writing a weekly meal plan, knowing what you need to buy and setting a budget will help make sure you still eat well for less. You can use Love Food Hate Waste’s Weekly Meal Planner as a template.
Of course in busy families, it can be hard to find time to write a full weekly meal plan, but there are ways to plan ahead to save money at the supermarket checkout.
Love Food Hate Waste suggests starting off by planning just 2-3 days ahead or just weeknight dinners. If plans change, you can then make it the next night or freeze it for later.
Have a whiteboard in the kitchen and write down Monday-Friday dinners and get the family to fill in what they want. Planning for leftovers so you have lunch the next day will also save you money that you might have spent on take away food.
ASIC's MoneySmart has a handy budget planner that allows you to work out your weekly grocery costs so you can set yourself a budget and know exactly where your grocery money goes.
Only buy what you need
Shopping with a list – and sticking to it! – is the easiest way to make sure you don’t buy too much at the shops.
The best thing to do is to write a list using your meal plan before you go shopping. But if that sounds a bit too much like organisation-overload, there are some shortcuts you can take as well.
Love Food Hate Waste suggests keeping a notepad in the kitchen to write down items as they run out. Then do a 30 second fridge and pantry check before you shop so you know what you need, and don’t need. Even taking a quick picture on your phone of your fridge and pantry will help you see what you’ve got when you’re at the shops.
Buying unpackaged fruit, veg and meat will also mean you buy exactly what you need, rather than whatever is in the pack.
Shopping when you’re hungry and shopping with young children can make it harder to stick to your shopping list so, if you can, eat before you shop and leave the kids with a friend. Checking for specials will help keep your grocery costs down and, if you buy in bulk when things are cheaper, you can separate food into smaller portions when you get home so you only use what you need. Just make sure you know what you’ll do with the extra if buying in bulk – it’s not a bargain if it ends up in the bin!
ASIC's MoneySmart TrackMySPEND app can help give you a real picture of your food spend so you can work out where you can make savings.
Cook the right amount of the right foods
We always want to make sure there’s enough food to go around, but with a few tips, you can feed the family whilst cutting down on the amount of food and money ending up in the bin.
The next time you cook pasta or rice, Love Food Hate Waste suggests jotting down how much you needed, uncooked, per person on a notepad. You’ll never make more than you need again. Get into the habit of using kitchen scales and measuring cups to take the guesswork out of your dinner prep. Check out the Better Health Channel guidelines on serving sizes.
If you’re cooking for kids, keep an eye on how much they eat and try to provide that amount each time. Or try keeping a dinner plate in your eye-line when preparing food so you can visualize how much you need per person.
Meat can be expensive, so ASIC’s MoneySmart suggests adding more vegies into the mix for a balanced diet and to keep your grocery bills down.
Lentils and chick peas are healthy and cheap alternatives that bulk up meals when you want something filling but budget-friendly. Buying cheaper cuts of meat to make roasts and stews will not only save you money but they also make great leftovers and last-minute freezer meals!
Use up what you’ve got
Apply some quick tips to make using up food a normal part of your routine and you’ll see the difference in your wallet and your bin.
If you haven’t already, start a leftovers night in your house. ‘Make-it-up Monday’, ‘Wing-it Wednesday’, or whatever you want to call it, spread out your leftover bits and pieces on the table and let the family go nuts.
Or you can turn last night’s leftovers into lunch or a new dinner. Love Food Hate Waste has lots of recipes for using up commonly wasted ingredients like bread, dairy and fresh vegetables.
Having leftovers on hand will help you avoid the mid-week temptation of takeaways, so cook a larger meal when you can and freeze it to use as quick and easy leftovers.
When you’re planning meals, start by using what you’ve already got in the fridge and pantry first and deciding what to make from there. It’s a great chance to get creative in the kitchen and get the most out of your food.
Find out more
For more tips and advice on household budgeting, visit www.moneysmart.gov.au
To find out more on how to reduce your food waste, visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.vic.gov.au
Sustainability Victoria & ASIC's MoneySmart
Sustainability Victoria and ASCI MoneySmart
Sustainability Victoria is a state government authority that promotes environmentally sustainable use of resources and helps communities to live more sustainably and act on climate change. We support Victorians to be more sustainable in our homes and jobs; in our schools and communities and in the systems and infrastructure that support a thriving Victorian economy and lifestyle.
ASIC's MoneySmart provides free and impartial information and guidance to help Australians make informed financial decisions and offers a range of personal finance tools and calculators available at www.moneysmart.gov.au.