​Meal planning to reduce food waste and save money!

Do you have any of the following problems?

  • Lots of food is getting wasted in your home (warning sign: sad and soggy vegetables at the back of the crisper draw)

  • You never know what's for dinner, and often it's too much effort to come up with an idea for something to cook after a long day at work

  • You never have the right ingredients to cook what you want to

The solution to these problems is effective meal planning.

Meal planning means sitting down at the beginning of the week/fortnight and making a schedule for what you're going to be eating during the week. This might just be dinners, or it might be your entire day's worth of food.

Create a menu for each day, selecting the recipes you want to prepare, then using the ingredients lists create a shopping list for everything that you'll need to make these meals.

READ THIS: How to turn food scraps into cleaning material

Taking a bit of time to plan your meals and your shopping trips is one of the most effective ways to avoid waste and save money. Menu planning also means fewer trips to the supermarket and less impulse spending. You can use leftovers more efficiently and it is easier to stockpile the freezer with your bulk buys.

Meal planning can also help you keep on track with healthy eating, plant-based choices or whatever other restrictions or allergies that you might have. It can also help you to feel more relaxed and organised.

READ: 10 perfectly good food scraps you're probably throwing away

How to meal plan

You can either use a printable template (or draw your own) to work out dinner plans for each night, or there are plenty of websites and apps that you can use.

You'll also need somewhere to jot down your shopping list, either on your phone or on a piece of paper. Make sure that you've got everything written down before you go shopping, and try to avoid impulse buys.

Keep your meal plan for a few weeks and then take stock: is it working for you? What could you change to improve this system? Share your ideas with friends and family to help others to reduce food waste, too!

READ: Your ultimate guide to composting

60% of people we surveyed last year said the main reason their food is wasted is because it's left in the fridge too long. Will you help us solve the food waste issue by pledging to be a food lover?

Some other great tips for reducing waste and saving money:

  • Keep lots of reusable airtight plastic containers and jars handy for storing food including leftovers in the fridge, freezer or pantry, and reuse glass jars for storage and bottles for tap water.
  • Check the temperature and seals of your fridge regularly to make sure your food is being preserved properly and save electricity, cut carbon pollution and save money at the same time. Buy a fridge thermometer at your supermarket and keep the fridge temperature around 3-4 degrees Celsius.
  • Always check the fridge and food cupboard and make a list before heading out for a big shop. Use up whatever's lurking in the back of your pantry before it spoils!
  • Make sure your kitchen appliances include a simple set of scales to measure accurately for recipes and to help in reducing food waste.
  • Here's a fantastic tip from Small Footprint Family: "Put your newly purchased foods in the back of the fridge, freezer or pantry so that the older foods are in front. Once the older foods are in front, you'll see them first, which can help you remember to consume them before they spoil.
  • Work and school meals are a great way to get the best out of leftovers from home-cooked meals and take-away, and a real money-saver. Lots of workplaces have kitchen facilities to store and heat BYO food!What's your best tip for meal planning and avoiding food waste? Let us know in the comments below!

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Images: Shutterstock

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