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Reducing Food Waste, Lessons from a No Spend Year

Reducing Food Waste, Lessons from a No Spend Year

Read this Guest Blog from Mrs Smart Money, Kel…

When it comes to reducing food waste and getting the most out of your food, it’s all in the planning. The majority of good food saving habits happen long before you leave the house to do a shop. A simple system put in place can go very far in reducing the amount of food and hard-earned cash ending up in the bin.

In 2019, I embarked on a No Spend Year where I managed to not only reduce our food waste down to a tiny fraction of what it was previously, I also managed to cut our food budget in half from almost €9,765 to €4,916. This system worked so well that even after the No Spend Year was over, I have decided to continue on this way of shopping. The health, sustainability and financial benefits were far too high to ignore.

We Are All Different

We all have different needs so a budget that suits someone else may not suit you. The key to making a food plan work for your household is to find the balance between allowing you to eat well while not wasting food. There is no point in depriving yourself in an unsustainable way. Decades of failed New Year’s resolutions should have shown us this by now. In saying that, buying too much food and not planning correctly leads to unnecessary waste. Finding your perfect family food budget number takes a bit of time. So be patient with yourself and have fun with it.


There are several levels to reducing waste in any food budget. It will take a bit of time, practice and thought to get the good habits built up. From my experience, I can assure you that after a few weeks of working on this you will become a natural and find that it doesn’t take much effort at all. In saying that, you will notice the reduction in waste almost immediately.

The Steps to Designing a Shopping List to Reduce Food Waste

Here are the steps I follow to drastically reduce food waste for the long term:

Step 1 The Fridge

Grab a pen and paper and head to your fridge. Spend a bit of time looking at what is in your fridge and try to create the basics of meals using ingredients available there. Even if it’s just a half jar of sauce, carton or vegetables. It is important to use what you have already as the basis of your next week’s meal planning.

Step 2 – The Freezer

Next, check out your freezer. See what can be used from there to add to the meal plan, complementing the fridge contents. Freezers are totally underestimated. They are brilliant for storing food, including chopped up veg or fruit. However, it is also important to use what is in your freezer, rotate its contents and have it play an active part in your meal planning regime.

Step 3 – The Cupboards

The next step is to check the cupboards for any additional items that can be added to the growing meal plan. These first three steps will quite often give you the basis for many meals for the week ahead before anything has even been put on the shopping list.

Step 4 – The List

Any items that are needed to complete the dishes that are forming can be added to the shopping list. When it comes to staples and other household items, I keep a whiteboard in my kitchen and write them on the board as they are running low. These too can go on the shopping list. This method also ensures that I don’t forget anything and end up making additional trips to the store which generally means that I end up picking up items that are not needed.

Step 5 – The Apps

To complete the shopping list, check the online apps of the store(s) that you are planning on going to. Note down the promotional fruit/veg and other items that you will need to get to round out the week’s meals. This should complete your shopping list.

Step 6 – The Bin

Look at the items that end up in the bin or go to waste. These are the items that need to be tackled. Either stop buying them or find better ways of storing or freezing them before they go off end up in the bin. These are also to be prioritised for use in next week’s meal plan. Think of the bin as your worst-case scenario.

Step 7 – The Shop

Try to stick strictly to the shopping list. Then you avoid impulse purchases that don’t fit in with your meal plan and often either end up in the bin or cause other items to end up in the bin.

The Benefits Make a Shopping List Regime Worth Your While

Taking time to learn this practice will ensure that food waste will drop dramatically. It will also help to reduce the number of impulse items we buy, prevent all those half used jars of sauces going to waste and more.

In addition to the waste reduction, it will also help to lower the cost of the weekly grocery shop as it focuses on what you already have as opposed to consistently stocking up on unnecessary items.

About The Author:

Kel, otherwise known as Mrs Smart Money stepped back from her 16-year career as she felt that her children’s childhood was passing her by. This resulted in the No Spend Year coming into being. During this year she succeeded in reducing her family’s outgoings by €27,500. No Spend Year was a success and the book will be released later this year through Orpen Press. She is now a Budgeting Coach and wants to help others do the same and get confident with money. She is focused on reducing waste and living a more sustainable lifestyle. You can find her on Instagram @mrssmartmoneyhq where she runs chronicles her weekly food shop and gives tips and advice on reducing waste and getting the most out of your food or at

Banner photograph by Bich Tan (@thngocbich) via Pexels