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.
The best way to reduce food waste is to menu plan, but even with the best-laid plans things can sometimes go awry or we might have bits and bobs left over that can easily go to waste. That’s where these 14 frugal kitchen hacks come in. They help you save that food that might otherwise go to waste, saving you money.
14 Clever Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
- Invest in a Micro-Spatula
A small spatula, preferably one with a long handle, will only set you back a couple of dollars and is essential for getting the last scrapings out of the jar or one more muffin from the mixing bowl.
Another alternative for using up the last of the jar is to add a bit of oil to your mayonnaise jar and shake for a quick dressing or add milk to the leftovers in the jam jar for a delicious milkshake treat.
- Make Fruit and Vege Last Longer by Storing them the Right Way
Each fruit and vegetable has an optimum way to store it, so it lasts as long as possible. Download the free fruit and veg storage guide and stick it to your fridge to make sure you’re storing your produce to get the most out of it.
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.
- Revive limp Vegetables
Even if you do store fruit and veg the best way, they don’t last forever. You don’t need to throw away limp vegetables, however! Revive them with a soak in some cold water. Get the details of how to do it here: How to Revive Limp Vegetables.
- Freeze Fruit and Veg
Alternatively, freeze excess fruit and vegetables, so you don’t have to worry about whether they’re going to go limp or not. Freezing is an excellent way to store a glut of cheap seasonal produce and the use it in the off-season.
For how to do it check out:
- Make Stock from Scraps in the Slow Cooker
Finally 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.
Then your vegetables can finally lay to rest in the compost.
- Store Your Jars Upside Down
What’s the point of buying a huge jar of tomato paste to save money, when it’s just going to go mouldy, right?
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 stops air getting in and allowing mould to grow. 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. Just ensure the lid is on tight otherwise you’ll have a fridge full of mess.
- Save Your Lemons
Don’t buy fancy lemon savers, just 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 in a bag for use in baking, then squeeze the lemon and freeze in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, store in a labelled container or zip-lock bag.
- Stop Avocado Going Brown
Store a cut avocado in a Tupperware container – pip in -with some a piece of cut onion to prevent it going brown.
The onion emits sulphur gases – then 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.
- 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 time will depend on the type of bean. Drain and freeze in labelled containers or zip-lock bags.
To make this process even easier, cook in a thermal cooker (see below).
Read further: How to Cook and Freeze Beans
- 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 works by insulating your cooking pot so that the food cooks with residual heat.
- Label Your Lids for Free
Do you waste time rummaging through packets or lifting jars to see what is what in the cupboard? To make things easier and to know what you have at a glance, label your lids.
Recycle those little white discs inside milk carton lids by sticking them on your spice jars (or recycle old coffee jars) and labelling them with a good ol’ sharpie. That way you avoid having several opened packets of the same food, saving you money and waste.
Read further: Frugal Pantry Organisation
- 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 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.
- Freeze Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil
Don’t throw out Fresh herbs. Chop them up and put them in an ice cube tray. Cover with olive oil and freeze.
Saute your onions in the herbed oil when cooking your next meal.
- Use an ‘Eat-First’ Basket
Are items in the fridge getting close to their used-by date? Vegetables starting to look a bit limp? Put them in an ‘eat-first’ basket in the fridge to make sure they get used up before going bad rather than getting lost and forgotten at the back of the fridge.
Read further: 8 Ways to Use up Vegetables and Reduce Food Waste
Don’t throw your hard-earned money in the bin by wasting food. Plan your meals and use these frugal hacks to reduce food waste.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.