13 ways to STOP wasting food and drink

Check you've the right food in the fridge, use leftover food recipe finders & more

Are you always throwing out food that's gone off? Climate action charity WRAP worked out that a household of four chucks away, on average, £1,000 of good food each year. So if you're prone to emptying your fridge into the bin, we've 13 tips to help you stop throwing food (and money) away.

We're talking here about stopping avoidable food waste, but it is of course crucial to make sure you only eat older leftovers when it's safe to do so. We asked the Food Standards Agency what you need to be aware of when using up leftover food, and it told us: "Food with a 'best before' date – which concerns food quality and not food safety – should be safe to eat after the stated date, although it may not be at its best quality.

"Consumers can use sensory cues to determine whether the food is suitable to eat, be that looking for visible mould on bread, tasting to see if biscuits or crisps are stale, or smelling some dairy products (with 'best before' dates) to see if they have soured."

Don't eat food that's past its 'use by' date though, as it could make you ill, even if it looks and smells OK. So before trying any of the following tips, make sure the food's safe to eat. See full help on the Food Standards Agency website. Take a look at our Free food saving memo too.

Now let's get started…

1. Check you're keeping the RIGHT food in the fridge

It's a source of much debate, but the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) charity, which knows its onions when it comes to food waste, gives this advice about storing different foods to keep them fresh for as long as possible: 

What it says SHOULD go in the fridge

  • Eggs 
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes
  • 'Most' other fruit and vegetables – though see important exceptions below

What it says SHOULDN'T go in the fridge

  • Bananas – store in a cool place, in a cupboard or on the side
  • Onions, whole – store in cool, dry, dark place, ideally in a cloth bag (only chopped onions and spring onions should be stored in the fridge)
  • Pineapples, whole – store in a cool, dry place (but move to the fridge once cut up)
  • Bread – store in a fairly cool, dark, dry place, eg, a bread bin or cupboard, in the original packaging

WRAP's consumer site Love Food Hate Waste lets you search for different products to check the best way to store them.

    In 2017, WRAP introduced the 'little blue fridge' icon for retailers to use on packaging to indicate whether a food item should be stored in the fridge. A 2022 survey showed that only 10% of applicable items displayed the fridge icon. WRAP says it "would like to see a significant increase in the adoption of this important icon, especially on fresh fruit and veg, which is the most wasted food category in people’s homes". So keep an eye out for the fridge icon, but remember it isn't being used by all retailers/products.

2. Use a leftover food recipe finder to empty out your fridge

The SuperCook site lets you search recipes from various cooking websites by selecting ingredients you need to use up. If you fancy trying out AI, free website/app DishGen turns your text prompt into a new recipe. There are similar tools on Good Food and Love Food Hate Waste, though these only let you search by one ingredient at a time.

You can even find recipes that make use of items you'd normally throw away or compost – such as potato peel. Recipes include:

3. Have an 'eat it first' section

Sounds obvious, but a little organisation in your fridge can go a long way. Sort through it and prioritise foods that are closest to going off.

This should make sure you don't leave anything forgotten at the back that will end up in the bin.

4. Make a meal plan (and stick to it)

You can avoid a lot of food waste simply by buying only the ingredients you need for your meals each week. To help, thrifty MoneySaving Old-Stylers on our forum share their meal plans, and even have challenges to help you use up what you've already got. See the Vegan storecupboard challenge and the What are you making for dinner? threads.

Also, check out our Make four people five dinners for £20 blog from 2017 for inspiration. Just be aware that the food prices listed will have changed since it was published.

5. Turn stale bread into French toast, croutons, bread pudding and more

If you end up with stale bread, there are a whole host of recipes you can use to make it into something tasty. Try turning it into:

MSE Forumite crazytree said: "Finally got round to using all the stale bread... I have one large bread pudding and a small one. Very tasty with ice cream for pudding. It'll do for packed lunches this week too."

Even simpler, WRAP suggests a trick for improving stale bread: just soak it in water, then pop it in the oven.

Again, it's important to stress here we're talking about stale, not decomposing, bread. The Food Standards Agency says: "Bread should be safe to consume past its 'best before' date but consumers should not eat bread that is mouldy."

6. Turn old bananas into milkshakes, banana bread, banana pops and more

If your bananas have turned to the dark side, try adding them to these recipes to make them more appetising:

Forumite Hev said: "I had half a dozen bananas going very ripe so made banana bread and banana muffins – I had forgotten how yummy they are."

And Primrose has another suggestion: "If you have slightly ripe bananas you're trying to use up in a fruit salad, a squeeze of lemon juice (or even lime juice) will make them far more palatable."

7. Store bread in the freezer to keep it fresh longer

To stop bread going stale in the first place, put it in the freezer the day you buy it. Then take it out a couple of slices at a time for toast or sandwiches. If you buy unsliced loaves, slice them before freezing.

If you're making packed lunches for work or school, don't let defrosting bread slow you down. You can make them while the bread is still frozen and it will defrost in time for lunch. And don't worry, while it may sound potentially messy if you've never tried it before, there's no excess water involved – the slices will just defrost to become normal bread.

8. Freeze lemon and lime slices and use them in drinks

If you only use part of a lemon or lime for a recipe, DON'T leave the rest in the fridge to slowly shrivel up. Slice it or cut it into wedges, and put it in the freezer to use as a fruity alternative to ice cubes.

To make sure they don't stick together, separate slices by laying them on ice cube trays and then move them to a freezer bag once they've frozen.

Forumite LameWolf uses this trick: "I prefer a slice of lemon in my tea instead of milk, and always keep lemon slices in the freezer for this purpose."

9. Don't throw away broccoli stems – they can taste just as good

Did you know you can eat the stem of broccoli? A surprising number of people throw it away, but if you trim off the tough outer layer and cook the stem with the rest of the broccoli 'florets', the stem can taste just as good (if not better).

There are all sorts of other things you might not have known you can eat. The leaves of a cauliflower, for example, fry up very nicely. You can also roast potatoes with the skin still on.

10. Freeze herbs, stock, yogurt and even TEA in ice cube trays for drinks, soups and sauces

Lots of food and drinks can be saved from being wasted by freezing them in ice cube trays. They're then in convenient portions for you to add to your cooking (or use in another drink).

  • Stock, wine or herbs – add to soups, stews, sauces or gravy
  • Fruit or fruit juice – add to smoothies or use as flavoured ice cubes in drinks
  • Yogurt – add to smoothies or curries
  • Coconut milk/cream – add to curries or sauces
  • Tea and coffee – add to iced tea or coffee instead of ice cubes

If you're freezing herbs, some Forumites recommend adding olive oil to your ice cube tray – others say they add water.

11. Make ice lollies or smoothies with leftover fruit, yogurt, fruit juice

If you own a smoothie maker (or blender), you'll know they're a great way to use up all sorts of things – including fruit, yogurt, milk, ice cream, fruit juice and lemonade.

But another option is to make homemade ice lollies to use up these leftovers. You'll just need some ice lolly moulds and a freezer, and you can create loads of different combinations, from fruity ice lollies to yogurt pops.

Try these Good Food recipes to get you started. Then visit the MSE Forum for inspiration from the Ice lolly ideas thread.

12. Make the perfect amount of pasta and rice every time

Use these measuring tricks to avoid wasting rice and pasta every time you cook them. You may need to adjust the amount slightly depending on your/your family's appetite, but they should give you a good starting point.

  • Rice – measure a quarter of a mug of uncooked rice per person (it might not look enough, but that's the portion suggested by Love Food Hate Waste – don't forget it will swell up during cooking)
  • Pasta – use your plate or bowl to measure out each portion of uncooked pasta – make sure it's not quite full, as the pasta will expand during cooking
  • Spaghetti – if you don't own an actual spaghetti measurer, take a bundle of dry spaghetti about the same diameter as a 10p coin – it should be enough for two servings

13. Give away food you won't eat

If you know you won't use it, see if someone else could. See our Foodbank donation tips to learn what you can and can't donate, and how to find your nearest donation point. Alternatively, give your unwanted food and drink items to neighbours via the free Olio app.

Got any other tips on avoiding food waste? Let us know in the Love Food Hate Waste forum thread.