Packed lunch

Planning and portions


Planning your meals and getting your portion sizes right are two easy ways to make sure you’re not wasting food.

Here are some ways to help you plan and measure perfect portions:


  • Write out a weekly meal plan – and ask your family to help you come up with ideas.
  • When writing your plan, remember to use your leftovers and what’s already in your cupboard, fridge or freezer – visit our recipe pages for suggestions.
  • Include a store cupboard meal, with items that won’t go off quickly like a pasta bake. Then if your plans change you can keep this meal for another time, without it going to waste.
  • Write a shopping list based on your meal plan and stick to it when you go to the supermarket.
  • Try shopping online where it’s easier to resist special offers or buying food you don’t need.
  • Set a budget to help you avoid buying extras.
  • Only buy in bulk or discounts such as ‘buy one, get one free’ if you’ll definitely use them.
  • Write a shopping list based on your meal plan and stick to it when you go to the supermarket.
  • Try shopping online where it’s easier to resist special offers or buying food you don’t need.
  • Set a budget to help you avoid buying extras.
  • Only buy in bulk or discounts such as ‘buy one, get one free’ if you’ll definitely use them.

It’s helpful to stay stocked up on some essential cupboard ingredients, which will help you turn your leftovers into a meal without going to the shops.

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Herbs, spices and condiments
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Ready-made sauces
  • Oils (such as olive, vegetable, sunflower)
  • Canned fish
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Vinegar (white wine, balsamic)

The easiest way to prevent cooking too much is to measure your portions before you start cooking.  To find your perfect portion sizes you can start by using the guidelines below or on food packaging. You can also experiment and work out your ideal portion sizes using kitchen items like tablespoons. This could be as simple as having a mug to measure rice, or handfuls to measure pasta.

Ideally we should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, one portion size is 80g. The following are typical adult portions:

  • Three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables.
  • Three sticks of celery.
  • A 5cm piece of cucumber.
  • One medium tomato or seven cherry tomatoes.
  • One piece of medium sized fruit, for example one apple, banana, orange or nectarine.
  • Two or more pieces of small fruit, such as two plums, two satsumas, two kiwi fruit, three apricots, seven strawberries, a handful of grapes or 14 cherries.

Find out more on the NHS website.

We often use starchy foods to form the basis of a meal. A portion could be:

  • 75g – 100g for an adult of dried pasta (about a mug full). 50-60g for a child.
  • 75g dried rice (about one quarter of a mug) for an adult. 35g for a child (2.5 tablespoons).
  • One large potato for adults or three small potatoes for children.
  • A third of a soup bowl of cereal.

It’s recommended that we consume three portions of dairy a day. A typical adult portion includes:

  • 30g cheese (roughly the size of a matchbox).
  • 200ml of milk (a small glass full).
  • A small pot of yoghurt (150g).

Surrey Environment Partnership comprises Surrey County Council and the 11 district and borough councils in Surrey.

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