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10 ways to reduce food waste

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall / 15 March 2016 ( 21 September 2021 )

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall shares his 10 top tips for cutting down on food waste around the home.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall photographed by Andrew Hayes-Watkins

1. Shop for food wisely

On average, UK families throw away a shocking £700 of perfectly good food every year – often because they’ve simply bought too much in the first place. The most-wasted fresh foods include fruit, milk, salad, bread and potatoes. Be mindful when you shop for items like these – do you really need a two-litre carton of milk? Can you eat two bags of salad before one of them goes off? It’s hard to beat the discipline of a good old-fashioned shopping list: plan ahead and then stick with the programme! If you unexpectedly end up with more than you can eat then freeze it before it goes bad.

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2. Do an online food shop

Employ the internet. Online shopping is a fantastic idea if you want to whittle down your waste, allowing you to select only what you need while steering clear of the seductions of the supermarket.

Related: how to save money on online grocery shopping

3. Store fresh food properly

Look after the fresh food you do buy. For example, the salads, herbs, carrots and parsnips sold in plastic wrapping at the supermarket are best kept in their packaging until you want to use them. Those packs are designed to keep them fresh for the maximum time.

4. Freeze your food

Make friends with your freezer – many things can be popped in there before they get a chance to deteriorate: bread (slice it first), raw fish and meat (including bacon), cheese and butter, prepared veg, berries, soups and sauces all freeze well.

Related: how long can you freeze food?

5. Don't be put off by use-by dates

Try not to be terrified by ‘use-by’ dates. So often, perfectly eatable food is chucked out simply because the date printed on the pack has passed. These dates are a good guide, but shouldn’t over-ride our common sense. Use your eyes and nose when assessing if something’s good to eat or not - and remember that thorough cooking makes almost everything safe.

6. Cook with leftovers

Learn to love your leftovers!! I can’t emphasise this one enough. Leftovers cooking isn’t just about making-do – in my experience, meals made from bits and pieces ferreted from the fridge are often the most satisfying and delicious of all. Stews, stir-fries, soups, frittatas, bubble-and-squeaks, fruit smoothies, frozen yoghurts… all can be quite delectable. You’ll find loads of ideas in my book, Love Your Leftovers.

Recipe: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's arancini, made from leftover risotto

7. Cook in bulk

Cook too much (sometimes!). With certain dishes, deliberately making more than you need is actually a good way to avoid waste. When you’re cooking curries, casseroles, sauces or soups – the kind of things that freeze well – double or even triple the quantities. The excess can then be chilled or frozen for a future meal, saving you time and trouble and cutting down on further potentially waste-creating shopping trips!

8. Think outside the box

Think outside the box. Consider novel uses for everyday ingredients and you need throw nothing away. Lettuce is great in a stir-fry, for instance. Hummus can thicken soups. Cornflakes and rice crispies make fabulous flapjacks. Even trimmings can be tremendous: potato, parsnip and carrot peelings make delicious vegetable crisps when oiled, seasoned and baked in the oven.

Recipe: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's potato cakes, made from leftover mashed potato

9. Survey your storecupboard

Every so often, take a good hard look in there and identify stuff you’re unlikely to use (be honest!). Unused dry goods that are still in date – tins or packets of soup, canned veg, packets of biscuits, bags of rice, cereal, longlife milk etc. - can be donated to your local food bank. See

10. Petition the supermarkets

Call the supermarkets to account. There’s no doubt that our big retailers have a huge waste footprint, often ordering more than they can sell so that their shelves are always temptingly full. As long as we consumers are doing our bit at home, we are well within our rights to demand that retailers change their wasteful ways too. 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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