Zero Waste Week 2020 – Day Two

Welcome to day two of Zero Waste Week 2020. Today is going to be a shopping revolution!

If you only have ten minutes to spare today then you can hop straight to today’s challenge. Here’s the 10 minute version.

If you can read along while you eat your breakfast or have a coffee break then keep going and we’ll get to the shopping related challenge for today in a bit.

But first let’s talk about how and where we shop.

Let's talk about how and where we shop

Most of us have a favourite place we go to do our food shopping. We might also have a number of options, if we don’t live in remote locations and many people will vary where they go according to what they’ve got on the shopping list and whether they are focussing on, price, quality or variety or a combination of those three.

Years ago I used to be a weekly shopper in the supermarket that I passed on my way home from work, but I gradually realised that I only shopped that way because that’s what other people around me did.

I discovered ways to make the weekly shop work – you can read more about those on Thursday, but eventually I understood that if I could shop for just a few days at a time that worked better for me.

I have am lucky enough now that I can shop for just a few days at a time all very local in walking distance (except for my four to six monthly trip with my own tubs (by train) to my nearest Zero Waste Shop for goods that would otherwise only be available in packets and I try to shop plastic free.

However, there will be people who don’t have that option.

Zero Waste Week Ambassador, Zoe, has written a great blog post (link at the end of the page) about how to save money on your food shopping. This was a lockdown-friendly version, but the advice holds true, whether we can or can’t have total freedom over where we shop.

I love shopping direct from the grower whenever I can – farm shops and farmers’ markets are great for this and so too are the side of the road stalls or even the table outside a neighbour’s house. This way, more of your money is supporting the growth of the product, rather than transportation, refrigeration, more transportation and the product is likely to be fresher from having cut down the food miles and days of travel.

Can you go local?

We don’t all have access to shopping in this way, so here’s a guide to help you do the best you can along a hierarchy of how our food is produced. It has been very nicely put by  Jonathan.  He calls this “Using your LOAF”

L  is for Local – at the top of the list is – locally sourced ingredients – this cuts down on food miles and also means that you are going seasonal too.

O which is for organic- buying organic when you can helps to support good farming practices, but not all farmers adhering to good practice can afford to have their produce labelled as organic.

A  is for Avoiding intensive farming. If you can’t go local or organic, then avoid factory farming and support farms who are caring for the environment and farming in sustainable ways.

F is for Fairtrade – Fairtrade is for those items that you can’t source locally ever as they just don’t grown in your climate.

The more we can pay attention to how the food we buy is produced, the more we will be doing our bit for a sustainable planet.

However, the big thing for today is our Tuesday Challenge and here it is!

Today, even though we’ve been talking about the different ways and places you can shop, there’s only one place we want you to shop today:

Your freezer!

Today’s challenge is to go shopping in your fridge or freezer. This challenge is just going to start today, but depending on how large your freezer is and how much food you cram into it, the challenge should last you all week.

We often find that when we talk to people about making sure that they freeze anything that’s about to go out of date, some people say they’ve got no room in the freezer. That should never be the case. 

While it is true to say that it is helpful if your freezer is reasonably well stocked most of the time as otherwise you are just paying for and using up electricity to keep air very cold! But we all need to move away from the problem of never having any room left in the freezer at all.

There can really only be one reason for there being no room in your freezer and that is because you are forgetting to use up what you’ve got. So regular shopping in your freezer is a must. Whenever you go shopping, you need to remember to look in your freezer before you go. Make a note of what you’ve got in your freezer and add in one or two dishes to your week’s plan so you can cut down on how many days you are shopping for.

A couple of times a year it is well worth taking a whole week, like this week to go shopping in your freezer and make sure you use up as much as you can, then as you restock, make sure that all the old stuff is the easiest to reach. That way you should never be in the situation where you’ve got stuff in there that’s older than your children / your dad / your infant school teacher. Know what I mean?

If you want to save time you can hop to the 10 minute version here.

If you are a student or living in a shared house, you can go here.

Otherwise, here’s the full monty version of the go shopping in your freezer challenge.

If you can spare 40 minutes to an hour today, grab a scrap of paper and a pen or pencil and have a good look at what you’ve got in stock. For each day of the rest of this week decide on something from the freezer to be that day’s main meal and write it down. If you’ve got other main meals you could decide to carry on the challenge into next week, or you can simply list everything and stick it on the freezer door and pledge to replace two days a week from now on as freezer days rather than buying more stuff.

If you start doing this regularly it will save you money both short and long term – in the short term, because you won’t be paying out for as much food and longer term because you will have the room in your freezer to make sure you freeze anything from your fridge that is on its Use By date  so that it doesn’t get wasted and of course so that you can snag a bargain in the shops when you see one, knowing that you will be able to freezer it and use it in the next few weeks even if you’ve already planned something else for the next few days.

Don’t forget to add into your meals all those items on your eat me first shelf and remember that your eat me first shelf is a permanent tool not a one off, so every time you open a packet, it goes on to the eat me first shelf – oh, and of course you never open a packet when you have one open on the eat me first shelf already!

You might be figuring out already that one of the messages we’d really like you to take away from this week is to have less food in your fridge and freezer at all times. If that scares you a bit, then come back on Thursday and we’ll put your mind at rest with some important tips on how to make this happen all the more easily.

Less is more!

Tomorrow we will be looking at better storage so that we make sure all those greenhouse gas emissions, all those long hours of physical labour put in by farmers, and all our hard-earned cash is worth it.

The Full Monty

For those who have a bit of time today, let’s talk about meal planning.

While you are rummaging in your freezer, get yourself a piece of paper to make yourself a use-it-up meal plan. The back of an envelope will do, but by all means go for something lovelier if it inspires you. If your children are of that age where they love drawing, maybe you can ask them to decorate your meal plan as a way of helping them get involved and understanding what you are doing and why. Developing good habits at a young age is, as we all know, a great thing. If your children grow into adults who by second nature make good use of their freezer and know how to meal plan in the Zero Waste Week Way, then it will help us create a sustainable future without this massive problem of food waste. If you have teenagers, do get them on board with Zero Waste Week if you can.

This particular meal plan will be for you to write up meals from the freezer (and fridge) to eat up this week. If you need inspiration on how to use up various things then get onto social media and come and chat to us. We’ll help you with your plan.

Once you’ve done the plan for this week, there are two options for how to proceed to use up the rest.

  1. Continue onto next week until you have used pretty much everything  (you have to be brave and come back on Thursday for some help with making this less scary!)  But if your freezer needs a defrost this is the method for you! … or
  2. Pick 2 days a week for however many weeks it takes where some or all of your meal will be freezer based.

Of course if you are doing the 2 days a week method you might be reintroducing things into your freezer. You might be able to have a juggle around once you are part way through using up so that you clear one section or drawer or shelf for the new stuff – just like you did with the Eat Me First shelf in your fridge on Monday (except this is like an Eat Me Last shelf!).

Now to think ahead for a few minutes, here’s a bit of advice on how to restock your freezer once you’ve used everything up.

  1. Don’t go out and splurge a fortune to fill your freezer straight away.(Don’t worry you won’t be freezing nothing but air for long! And you can always freeze a few loaves a bread to cheaply fill some of the space.)
  2. Go for a gradual restock process and stop when you are three quarters capacity.
  3. Set yourself up a stock rotation system. This might mean that you bring everything forward or up and put new items at the back or below, or that you occasionally rearrange drawers so you put the older stuff into certain drawers and the newer stuff into the “new stuff” drawer. Or perhaps you strictly use one drawer at a time then that becomes your next new drawer when it is empty.
  4. Think about leaving room for a loaf of bread to be always in your freezer (or half a loaf if you only have a freezer section in your fridge. Make sure the loaf is sliced – even if you slice it yourself – before you freeze it. Then you can use the bread straight from the freezer.There’s some more information in this extract from our Zero Food Waste Heroes course.
  5. Keep room for stock. It is great to have the room in your freezer for home made stock as it is such a great way to capture extra goodness. If you’ve never made your own stock before, then here’s another exact from our Zero Food Waste Heroes course which talks you through how to make it. You’ll save money, save waste and get so much extra nutrition  (which feels like it is for free) and you’ll have the base for soups, risottos and casseroles all ready for when you next want to make them.
  6. Take the opportunity to prepare yourself some home-made ready meals. Each time you cook anything like a curry, a shepherd’s pie, a risotto, or a casserole, make a bit extra and freeze it in portion sized containers. Remember to label and date these.
  7. Bag a bargain. When you shop, look out for food that is on or near its Use-By date. It will be reduced as supermarkets do also hate waste (and it costs them money). When you unpack your shopping pop your bargains straight into the freezer and remember the Use By date is for when the food is fresh, not frozen. WRAP advise that food can be frozen indefinitely – safety-wise – but that it may start to lose flavour, texture or colour so is best used up within three years. Of course, now you know how to do the Use-it -up challenge you’ll never get past a year or two anyway!

We cover more about stock rotation, meal planning, shopping smart and buying less on our Zero Heroes Food Waste course which is available through our online shop. The course costs just £5 and will save you loads of money by following the tips on the course. The first 10 people to complete the course will be able to get a discount on any of our other courses, once they’ve filled out the feedback form. This is our way to say thank you for caring and sharing your views, which in turn helps others to reduce their waste and helps us to add to and improve the course.

If you are already one of our many Zero Food Waste Heroes and fancy helping the world by helping others to get to be Zero Heroes themselves, we have a fantastic course for you too. You might want to take a look at our Zero Hero Food Waste Champions Course. Although this course has a cost (in order for us to cover the costs of running it) there may be ways to get the course funded for you. Here are three possible ways to fund the course:

  1. Find out if your employer has a scheme to cover training. Often companies have a budget for training that is not related to their work, but is rather for self-development and well-being.
  2. Ask your local council waste department if they have a champions scheme. They may have funding to cover initial training and/or could also help you once you have completed the course, to get started with running events in your local community.
  3. Find out if you have any local organisations that offer grants for community work. Such organisations might be able to fund your training and help you set up events and workshops.


We look forward to seeing you tomorrow for some more use it up tips and tricks!


Useful links:

For Zoe Morrison’s blog post about how to save money on your food shopping click here.

If you’re not sure if you can freeze something try this handy A-Z tool from WRAP.


Posted in

Anna Pitt


  1. Maisie on September 8, 2020 at 6:56 am

    I have done the following for years now.
    Individual portions of things left over are frozen, then once a month or so we have a “use it up” night.
    I pull out all those tubs and we have a mezzo style dinner. So there could be chilli alongside sweet & sour, pasta bake alongside curry. Often all that is needed is few fresh veggies or a salad and we have a dinner for 4 adults.
    These individual tubs also work well for hubby taking a hot option to work for his lunch.

  2. Sarah E. on September 8, 2020 at 8:48 am

    I know strictly speaking you are avoiding us going out to shop unnecessarily but while we’re mentioning food shops can I ask :
    i) could you post a list of all the ‘community fridges’ there are already in the UK
    ii) start a petition for each city/town to have one set up officially
    iii) tell us if it’s possible either to get cream and yoghurt vat filled and poured anywhere around Halton or Merseyside, or packed in glass jars rather than plastic . Though I’m making my own yoghurt now , it’s nowhere near as nice as shop bought makes and occasionally I crave the superior versions , but I always seem to get caught out when I need to buy it , or fromoge frais or cream for special occasions .
    Not all authorities re cycle these kinds of tubs ( ours for instance) (plus it seems sensible to phase that plastic out altogether to me). That’s another thing : is there a campaign to bring continuity to the UKs recycling services so items are universally accepted . A bit off tack – but ….thoughts?
    Thanks Sarah .

  3. Claire Carter on September 8, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Some great tips. I nearly always cook in bulk as it saves energy resources as well as time and effort. It’s always great to have some ‘standby meals’. I l then use these meals up within the next month or so which helps me remember what’s in there and means I always have room!

  4. Suella Postles on September 8, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Great ideas. I’m using up the freezer and refilling it with the foods that are in season in my veg patch. Some raw but most steamed and cooked in meal sized portions.

    I’m a volunteer for Leicestershire CC Enviromental waste department and help with exhibition stands where we distribute rice and spagetti measuring devices, bag closures and lots of simple recipes., especially for students this time of year. Alas C-19 has stopped this for the foreseeable future.

    you are certainly right about food frozen too long loses its flavour. Freezer burn it is called in some places.

    However, I’m afraid your designer left me cold with the white bread as motif. Not the sort of loaf I would ever use. Neither tasty nor nutritious in my book.

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