I read somewhere this week that Australians throw out 1 in 5 bags of shopping every week…that’s a lot of waste.

We try our best not to throw anything out, but it requires careful planning. How do you decide what your family has for dinner each night? Do you put the slow cooker on while you’re at work? Do you buy for a single meal on the way home? Do you get organised in a mad rush when you get home? I used to do all of those things!

In the many share houses I’ve lived in over the years, our fridges were a shady world of old, squishy and sometimes unidentifiable things.

Of course nobody would lay claim to them and once a year the fridge might get cleaned out and all dead stuff removed. Actually more likely the fridge would get cleaned when we all moved out because nobody was silly enough to claim that awful job unless they absolutely had to.

I used to go to the expensive inner city supermarket on my way home and spend $20 on groceries (carried home in plastic bags of course) to make a grand meal for one.  Then after cooking, the leftovers would stay in the fridge, pushed to the back and forgotten.

Many years later and I’ve now acquired myself a husband, two kids and a budget.

I have to go to the supermarket with my reusable bags once a week with two toddlers in tow (actually this bit was easier when I was single. Taking two kids to the supermarket can be a breeze or be a totally embarrassing in a matter of seconds!).

I’ve been tempted to do online shopping with Woolworths but firstly, I prefer Aldi, its way cheaper and mostly covers our needs; secondly they charge an average 7% premium on every item (True story. I tested it myself!) and since I’m a cheapskate these days, I refuse to pay that.

To make our shopping list, hubby and I write a menu on Sunday nights.  I’ve got a reminder in my phone so we don’t forget and sometimes we can’t be bothered, but it has to be done, we just don’t have time for last minute dinner planning.

We write down all the ingredients we need for each meal, that all goes on the shopping list and that’s it.

We don’t buy more than what we need, at the end of the week the fridge is empty and nothing ends up in the rubbish.  If we make a meal that needs half a cabbage, we make another meal that week that uses the rest of said cabbage.  If the purse strings are tight for the week, we don’t buy outside of the usual staples and make simple meals using pasta and rice, stuff we always have in the cupboard.

Here are a few cheap and easy meal inspirations that my family love:

If menu planning sounds interesting but you’re not sure how to start, first thing you need to do is choose a shopping day if your schedule allows for the day to stay consistent.

Get yourself a notepad or grab this cute, free printable dinner planner that we use, click here.

The night before your shopping day, make your menu.  Scour your recipe books or cook old family favourites that you don’t need a recipe for.  Google is a wealth of information for recipes, Pinterest is my favourite. Write down the ingredients you need for each recipe.

Try not to add recipes that will create waste. If you have to buy a whole cauliflower then make sure you have several meals that will use up the whole cauliflower. If you need half a block of feta cheese, add in another recipe to use the other half.

Get more value out of your meals too and save yourself spending money on lunch while you’re at work, choose recipes that can be doubled (or more) to ensure you have just enough leftover for lunch the next day.

Once you’ve made your menu, write your shopping list.  Then head to your pantry and write down all the extra basics you need for the week.  Ours include butter, cheese, tinned tomatoes, pasta, tinned beetroot, cereal etc.

All done. An accurate list with only the things you need and nothing left over to waste.

It took a few weeks for us to get used to it, but now we can’t remember how we ever managed before!  Once you get into the swing of it, menu planning will be easy and you’ll be singing its praises to your friends.  Enjoy!

Do you have ways of cutting down on waste in your home? Share with us in the comments below.

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  • I tend to write my recipe ingredients on my list and leave it at that too (doesn’t always work but we do our best).


  • This is very similar to what we do :) I had no idea about the online shopping price hike! I don’t like woolies either, a coles girl myself


  • An interesting mini article. Thanks for posting.


  • Really great saving tips here … I try to be organised and use what I have in fridge to decide meals for that week it not only saves time and money but a lot of wasted food too


  • I would have to get rid of hubby, or stop him from coming shopping at the very least. He’s an impulse buyer and it doesn’t end well


  • I actually find online shopping is better as I don’t buy junk food (which is everywhere in my sight when I shop) and it allows to me to keep an eye on how much I am spending as I shop


  • Such a fantastic idea – when you order online you can do this too!


  • I do a weekly dinner plan before shopping so then we know what we are going to have for dinner that week and also means I will have to cook the said meal and not be lazy and get take away.
    I try not to waste so we will only buy enough of what we need if it is fresh and for he staples or longer life item try to buy when they are on special.


  • We freeze all left overs and meats so no waste. And veggies I buy from fruit and veg markets every fortnight with a small top up each week. We never waste food as what’s not eaten is cooked up for our dog. :)


  • I try to feed it all to the husband before stuff goes off… Sometimes I hide things in his dinner. Lol..


  • At the end of our pay cycle, I go through the cupboards and crest ‘surprise’ meals using up what I have left in cupboards and fridge. Makes for some interesting meals

    • yeah that is great, no wastage then, cheers to nicole for posting this


  • These are great ideas. We do similar now as I’m on maternity leave and we have a strict budget.


  • so exellent


  • Great ideas and i already do lots of your tips.


  • It’s easy when you try to make meals from everything in your fridge. Waste not want not!!!


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