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Are you wasting food? Blogger Thrifty Lesley welcomes you into her larder…

Food is one of those universal things we all need to factor into our spending. But with the cost of food constantly in the headlines, are there ways to make sure you’re not spending more than you should?

We asked blogger Thrifty Lesley, who specialises in creating low-cost meals and recipes on her blog, for her ideas on making sure you don’t overspend.

Meal planning is key

Every day we waste tonnes of food in the UK but there are many ways to avoid waste in our own households.

Have a look in your cupboards, freezer etc when deciding what to have for dinner this week. 

Plan to use what you already have, topping up with only what you need to make the dishes.

Planning really is key in waste avoidance and to maximise the use of our hard earned spend on groceries.

The average household wastes 25% of groceries, what could you do with that extra cash if it stayed in your purse? 

Simple things like keeping sliced bread,  the most commonly wasted item, in the freezer, and taking it out as and when you want to use it equals no waste at all.

Leftovers – what you can do

Use up those little bits and pieces in the fridge.  Add the last few bits of meat from a roast, and maybe any leftover roasted veg, to mashed potato, season, and fry until crisp for delicious little patties. 

Use any wrinkly veg in soups, risottos, or in flavoursome white sauce in a pie.

Similarly, fruit past its best can be whizzed into a smoothie, with or without leftover yogurt, (another commonly wasted item) or cooked down into a compote that can be enjoyed at any time. I like mine at breakfast, with yogurt. Compote can be frozen too, ready for when you want it.

Ditch the ready meals and takeaways

It is the supermarkets’ job to entice us to buy from them.  All those delicious looking things that are placed in front of us. We buy eight million ready meals every day in the UK, more than any other European country, but many of those things can be made for a fraction of the price at home. 

Hummus for instance, is extremely popular, but takes just moments to whizz up and costs a fraction of the price. You can add all kinds of flavours too, caramelised onions, roasted red peppers, beetroot etc.

Takeaway type meals make up over 40% of all ready meals. 

I have learned how to make a few Indian dishes, Chinese and Italian and saved a mint.  I've made Dahl Sambar for 31p a portion, Peanut Sauced Noodles for 23p and Spaghetti Carbonara for 41p, for example.  Not that I’m biased, but I think they’re nicer too!

What do you think of Lesley’s ideas? Do you have any of your own to add?

This guest post is from Thrifty Lesley and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the Money Advice Service. You can find out more about Thrifty Lesley and what she does on her website.

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  • Viv / 6 December 2015

    I make "bottom of fridge soup" I use any left over scrapes of meat or left over bacon as a base and add all the odd bits of vegetables and gravy etc and make a mine stone type soup. Another meal for next to nothing.

  • iris Francis / 5 December 2015

    I am afraid you are preaching to the converted .We make all our own meats from scratch and always use anything left over in soup.Nothing gets wasted any bones from chicken gets pressure cooked to make stock .Some people need a nudge to do these things so its a good blog

  • Marg Mulligan / 4 December 2015

    I'm naturally interested and drawn to your page xx

  • Liz Parkin / 3 December 2015

    Bendy vegetable biryani is a favourite.

  • Roberta Taylor / 3 December 2015

    Roberta Here. Great.!!! I Too Just hate waste!!!
    Any left over Veg or Herbs pieces of meat or Chicken.
    Fry off some onions. garlic. Mix all leftovers
    And some Stock Season. Simmer until tender.
    You could also add some pasta to make it go further. Crusty Bread. Yummy. Xx

  • Paulo Brownrigg / 1 December 2015

    I' m vegetarian and u thubk we waste a lot less than most. Maybe we're just more creative with leftovers. I don't buy ready meals because I prefer my own cooking and always make too much so freeze it! Everything u eat can be used in a soup at some point!

  • mrs lee livsey / 30 November 2015

    Wow thank you. Had no idea i was wasting so much time, money and food. Great tips.

  • john blyth / 29 November 2015

    buy cheaper cuts and a slow cooker use up all old veg and do a big pot of soup or stews .. old bread can be used as breadcrumbs or crutions ..

  • P shekerali / 29 November 2015

    I agree the trick is to plan ahead that way you don't buy extra things or splash out on takeaways.Would love to see some recipes .

  • Sue / 28 November 2015

    I always buy best mince but then halve it and make cottage pie and Bolognese. A chicken I can make 3 meals from. Think clever and waste never!!!

  • Heather McMillan / 27 November 2015

    If you make a Pan of Potato Hash , Scouse or whatever you call Stew , put a extra amount in the pan and fridge it up when it's cool , next day you have the base of Meat and Potato Pie and just have to pop some Pastry or Mashed Potato on top and put it in the oven . Saving time, Money and Effort , I do extras with lots of meals and my Husband who comes home for lunch every day has a nice meal when the weather is cold .

  • Patricia O'Byrne / 27 November 2015

    Waste not, want not

  • Patricia O'Byrne / 27 November 2015

    Waste not, want not.
    This has always been my ideal.

  • Mary swift / 26 November 2015

    I agree with you it is getting people to cook again !I was thinking same but now I have returned to loving it x

  • Sonia / 26 November 2015

    My family call it a mystery meal when I serve up all the odds and ends and say having a clear out so I can re-stock. Usually I forget to label the things I freeze and can't tell what it is until it's cooked. Never any waste though.

  • Nikki Shelton / 18 October 2015

    I have now stopped keeping things in just in case someone fancies them,eg: coleslaw, as it has very short dates. Once I had thrown out 2 tubs which had gone past their sell by date, I thought, this is ridiculous, we are not a hotel !

  • Karen Armstrong / 11 October 2015

    I think that this lady is very wise ! I make and plan all of my own meals and can assure you that I waste nothing.

  • K J / 8 October 2015

    Brilliant ideas. I am always looking to save pennies here and there as I have three young children. Will try some of the suggested recipes. Thank you.

  • Skina / 7 October 2015

    Beautiful ideas, thank you.

  • stewart downie / 6 October 2015

    some people can,t afford to buy roasts oor chicken so why not buy readymeals

  • Kay Heywood / 6 October 2015

    I grow my own veg and freeze it in portion sizes and then it only takes a couple of minutes to cook when needed, this can be done if you get your veg from the supermarket. Use the My Supermarket web site, go through your food cupboards and make a shopping list before you go to the supermarket.

  • Averil Breese / 5 October 2015

    I made some home made soup using potatoes, onions,a packet soup and some tomato sauce, put it in a plastic bag in a coffee and jam jars and froze them

  • Veera / 5 October 2015

    Great advice

  • Lorraine Winter / 5 October 2015

    I entirely agree - we all waste too much. I like to use up as much as possible in the way of bits & bobs left in the fridge - especially for soups to take to work. Got some good ideas from the article which I'll use too! This time of year is an ideal time to use overripe fruit for jam or tomatoes etc for different chutneys - handy if you've grown your own toms & have a glut.

  • Carolyn Minkes / 5 October 2015

    You need quite a lot of energy for all of this. Age, illness and disability make it difficult especially if you are single and don't wan hummus, to use the example given is t to pay the minimum shop for online shopping or spend time preparing and cooking food. Sometimes things like ready prepared vegetables, quiches or whole meals cost more but are simply less tiring. Even bought
    hummus is easier than making your own with buying chick peas and tahini and then washing up the blender etc. Never thought I'd say these things as I used to love cooking.

  • Vincent Neale / 5 October 2015

    I never waste any food Stale bread I make bread puddings All my kitchen scraps are in the compost and I grow most of my our vegetables in my allotment and garden Also soft fruits I only buy from the supermarket things which I cannot grow ie:- Bacon butter cheese Last year I grew £ 1275.00 worth of my own fruit and vegetables I had so much that I gave some away to other OAP`s I have been growing my own for over 50 years

  • Mary Irving / 4 October 2015

    I love porridge but I prefer to let it simmer on the stove to get creamy rather than the result in a microwave. I have sampled the expensive ones that are put in the microwave and they are creamier than the cheap porridge oats. I have made a cheap discovery! Buy the box of porridge oats, such as Scotts or supermqrket brand, measure out half a cup of oats or as many servings as you will need over the next few days, add a cup of water (basically twice as much water as oats. leave overnight. In the morning, put a measure of the mixture in to a large bowl, add as much milk as you like for creaminess. put in the microwave for 2 minutes. beautiful cream porridge. least £8.00! a packet of porridge oats (500grams) costs less than £1.00. a pack of four microwavable portions costs £1.25!!

  • Santokh Ghai / 4 October 2015

    good ideas

  • Joan / 4 October 2015

    Not only do I keep bread in the freezer but I use the ends to make breadcrumbs which I store in the freezer. With some sugar and melted butter they make a create alternative to crumble topping or can be used as part of homemade burgers or to coat fish for frying.

    I also make lots of soup and freeze in individual portions and these make a great economical lunch and count towards your five a day

  • Krystyna Piotrowska / 4 October 2015

    As a single person, cooking from scratch can be problematic re ingredients. Eg. What do I do with the rest of the celery when the recipe calls for two sticks? Many supermarkets sell ready diced celery, carrot and onion.(sofritto )Inexpensive and less wasteful.

    Cook a dish for four, eat one and freeze the rest in portions.

    I love baking for friends and what isn't eaten at the time also goes into the freezer .....not easy as I love cake.

    Start a compost heap for the miserable uncooked veg. Even in a small garden you can grow lettuce, beetroot etc among your flowers. Very pretty too.

    Have one week when you use what is in the freezer rather than buying more

    NEVER food shop when hungry!

  • Julie Monaghan / 4 October 2015

    It's all so obvious but very often after a long day at work, people don't have the inclination to cook or devise meals from what's in the cupboard so a ready meal or takeaway is an easy option. We all know we should change our ways and cook from scratch but good intentions are like New Year resolutions!

  • Jackie / 4 October 2015

    Don't know if it helps but I shop online.. so not tempted to buying what I done need... I put as much in the oven as possible when I'm using it saves electric /gas bulk buy where possible from spices to meat.. I split my meat into food bags and put in freezer .. I also buy onions in big sacks and prep them all and freeze them.. plus loads more that can save £££in the long run

  • Christine rogers / 22 September 2015

    Really helpful!

  • Pat Pollard / 21 September 2015

    Thanks have enjoyed what I have seen and a great believer in thrift x

  • Maxine Srivastava / 20 September 2015

    Dear ladies, só many of you have stopped cooking, Why? To make like easy for men And women, buy a slow cooker, prepare the meAl And put in to the slow cooker as you depart for work. Ready on Your return, no stupid pizza meals necessary. Make a curry in a slow cooker, easy peasy. Buy a Bread machine, chilren can work this. Saves a lot of money. 2 hours to make dough for a couple of pizzas And a fraction of the cost.
    Instead of expensive deserts, place fresh fruiti in the micro wave for a minute And you have a desert fit for any restaurant, use Honey And yogurt to complete The dish. Always buy fresh fruit for desert And fresh vegetables for snacking. Good for all of us. Use Your local shops where possible And try to buy British fruit And vegetables in season. Save a fortune on shipped in foreign food.

  • Maxine Srivastava / 20 September 2015

    This articul is só correct. Make it appoint of pride to throw Nothing away in the food line. Fresh is best. Where you can. Visit the local.shops And do not be distracted by all that enticement The supermarkets set out to trap you.
    My tip. is to make a shopping list for the week And PASS. This shopping list to a Friend. You shop for them And they shop for you, sticki g to Th list. You will save a lot of money.

  • Pat Parker / 19 September 2015

    Well said Lesley! You are a great inspiration. I'd love to see you doing a cookery show, showing how it is done in real life. I wouldn't spend an hour screaming at the television then! People would learn real life skills aimed at working class people rather than comfortably off high spenders.