Eat More, Waste Less
Hi, I am Laura the Reduction Raider, I promote being able to eat well for less, using what you have and avoiding food waste. I blog and have an Instagram account about yellow stickered food items, this is produce that has reached its sell by date so supermarkets reduce its price by as much as 90%, I have shopped and eaten in this way for the last eight years. I have no qualifications in diet or nutrition, in fact I’m a civil servant. I am however a fully fledged, frugal foodie, with a passion for eating well for less and avoiding food waste.
Yellow sticker shopping became the bulk of my food shop several years ago. This way of shopping means that I have increased confidence in the kitchen, I am a reformed “can’t cook, won’t cook and shopping for yellow stickers has meant that I’ve been introduced to a range of new foods I wouldn’t have tried before - I am a fussy eater no more. Furthermore, massive savings on my grocery bill has meant that I have become more conscientious of how and where I spend my money in other aspects of my life. Doing this has made me more sustainable and mindful of food waste. I have eaten this way as a carnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian and now vegan, I am living proof that you can eat well for less, whatever your dietary requirements.
Here are my top 10 tips on being able to eat more and spend less.
1. Shop from your cupboards
How often have you arrived home from food shopping to find that there were already two cartons of the gravy you were so sure you needed? These days we tend to be constantly on the go; rushing from work to the supermarket, rushing to find inner peace at yoga and rushing to prepare a healthy, balanced dinner. It can be easy to lose track of what we want, need and already have. By taking stock of our kitchen contents before we shop, or even cook, we are in a better position to think about what food needs using up before buying new produce.
2. Check the reduced sections!
Most supermarkets do their final reductions between 7 to 8 pm, the reductions can be between 75-90% off the original price. Although this varies as some will do their reductions earlier in the day or the night before, but what you need to know is that food will decrease in price later in the day it gets. So get into the habit of checking the reduced sections irrespective of which store it is, including petrol stations and mini supermarkets. There are usually allocated crates, shelves in some of the aisles; plus look out for dry goods, these will normally be damaged products such as a dented tin or even when a store needs to clear a line of food items for whatever reason.
3. Love your Leftovers
Lunch for me tends to be whatever is left over from dinner the night before. I love one pot cooking as it means that I have several portions set aside for the week. This takes away the stress of always having to decide what to have for lunch. If you don't want to be eating the same things everyday then get into the habit of freezing a portion of whatever you've made. You'll have ready meals at the, well ready. A lot of meals can be kept for as long as six months in the freezer, you can always check the food standards agency online if unsure. www.food.gov.uk/food-safety
4. Small Habits = Big Changes
Lasting change tends to come from incorporating small habits into our routine. Keep it up long enough and it becomes common practice; carrying a refillable water bottle or keep cup, having your own shopping bags… taking a packed lunch to work. By simply making your own coffee instead of buying one on the go, you could save at least £10 in the week, imagine how much you could save by bringing your own lunch to work. And when eating out, make sure you have food containers on hand in case you don’t finish your meal. Once I had a lovely lunch consisting of my leftover dinner from a salad bar restaurant the night before!
5. Be Social
I’m regularly gifted with food from a friend’s allotment. Knowing the work that he puts into growing his own vegetables means that I'm more conscious of not wasting it. I decide what to make with the veg I’m given and share it with others. Olio is a food sharing app where users can advertise food that they no longer want for whatever reason; this may be because they are going on holiday, moving home or had a change of dietary requirements. Places like Deliciously Ella and Pret A Manger also distribute goods on Olio, which is food that would otherwise be wasted. Karma and Too Good to Go are apps that sell discounted, surplus meals from eateries before they are wasted. Aside from social media, think about how often there is surplus food from office meetings, a neighbour’s abundant apple tree and family and friends who have decided that they no longer like a certain brand. Be the one who is open to trying new foods, recipes and meals. Take my word for it, talk about food waste and being able to make meals with what you have for long enough and people will give you food just to shut you up!
6. Be Creative
I recently attended a Chinese cooking class at a local community college. Whilst the rest of the class made banana fritters, I rocked up with tinned peaches and told the chef that I'd be making peach fritters. The Chef asked me if peaches were Chinese and perhaps they aren’t, but with a tin of peaches with a best before date of 2014 (don't worry, best before refers to food quality not safety) and no bananas it made sense to use what I had. Who decides what goes with what anyway? You are the master chef in your own kitchen so don't be afraid to experiment.
7. Eat in
Not only does eating in mean spending less money, but you use up what you already have. Good food can too easily be wasted when we opt for meals out and takeaways. Cook for loved ones, organise a potluck, light the barbecue, pack a picnic. Share recipes, meal ideas and kitchen space! Let the take out become the food from your kitchen rather than the local curry house. On the topic of using food from home, it's a myth than you can't bring your own food to the cinema, just no alcohol. And packed lunches are not reserved for the office, you can save yourself a small fortune on road trips as service station eateries tend to inflate prices. Also when travelling, with homestay sites such as Airbnb becoming more popular, it allows the opportunity to take food with you from your home or even back from your trip. Food can also be taken on flights as long as items such as paste i.e. hummus comply with size guidelines.
8. Research food storage
I had no clue that cheese could be frozen and have been guilty in the past of binning it as soon as I spotted mould. Milk, bread, dairy, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, herbs and cooked meals can all be frozen. Simply by making use of what you have and wasting less you will instantly save money. Remember shop from your cupboards, dine from your freezer. Dates can often be confusing for consumers; I’m not talking Tinder, but the dates printed on food packaging. Display until, are for stores to monitor stock and not a legal requirement. Best before refers to food quality. It might compromise taste if eaten past this date but not unsafe to eat. Tesco are now removing best before dates from a number of their fruit and veg to lessen food waste. Use by is related to food safety and illegal to sell past this date. You can still freeze on this date which will extend the food’s life line.
9. Giving is Receiving
Throwing away food is an indulgence that should, at the very least, make us feel uncomfortable when there are so many going hungry. Before tossing food in the trash think about others who can use it; giving it directly to the homeless, donating to food banks, charities. Helping others is said to make us feel good and boost self-esteem. How many of us enjoy seeing others go hungry or seeing good food in the bin; unfortunately, we don't always make the connection.
10. Bin it
It may take you by surprise to see this as a food waste tip, hear me out: request a food waste bin. Not all councils automatically provide them to households, ironically having a food waste bin encouraged me to waste less. By dedicating to dispose of your food in this way offers a clear view of which foods you are wasting and raises the question of whether you could be doing anything differently. It was after I got mine that I started freezing vegetable peels to use as stock at a later time. There's a sense of joy at using my food waste bin less and less. And what I do bin which are mainly tea bags, coffee granules and fruit peel can then be collected and composted.
In chapter three of MANIFESTO we examine the intersection of art and food, because what you choose to put on your plate is both a political and ecological decision. We were incredibly fortunate to hear from an artist whose work begins with site specific research into local food production and wild edible plants, and culminates with a multi-sensory dining experience. We also spoke to a writer who found peace and fulfilment dedicating her life to a permaculture farm in South India.