Planning meals and shopping to prevent food waste

Planning your meals and preparing a shopping list can help you save time and money and help to prevent food waste. Research shows that about one in five bags of food we buy is being wasted, which is around $2,200 to $3,800 of additional cost per household every year.

Food planning can help improve nutrition, reduce the stress of planning 'what's for dinner' and make your trip to the grocery store much quicker and easier.

The way you plan your meals depends on what works best for you. 

Here are some ideas for food planning to help you make the most of your food.

Start with a food stocktake

How often do you end up throwing away food because it is past its 'best before' date or 'use-by' date? Do you find yourself buying ingredients at the supermarket, only to realise afterward that you had what you needed at home?

Checking your fridge, freezer, and pantry cupboards regularly is a great way to take stock of the food you already have at home, before you head out to shop.

Try this - Challenge yourself to buy nothing new for one week, to use up what you already have, and get creative in the kitchen. You can start by Google-ing recipes for some of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge, like that can of beans, or jar of sauce you bought on a whim, but never used.

Write a meal plan

Meal plans can be as simple or as detailed as you like.

By planning meals ahead of time, you can avoid impulse buys at the supermarket by knowing exactly what you need to purchase. 

Use a meal planning app, or write a list with what you need to buy to make your meals.

Have a look through the Love Food Hate Waste recipes for ideas and remember to love your leftovers by planning to use them in your meal planning.

Plan for portions

Cooking too much is one of the most common causes of food waste. Most of the time, we cook too much because we worry about not having enough food, or have trouble judging the right amount of food for meal portions.

Portion planning can help reduce wasted food and ensure a varied, healthy and balanced diet. Portion sizes vary between men and women, as well as different age groups. Exercise portion control by using smaller plates. Allowing people to serve themselves also helps avoid food waste.

For more information about planning for healthy portions, check out the Australian Government's Eat for Health website which has serve sizes based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Make a shopping list

Write down all the things you need from the supermarket to make your planned meals, noting the quantities you need next to each ingredient. 

You'll find it much easier to avoid excess food when you shop with a list. It can also help you save money, by not buying items you don't need.

Shop smart

Efficient and thoughtful shopping can help reduce food waste, as well as other types of packaging waste. 

Read our tips on how to shop smarter:

  • check the 'best before or 'use by' dates and only buy ingredients that you can use in time
  • avoid food shopping when you are feeling hungry - you'll buy less and save money
  • avoid impulse food purchases by doing your grocery shopping online with your shopping list
  • think before you buy 'two-for-one' specials. Do you really need two? A deal is only good value if you can use the food 
  • buying in bulk can be a good options as long as you have the right storage solution and can use all of the food before it spoils or perishes.

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Last updated: 28 May 2021

Brisbane City Council acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land and their unique relationship with their ancestral country. We pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of Brisbane, and recognise their strength and wisdom.