No Shop Week

One of the fundamental factors of reducing food waste is to plan meals in advance before heading out to the shop. I’ve written about how to do this before in my blog post Fail to plan, plan to fail (the basics of meal planning).

This is probably the one thing that I do consistently every week. Even if I haven’t written the whole meal plan down, the ideas and ingredients are in my head before I go off on my weekly shop. The meal plan makes sure that I avoid the purchase of any unplanned items which later become items of food waste.

Now I’m not a chef, so I generally rely on other people’s recipes to help me use up the ingredients which I have in stock. This method of meal planning normally means that I need to buy additional items to create a finished dish. However, as it’s a new year, I’ve decided to be a bit more adventurous and create my own recipes where ingredients enable me to. An unexpected bonus of this is that I didn’t have to step foot in a supermarket for a whole week.

By using frozen items, leftover veg and store cupboard essentials I managed to create enough dishes to feed my partner and I all week.

The ingredients I had were as follows:

Frozen items
Pork mince
Salmon
Leftover Caerphilly cheese scones

Fresh items
Green beans
Baby carrots
Celery
Tomatoes
Potato
Coriander
Tomatoes

Store cupboard essentials
Ginger paste
Soy sauce
Worcester sauce
Sesame oil
Ketchup
Stock
Eggs
Cheese

And the Dishes created are as below: (Now linked to the recipes)

Pork and Potato Broth
Sweet chilli salmon with Asian Vegetables
Caerphilly cheese scones with poached egg & tomatoes
Cheese & tomato omelette

I know there’s only 4 nights recipes here but I was lucky enough to be treated to a meal out one night, hence only 4 week night meals to plan.

I found that knowing how to cook the base of a number of dishes such as casseroles and Asian dishes enabled me to be creative. Keeping in stock cupboard items such as chicken stock, soy sauce and so on, you should be able to come up with a few creations to use up the perishable ingredients in your fridge. Heck, it’s not always going to work out perfect, but taste as you go and over time your confidence will increase and become a chef if your own right.

Shop but don’t drop! (How to shop to reduce food waste)

Following on from last weeks blog about the basics of meal planning, the next stage is the shop.

You should already have your list for all the ingredients needed for your planned meals, so make sure that you don’t leave the house without it. Sticking to the list should make your shop relatively easy, although the supermarket can be littered with many potential food waste mine fields.

Now I have the benefit of living very close to a supermarket, this means that I can pick up ingredients throughout the week with little or no effort. I tend to pick up the bulk of my shop on the Saturday but leave any perishables that I know I don’t need until later in the week. I’ll pick up these remaining items later in the week which means they’re fresher when I come to use them and if there’s been any curve balls during the week, with meals being missed, it will help to reduce food waste.

One of the important things about the list is to ensure that you’ve got down quantities needed for the recipes, this will stop you buying bulk ingredients that aren’t needed and will later rot.

The fruit and veg aisle for me is the most likely to result in food waste, I tend to never buy pre-packaged vegetables. Generally the quantities are much higher than needed, you also can’t always assess the quality of the vegetables and quite often pre-packaged fruit is actually higher priced than the individual items.

Another supermarket trick that I find can lead to increased food waste is the BOGOF and multi-buy offers. Now I’m all up for saving cash but in reality, you’re not saving if the food ends up in the bin. Before I take advantage of any offer, I ask myself the following 2 questions:

Will I use it before the use by date?

If not, can it be frozen?

If the answers no to both of these questions, then I leave it on the supermarket shelf.

My final tip would be the food storage, I basically freeze all items that can be if I’m not using them over the next two days. This again means that if any thing crops up during the week and I have to skip any of the meals planned, the products don’t have to be thrown away. Before I freeze the shopping,  I split up the packages into portion sized freezer bags to avoid having to defrost more than needed when it comes to use the food

And to be honest, as shopping tips go, that’s all I have. The meal plan and list really is the key, but I would love to hear from anyone who has their own tips.

Fail to plan, plan to fail (the basics of meal planning).

Now I’m certainly no saint, and food (very occasionally) gets thrown away in my house. This tends to happen when I’ve not planned ahead.

Saturday mornings in my house are spent with a cup of tea, a scurrage around the kitchen cupboards to see what perishable items need using up, and some time in front of my computer planning the meals for the week ahead.

This might not be the ideal Saturday morning for many of you, but believe me, a quick 30 minutes of planning will not only reduce your food wastage, but is likely to reduce your food bills as well.

THE BASICS

Little Miss Hubbard…

The first step in my weekly meal planning is to see what ingredients I already have in stock. These ingredients will form the basis of the following weeks meal plans. Perishable items such as fruit and veg are to be used up first, whilst any items that are frozen or have long-shelf lives can be used if they fit into a recipe that incorporates the “must use” perishables.

Planning ahead…

My partner and I have pretty busy lives and our schedules are never the same each week. Sometimes we’ll be home and eating together every night at 7pm, other weeks we’ll only see each other at breakfast. To ensure that this doesn’t result in thrown away food, I check our expected schedules for the week before I plan the weekly shop. This means that I’m not planning additional meals that won’t get eaten, it also takes into account time available which impacts whether I’m cooking up a culinary storm or emptying a tin of beans into a saucepan.

Where to start…

So, mentioned earlier were the perishable items already lurking in the kitchen cupboard, these will be the starting point for the meal plan. The ingredients might include an onion, some potatoes, cheese on it’s use by date etc…so therefore my recipes for the week have to contain these items. How you plan your recipes is up to you, you might have a full database of recipes in your head, be an inventive chef who can knock up a new invention with the available ingredients, or be like me who uses the powers of the internet and a meal planning app.

The meal plan…

To start, I’ll use the above 3 ingredients as a basis for my meal plan. I’ve got potatoes and onions, and I might have some sausages in the freezer, therefore with a few extra ingredients I reckon I can knock up a yummy sausage casserole. What I have will make 4 portions, therefore I can take left-overs for lunch, save them for a night when I haven’t got time to cook, or freeze for a later date.

I’ve now got some cheese to use up, I probably had to buy some tomatoes for my sausage casserole and cheese and tomatoes sound like a pretty tasty base for a pasta bake. I’ve now used up all the perishables that I had in, but probably had to buy some additional ones for the recipes above. Therefore I repeat the same process for the new ingredients and keep repeating until I’ve got a full weeks plan.

Don’t worry if you’re not a confident cook, the fundamentals of meal planning still apply, whether you cook everything from scratch or rely more on sauces and meals that come out of a jar or packet. However, hopefully you’ll find that introducing new recipes into your meal plan will increase your kitchen confidence.

The List…

The final piece of the plan is the shopping list, write down all the ingredients and quantities needed for your weekly meals, don’t forget the weekly essentials and add any snacks that you want for the week ahead, and hey presto, your meal plan is finished and you’re ready for your shop…