Portion control to save you money

emma marsh

Throwing away food at the end of the family meal just because it didn’t get eaten can be really frustrating – and painful on the purse strings – but a few easy steps to get the portions right can make all the difference.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a good friend and while she was scraping perfectly good food off the dinner plates into the bin she was also explaining to me how she needed to cut her weekly spend but couldn’t think how to do it!

Research I’ve seen shows that as families we waste £680 worth of good food and drink each year and a large slice of this comes from leftovers. Makes you think doesn’t it…!

What about the half-eaten meal you didn’t get round to finishing, or the mashed potato at the bottom of the pan… I can think of better ways to waste my money.

Here are my tried and tested tips to ensure you cook just the right amount for your family’s needs and save money:

  • Use your basic bits of hardware to measure the right portions; find the formula that works for your family, and stick to it! An average-sized mug is great for measuring uncooked rice: one adult portion is about 1/4 full. The humble tablespoon is good for measuring out portions of beans, lentils, sugar and dried fruit, while a spaghetti measurer, which can you find in most kitchen shops cheaply, will make life infinitely easier if you’re unsure how much to cook for the family.
  • Don’t forget, food packaging will often have a guideline amount to cook per portion. Some even have handy portioning lines on the side to help you measure the right amount without having to break out the scales.
  • There are a range of websites which can help you with this – try the portion calculator at Love Food Hate Waste.
  • At meal times, let people serve themselves and add more if needed. They are more likely to serve the right portion and any untouched leftovers can be frozen for another time
  • And finally don’t panic if you cook too much, simply put it into an airtight container and freeze it – giving you or one of the family a meal for another night! I do this with mashed potato, lasagne, pasta, rice, curries, bolognaise – pretty much anything! Avoid freezing large serving sizes. Instead store in one to two portion sizes, this way food will freeze faster and it will be easier and quicker to defrost.

Emma Marsh heads up Love Food Hate Waste, which aims to raise awareness of the issue of food waste and offer simple everyday tips and support to help consumers save money and waste less. Emma is also a keen grower of fruit and veg in her garden and allotment at home.