Food planning tips to reduce waste and save money

Basket with vegetables

Planning and shopping smarter can help you to reduce the amount of food you waste. This is a really easy and effective thing you can do from your home to help tackle climate change and reduce your carbon footprint.

By reducing the amount of food waste generated in the first place, all the emissions involved in the production, processing, transportation and cooking of food won’t have been created. And it’s estimated by taking this action, you could also save up to £437 each year.

Before you shop

  • Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards to see what you already have that needs to be used up before you buy more food.
  • Make a shopping list and stick to it. This’ll help you avoid impulse buys and overstocking your kitchen with food that could later go to waste – around half of the food we throw away could actually be eaten.
  • Write a meal plan for the week so you only buy what you need – looking ahead can help you save time and money.
Shopping list and a bag with vegetables
A food bin with money next to it

Buying food

  • Choose use by dates which are further away for food you won’t be eating straight away.
  • Shop local to reduce food air miles. Check labels on packaging to see what country your food has come from.
  • Don’t do your food shop when you’re hungry! We’re all guilty of it but you’re more likely to impulse buy things you might not use.
  • Plan your meals so any leftovers can be frozen and used another time, or made into something else delicious the next day.
Two people in the shop holding apples and a shopping list

Storing your food

  • Most foods stay fresher for longer if kept chilled and if you’re not going to eat it before it goes off, then freeze it.
  • Date stamps can get confusing, from ‘use by’ to ‘best before’. Food Standards Scotland have clear explanations here, so you know exactly when something is safe to eat.
Food containers

Cooking & Serving

  • Plan out your portions and only cook what you need to avoid wasteful leftovers.
  • It’s easy to over-estimate things like pasta, rice and grains so take time to calculate the right portion size.

Use Love Food Hate Waste's useful portion planner to help estimate how much food to cook and avoid wasting food


  • Label your leftovers - naming and dating your food can help you keep track of what you have and what needs used first. 
  • When planning your meals, factor in leftovers too – they can make a tasty and easy lunch or snack.
  • Feel inspired by your leftovers – base new recipes on what’s left in your fridge and in your cupboards. Love Food Hate Waste has a handy recipe finder
  • Freeze or chill leftovers in portion-sized containers so you only have to defrost or use what you need.
  • Only reheat chilled leftovers or defrosted meals once.
  • Defrost leftovers properly if they’ve been in the freezer, and heat until piping hot throughout.
  • You should only freeze meat or fish once. But you can defrost meat, cook it as a meal, then freeze the meal for later heating and eating. For more information about safely reheating leftovers, visit Food Standards Scotland’s website.

This handy recipe finder from Love Food Hate Waste had lots of inspiration on how to use up your leftovers!

Food waste you can’t prevent

While some food waste is avoidable, some things like peelings and scraps can’t be helped. The best thing to do with unavoidable food waste is recycle it using a food caddy or compost bin.

Food waste in the bin

You can also pop any food scraps suitable for birds and wildlife outside to help Scotland’s nature.