Holiday countdown: How to avoid wasting food when you go away

Posted by Ella Buchan on 15 August 2016

Going anywhere nice this year? In the rush to get ready for a holiday, it’s easy to forget about your food. Before your bags are packed, make sure your fridge and cupboards aren’t stocked with items that will go bad while you’re gone. Whether you’re staying in a country cottage or jetting off to the Caribbean, these tips will help you to avoid wasting food - and money. 

Run down your freezer 

Now’s the perfect opportunity to clear out your freezer and defrost it - something we all need to do occasionally to avoid icebergs growing in the deep freeze. Think about different ways you can use up those neglected bits and bobs in the weeks before you go on hols. Throw peas or sweetcorn into a risotto, and read our guide for using up frozen fruit.

Frozen veggies
Shutterstock via: BravissimoS

Upgrade your storage

Now’s the perfect time to invest in some decent storage tins and jars to keep your less perishable items - like rice, flour, pasta and dried pulses - safe while you’re away. And if you do have leftovers to freeze, use ziplock bags or securely sealed boxes so the contents can be easily tipped into a pan and reheated when you’re home.

Read our ode to the humble glass jar here.

Glass jars
Shutterstock via: Peangdao

Quiz your fridge

No, we don’t mean put it through the Spanish Inquisition. Just have a proper root through and work out what needs using up, what could be frozen or preserved and what will keep while you’re away (some sauces and preserves).

Rearrange the contents so perishable items that need eating first, like fruit and veg, are closest at hand.

It sounds obvious, but how often do you discover a long-forgotten carrot or half cucumber at the bottom of the salad drawer?

Not got time to munch your way through everything? Whip up extra meals just for the freezer, or make bigger quantities when cooking supper. Then you can label the leftovers and have ready-to-cook meals on your return.

Fridge
Shutterstock via: Baronb

Dry it out

Still haven’t managed to munch your way through all that fruit and veg? Don’t throw it out - dry it out instead. Cut into thin slices, spread evenly on baking sheets and put in the oven at 40oC until shrivelled or brittle for longer storage. This could take around five hours, so consider buying a dehydrator if drying in large quantities.

Once cool, store in jars or plastic tubs. They will keep for up to a year, ready to add intense flavour and crunch to any number of dishes. Throw veg into pasta sauces, stews and soups, and sprinkle dried fruit on yoghurt, ice cream or your morning bowl of porridge. Apples and carrots make delicious healthy snacks.

Dried veg
Shutterstock via: Birgit Reitz-Hofmann

Jam it

OK, you’re probably manically trying to prepare for your holiday, checking passports, buying currency and digging out your beach togs. But if you do have some time before you go, think about preserving fruit and veg into chutneys, pickles and jam. It’s easier than you think. You can even throw unloved produce into a slow cooker.

Find out how with our guide here.

Jam
Shutterstock via: Angyalosi Beata

Share your food

From apples on the turn to tinned foods that have been sitting in your cupboard for ages, post the information on free food-sharing app OLIO and someone else could be whipping up something delicious while you’re off sunning yourself.

Apples
Shutterstock via: Markus Mainka

Set yourself a store-cupboard challenge

Rather than doing your usual supermarket shop and stocking up on more food, think about new and imaginative ways you could be creating meals from what you already have. Scour your cupboards for inspiration, and try to just buy small quantities of fresh produce to use in a recipe. You could end up adding some new supper favourites to your repertoire.

Here are some tips for cooking with store cupboard essentials, and check out these meals you can make with leftover tinned foods.

Leftover tinned-foods
Shutterstock via: Evlakhov Valeriy

Get juicy

Smoothies and juices are a fab way of using up large quantities of fruit and veg. Try spinach with ginger, apple and parsley, or throw berries in with banana and a little milk or water.

Juices
Shutterstock via: Alena Haurylik

Take it with you

Whether you’re flying on a no-frills (and no food) airline or driving to the British seaside, make use of what you have in and save money to boot. Wrap up leftovers that can be eaten cold for your journey, chop up cold meat into salads and, if you’re self-catering, just pack the contents of your fridge.

How about these tasty wraps for an in-flight snack you know you’ll enjoy?

Leftovers
Shutterstock via: Elena Elisseeva

Liked this? Then try these:

13 ways to use up BBQ leftovers

Crunch time: Use our decision map to help plan your dinner

Burger 'wannabe' kings: 9 barbecue recipes made from leftovers