How to make the most of your food in a shared household

When I talk to my daughters about some of the methods I use to reduce our food waste, they heave that wistful sigh of “If only…”

Both in their twenties, they’ve spent several years in shared households, including student accommodation, and they remind me of what it is like when you have very little space (and very little budget). So I thought it would be a good idea to list their suggestions about how they reduce their waste in a shared house.


Firstly, as this post is staring life on Day 4 of Zero Waste Week 2020, here’s the number one rule of reducing food waste:

Buy less food!

And that brings me to the number 2 rule which is a well stocked food storage cupboard. The rule applies even when you only have one shelf in the kitchen for your stuff and one shelf in the fridge and maybe you don’t even have a freezer.

A well stocked store cupboard doesn’t mean one crammed full of long life food! You need the FIFO rule.

First In First Out

Whenever you restock, be sure to put new stuff to the back behind the old stuff.

You don’t need to have loads in stock all the time, but if you have the makings of a few meals (I’d suggest at least 4) and you replace as you use, then it helps you to be able to have a back-up plan that allows you to buy less fresh food. It is of course, possible to store some of your store cupboard ingredients – I’m thinking tins! – in your bedroom, rather than in the kitchen. In my shared house days, a few tins (usually bought for me by my grandma) were always in the bottom of my wardrobe!

Our Zero Waste Week Store Cupboard Meal Planner helps you plan your four store cupboard meals and what you need to make them and gives an example.

Here’s the quick way to sort out your store cupboard then read on for more ideas, thanks to Lizzi and Jen.

The Zero Waste Week 10 minute store cupboard overhaul.

Pick one shelf of your food store cupboard and take everything out.

Give the cupboard a wipe over and dry it thoroughly, then start putting things back following these rules:

  1. Everything you have bought this year and is unopened and has a Best Before date well into the future, goes into the back of the cupboard.
  2. Everything from last year or with a Best Before date in the next three months that is unopened goes in next, so that’s in the middle.
  3. Anything opened, nearing or past its Best Before date goes in at the front.
  4. Pick one thing that is past its Best Before date if you have anything.  Take a photo, post it on social media with the hashtag #Letsignorebestbefore or post in the comments below. Either ask for ideas or give your own idea of how you are going to use it up before the end of the week.
  5. Pledge to eat it by the end of the weekend!

Go for it!

A few more things…

Jen says: If fruit IS about to go beyond how you like to eat it/ won’t be eaten in time / going away for weekend, freeze it to use in a smoothies or eat frozen. Frozen grapes are delicious, and frozen berries work well in porridge, frozen slices of apple or banana could be used to make a crumble).

There’s a great crumble recipe in my book, Leftover Pie, from one of our Zero Waste Week Ambassadors, Shane Jordan. There are also some very easy store cupboard recipes and of course, banana bread, which is very useful for rescuing your housemates’ black bananas (another Jen favourite).

Lizzi suggests offering stuff to your housemates if you don’t want it/really can’t see a way of using it. You could leave it on the side with a post it note saying “help yourself” or “eat me” if you are unlikely to see them. If you pass it on to housemates, you could list it on Olio. Olio is also a great way to get some free food as well as to make sure you don’t waste anything.



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Anna Pitt

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