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Food waste action week: five ways to save money and the planet

Green crates in a shop filled with plums, apples, pineapples and oranges
Claire Wong, Digital Content Producer and Copy Specialist. A white female with long brown hair and a blue, long sleeved top, smiling
Claire Wong

Digital Content Producer

Food shopping tricks to save money and the planet 

Did you know that 4.5 million tonnes of edible food is thrown away each year by UK households? It’s a huge issue that leads to more greenhouse gases being released, contributing to climate change. And with food prices rising due to the cost of living crisis, reducing our food waste is good both for helping the planet and saving money.

Here at CAP, we’ve got 27 years’ experience helping people get the most from their household budgets, even when money is tight. So, in honour of Food Waste Action Week (which runs 6–12 March 2023) we’ve put together some of our top tips for saving money on your weekly shop. 

The theme for Food Waste Action Week 2023 is Win. Don’t Bin.’ And as their official website says, using up everything we buy saves money, time and the planet.

So to help with that, here are CAP’s five top tips for saving money on your weekly food shop:

1. Make a plan

A lot of food waste comes from buying food without thinking through when and how we’ll use it. By planning in advance what meals you’re going to cook, you can make sure you only buy the ingredients you need. 

We understand this takes more time and preparation, so if you’re feeling stuck, why not have a look at our collection of low cost recipes for some inspiration?

2. Make a list

Once you’ve planned your meals for the week, write down everything you need on a list. Shopping lists are especially useful when faced with special offers in the supermarket that may not actually be worth buying. If you find a reduced item that’s on your list, you’ve saved money! But if the deal is trying to get you to buy something that’s not on your shopping list, leave it on the shelf.

3. Don’t shop when hungry

We’ve all been there. There’s nothing in the house and you’re hungry. You pop to the shops to stock up, and somehow end up buying far more snacks than you planned. Sometimes shopping while hungry is unavoidable, but wherever possible, try not to do this. Every food item looks more tempting when you’re dreaming of your next meal, and it’s much harder to stick to your plan.

4. Understand retail techniques to try to get you to buy more

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with shops having special offers, but as we’ve said before, not every special offer is actually going to save you money. Some might result in you spending more than you intended. So it’s helpful to understand some of the ways retailers encourage you to buy more.

For example, have you noticed that staple items like bread and milk are often at the back of the shop? This means you’ll walk past aisles of other products on the way, and a quick trip to grab a pint of milk could turn into a bigger shop for food you didn’t want or need.

5. Get clever with leftovers

Of course, even with the best planning in the world, sometimes you’re going to have leftover food. Maybe you weren’t as hungry as usual today. Maybe the kids suddenly decided they hate pasta this week. But before you throw away those leftovers or consign unwanted ingredient to go mouldy at the back of the fridge, why not see if you can still use them? Leftover cooked spaghetti can be fried with an egg and some grated cheese to make fritters, while those uneaten, overripe bananas in the fruit bowl are still perfect for mashing up to make banana bread or banana pancakes.

All these steps involve making a bit of extra time and headspace, so don’t feel like you have to adopt all of them at once! Just pick whatever feels manageable to you this week and see if you can reduce your food waste and save yourself some money along the way.

You can find more helpful ideas like this at our Life Skills groups, which are all about making small healthy changes to live well on a careful budge. 

Find out more about CAP Life Skills

CAP Life Skills
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Ruth, Co-Debt Centre Manager

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