With the rising cost of living, every dollar saved helps. These frugal food hacks squeeze a few more dollars out of your grocery budget.
One of the best ways to save money in the kitchen is to reduce food waste. On average, we waste up to 20% of all food purchased. That can add up to hundreds of dollars a year thrown straight in the bin.
Meal planning is the number one thing you can do to reduce food waste. It helps you plan what you eat and then eat what you buy.
But even the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. Or we might have bits and bobs leftover that can easily go to waste.
That’s where these fourteen frugal food hacks come in.
14 Clever Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
Reduce waste and save money by using up every scrap of food you can.
1. Invest in a Mini-Spatula
A small and medium spatula, preferably with long handles, will set you back a couple of dollars, but they are essential for getting the last scrapings out of the jar, one more muffin from the mixing bowl, or a little bit extra mashed potato from the pot.
These are inexpensive to pick up at big box or discount stores. The mini-ones can be hard to find. I often see them in Two Dollar Stores and the like.
2. Make Fruit and Veg Last Longer by Storing them the Right Way
Each fruit and vegetable has an optimum storage method to help it last as long as possible. You can download the free fruit and veg storage guide to stick to your fridge (if you like) to use as a guide when storing produce.
To make your produce purchases last, plan to eat the most perishable foods first, leaving the longer-lasting fruits and vegetables (or the ones not quite ripe yet) for later in the week.
3. Revive limp Vegetables
Even if you store fruit and vegetables the best way, they don’t last forever. Eventually, they will go limp (although they are more nutritious if you don’t wait that long).
You don’t need to throw away limp vegetables. As long as they aren’t too far gone, you can revive them with a soak in some cold water. It’s important to note that you can’t restore mouldy vegetables, so check for mould and toss mouldy veg in the compost heap.
Get the details of how to do it here: How to Revive Limp Vegetables.
4. Freeze Fruit and Veg for Later
Freeze excess fruit and vegetables, so you don’t have to worry about whether they will go limp.
Freezing is an excellent way to store a glut of cheap seasonal produce and use it in the off-season. Some fruit and vegetables freeze better than others. If you’re unsure what will work, freeze just a little and taste. Or you can check out what’s frozen at the supermarket and use it as a guide.
I freeze fruit like watermelon and then pop the frozen pieces in the kids’ lunchbox. They are usually defrosted by first break. The texture of watermelon does change after being frozen, but my kids don’t seem to mind.
For how to do it, check out:
You might also like: How to Make Jam with Frozen Berries
5. Make Stock from Scraps in the Slow Cooker
Limp vegetables and scraps can be used to make stock.
Keep your onion peelings, carrot tops, parsley stalks, celery leaves and a whole load of other vegetable scraps in a labelled bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, make vegetable stock.
For chicken stock, use the bones of a roast chicken along with your bag of veg scraps.
The easiest way to make stock is in the slow cooker. Just bung your ingredients in, top with water and let it simmer overnight. But you can also make this in a pot on the stove too.
Then your vegetables can finally lay to rest in the compost.
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6. Store Your Jars Upside Down
What’s the point of buying a massive jar of tomato paste to save money when it’s going to go mouldy?
Fix this problem for good by storing the jar upside down in the fridge.
By storing the jar upside down, you create a seal that prevents air from getting in, which stops mould growth. I’ve never had a mould problem in the ten years of doing this except when the contents of the jar got too low and can’t form a complete seal.
This also works for jams, chutneys and other preserves that tend to go mouldy.
Ensure the lid is on tight otherwise, you’ll have a fridge full of mess.
7. Save Your Lemons
Don’t buy fancy lemon savers; place the cut halves together, wrap a rubber band around them and place it in the fridge. The lemon will keep for a week or so.
Alternatively, scrape the rind off the lemon and freeze it in a bag for use in baking, then squeeze the lemon and freeze it in an ice cube tray.
Once frozen, store in a labelled container or zip-lock bag for up to three months.
8. Stop Avocado Going Brown
Store a cut avocado in an air-tight container – pip in – with a piece of cut onion to prevent it from going brown.
The onion emits sulphur gases – the same gases that make you cry when you cut it – and these act as a preservative, slowing the oxidisation process that turns the avocado brown. It’s like science in your fridge.
The onion does give the avocado an oniony flavour, though. To be honest, we store them in a container and scrape any brown bits off.
9. Cook and Freeze Beans
Dried beans are super cheap, and they can be just as convenient if you freeze them in portion-size batches, ready for use.
Soak your beans overnight, and then cook. The cooking time will depend on the type of bean. Drain and freeze in labelled containers or zip-lock bags.
Read further: How to Cook and Freeze Beans
10. Cook Food in Your Laundry Basket
Save money, save time and cook worry-free without heat while you sleep by using an easy DIY thermal cooker. A thermal cooker insulates your cooking pot, so the food cooks with residual heat.
If a thermal cooker isn’t your jam, other inexpensive small appliances can save you money compared to the oven.
My two favourite things to cook with are a rice cooker and a sandwich press. You can cook almost anything with these two appliances.
11. Get Creative with Leftovers
One of my favourite frugal food hacks is a jam milkshake. When I was a kid, dad would add milk to the little bit of leftover jam in the jar, give it a good shake and voila! Jam milkshake straight from the jar.
Leftovers are an opportunity to be creative. I’ve been watching Best Leftovers Ever on Netflix and am blown away by the contestants’ creativity. It’s inspired me to be more creative in the kitchen too.
If you have a few ‘basic’ recipes under your belt, you can reinvent them a billion ways with what you have leftover in the fridge. For example, a basic risotto, a pasta sauce, a basic egg dish like frittata, a curry, a stew, a soup, and a basic muffin recipe, to name a few.
When you know the methodology, you can create different flavours based on what you have on hand.
12. Separate Your Bananas
To make bananas last longer, separate the bunch and give them a bit of space in the fruit bowl. Bananas release ethylene gas, which hastens ripening.
The theory is because bananas release ethylene gas, which hastens ripening, the space around the separated bananas gives the gas room to disperse, slowing the ripening process. On the other hand, if you want to hasten the ripening process, put the bunch in a paper bag to concentrate that ripening gas.
I select bananas at different stages of the ripening process when I’m at the greengrocer—a few yellowy brown ones for now and green ones for later in the week.
13. Freeze Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil
Fresh herbs add so much flavour to a meal. But when you buy them in a big bunch, you end up with a lot left over.
For herbs that you cook all the time, it can be money-saving to grow those herbs. Herbs grow well in pots and are some of the easiest things to grow in the garden.
But if you have bought a bunch of herbs, one way to preserve the leftovers is to freeze them in oil.
To freeze, chop them up and put them in an ice cube tray. Cover with olive oil and freeze.
Then when you’re cooking next, melt an ice cube of the herbed oil in the pan before adding onions and continuing with the recipe.
14. Use an ‘Eat-First’ Basket
Are items in the fridge getting close to their used-by date? Are vegetables starting to look a bit limp? Rescue vegetables from the dark depths of the crisper and other items hidden in the back of the fridge and put them in an ‘eat first’ basket or space front and centre.
Then plan meals around what needs to be used. If you meal plan, which is a good idea to reduce waste, make one day a ‘leftovers’ day to use up these bits and bobs.
Baking is a great way to use up leftovers. Use leftover sour cream or yoghurt in place of milk. Grate vegetables and make a sweet vegetable cake, like this zucchini loaf or savoury muffins. Dips, spreads, soups, and pasta sauces are a great way to use up little bits of leftovers – cook and blend!
Read further: 8 Ways to Use up Vegetables and Reduce Food Waste.
Save your hard-earned money – don’t throw it in the bin by wasting food. These frugal food hacks are great for your wallet and the environment!