Week three: Planning ahead and shopping mindfully

This week your challenge is to learn how to prevent your food from becoming waste by planning your meals and shopping with a list. Week three is about forming new habits.

By now you should have a good idea about how much food you throw away and should be thinking about what you can use up in your fridge, freezer or pantry before buying more food.

Planning right

Food waste at home actually starts with what we put in our trolley. Often we buy more than we need. This week we want you to think about what you're going to eat by writing a menu plan, being more thoughtful about what you put in your trolley, and sticking to your menu plan to reduce food waste.

Here's your week three challenge steps.

  1. Menu planning
    Write a menu plan based around ingredients that are already in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Display your menu plan on your fridge to help keep you on track. Check out our meal planning tips.
    To help you plan, you can download the:
  2. Write a shopping list
    List all of the ingredients (including a specific amount) you need to buy to make the meals on your menu plan. Add ingredients to your shopping list as you finish them, or after you've checked they are not in your cupboard.
  3. Go shopping
    Be strong and stick to your shopping list. Avoid impulse buys, as even if your impulse buy gets eaten, it often means something else is wasted in its place. You're likely to save money too by sticking to your shopping list. Check out our shopping tips to reduce food waste.
    You can download the:
  4. Organise
    Organise your fridge as you restock it. Move items that are close to their expiry date to an 'eat me first' section of your fridge. Inspect your food containers for ingredients beyond their expiration date.
  5. Follow your meal plan
    If you find it difficult to stick to your meal plan, choose meals with shorter cooking or preparation times. If a meal doesn't whet your appetite on the day it is planned for, switch to something else you'd planned to eat that week. Resist the temptation to go and buy more food. If you find you're cooking for more people than expected, see what ingredients you can add to make the meal go further. You could add some garlic bread, roast vegetables or pasta.

Meal planning tips 

  • Plan ahead, but not too far ahead. Think about when you're most likely to go shopping again and plan for one meal beyond that date.
  • Plan to use perishable salad ingredients first.
  • Make the first meal of your menu plan, the simplest meal. Start easy.
  • Plan meals around your lifestyle. Plan quick, easy meals for busy nights.
  • Don't plan a meal for every night of your menu plan period. Leave one night free to eat leftovers, or make a 'freestyle' meal with ingredients that need to be used.
  • Plan multiple meals using similar ingredients. Think about how leftovers from one meal might contribute to another meal. 
  • Plan to use leftovers as lunches or snacks.
  • Ask everyone in your household to be involved in the menu planning process.

Shopping tips to reduce food waste

  • Don't shop on an empty stomach. Research shows that hungry shoppers make more impulsive purchases than shoppers who've just eaten. So, to avoid over-buying, head out after eating.
  • Choose loose fruit and vegetables instead of pre-packaged items to ensure you don't end up with more produce than you need.
  • Avoid two-for-one specials or discounted fresh produce unless those ingredients are already on your shopping list.
  • Buy your meat and cheeses at the delicatessen so you can buy the exact quantity you need.
  • Buy nuts and dried fruits from the bulk bins so you can purchase smaller quantities than packaged products.
  • Remember that buying in bulk only saves you money if you eat the food before it spoils.
  • Beware of upsizing offers. For example, a larger block of cheese might only be an extra dollar, but if you're not able to eat it all before the use by date, you haven't saved any money at all.
  • Shopping more frequently allows you to buy smaller quantities of fresh ingredients and gives you more flexibility if your plans change and you have more or less people to feed than you planned for.
  • If you struggle to stick to your shopping list in store, try shopping online. You'll be able to see how much you're spending as you go and won't be tempted by in-store displays and markdowns.

Perishable food organisation tips

  • Implement a system for your crisper. For example, move all of the older fruit and vegetables to the left and store the new produce on the right. Make sure everyone in your household knows about your system.
  • Place ripe fruit in the fridge.
  • Store bread in the freezer and use it as you need it. Brisbane's subtropical climate means mould can grow quickly, making bread one of our top food waste items. 
  • Freeze meat that you don't plan to eat immediately.

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Last updated: 8 June 2021