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8 Ways To Cut Down on Food Waste

by Tiffany in A Green Home

8 Ways To Cut Down on Food Waste

The average US household wastes a lot of food. I know I have definitely been guilty of this myself. If we have to clean out our frig once a month and throw half the contents away spoiled, unused, and moldy than we are wasting food and wasting money. How much of our monthly food bill is actually tossed in the garbage? $20? $30? This has an impact on your finances and it impacts the planet because we use more than we need. So how do we nip this problem in the bud?

1. List the leftovers. This is an incredibly simple and incredibly useful way to remind you to eat the leftovers! Put a magnetic pad on your refrigerator, you can usually get one for $1 at the dollar store or in the dollar bin at Michael’s Craft Store. When you put leftovers in the frig, note the item and date. Aka “Sweet and Sour Soup 2-8-13”. The list will look right at you when you go to browse for your next meal or snack, even if the leftovers end up out of sight in the back of the fridge. It is also useful for spouses who are looking for something to take to lunch and perhaps didn’t know there were leftovers.

2. Freeze whatever you can. If you buy in bulk, buy those food items that can be frozen. For instance I buy almonds and other nuts in bulk and freeze most of them. Periodically I fill glass jars I keep in the refrigerator with the nuts until all are used. Freeze refrigerated leftovers after 3-4 days.

3. Discover some creative uses for your leftovers and unused food. Shepherd’s pie, vegetable soup, and casseroles are just some of the creative ways you can use your leftovers. Vegetables that are getting old but are not yet bad can be used to make vegetable stock that you can use immediately or freeze. Stale bread can be used to make bread crumbs and croutons, which you can freeze if you do not need them right away. Stale bread can also become bread pudding. Leftover meat can be incorporated into salads, burritos, soups, and stews.

4. Store refrigerated foods in the right places. The back of your refrigerator is colder than the front, and the door shelves are warmer still. Relegate dairy foods that are prone to spoilage to the back of the fridge, and keep items such as condiments and salad dressings toward the front or in the door.

5. When it’s too late, compost your spoiled food. Then you can use the compost to grow your own food. The circle of life baby…

6. Skip the counter top fruit bowl if you aren’t going to use fruit within a day or two and refrigerate it instead. Some foods, such as tomatoes, do not do well under refrigeration but apples, oranges, grapefruits, and lemons last much longer in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Make green smoothies if your fruit is starting to look sad.

7. Plan your grocery shopping and meals carefully to avoid waste. Go through your pantry and frig and make menu decisions based upon what you already have. If you have cilantro wilting in the frig then use the Internet to search for “cilantro recipes”. Look for recipes that utilize ingredients that you have already for the most part. Doing this allows you to use items before they go bad and you get to try new recipes.

8. Cook the same thing 2-3 times in a row. I do this often. If I buy a bunch of ingredients for a certain dish then I want to use them up. Occasionally I used to make chicken scallopini (before going paleo) for instance and it uses white wine and cream (2 things I usually don’t buy or use). I would often make this meal 2-3 times in a single week until I used the wine and cream up. Last night we had Sweet and Sour soup and today I made it again for lunch because I had ginger and green onions to use up. My philosophy is to make food so good my family won’t mind repeats!

So how do you avoid wasting food?

Recommended Reading: Save Money on Organic Foods

  • andiscandis

    #1 is a fantastic idea. It also saves energy because you don’t have to hold the door open to browse the shelves!

  • Rachel

    i try to meal plan every week, and make sure that whatever i made for sunday dinner, i make enough to turn into a sandwhich or a cassarole dish by wed. We have one of those amazing food sealer machines that cuts down on freezer burn and waste . its amazing.

  • Kristen’s Raw

    Great article, just tweeted it. :)

  • Lisa C

    If dinner is leftover, I enjoy it at lunch. Planning is crucial in not wasting vegetables.

    I also utilize a vacuum sealer.

    If the bananas are turning brown faster than we can eat them, I peel them, wrap in wax paper individually, and freeze. Great snack!


  • Stephanie – Green SAHM

    I like using leftovers for my lunch as getting my husband to take them to work has proven to be a pretty much lost cause, no matter how much he enjoyed the dinner or says he will take them.

  • keith wilcox

    good tips. We freeze so much stuff that we’ve got an extra freezer in the garage. It takes the worry out of expiration dates, and allows us to buy some things (like frozen fruit and veg) in bulk.

  • Bridget

    I’m trying my hardest to get better about incorporating more fruits & veggies in our diets…and not have too much waste. I agree that meal planning is a must for less waste too…some times are better than others for me. It’s a challenge. My kids don’t always eat what we eat so I try to modify somethings but we always have fresh/frozen fruit & veggies for them. And always making sure hubby takes fruit to work. Anyway, our waste goes into the yard waste bin that’s picked up by Waste Mgmt. Love it.

    Bananas are easy for us – if getting too ripe we smash & make muffins…a lot. If I don’t have time to make them I’ll smash the bananas, freeze & have them ready for the next batch.

    Sidenote – got a 5lb bag of frozen organic green beans at Costco today for $6! They had peas & corn as well. I typically shop at TJs for frozen veggies/fruits but my kids love these green beans!

    Thanks for the posts Tiffany – I really do enjoy them.

  • Chriss

    We freeze and use leftovers for lunches. We also plan a weekly menu, that way I am buying what we will use not what is on sale or a good buy. We also compost and make lovely soil for our Garden. I will also use leftover squash or yams in muffins.

    Great post.

  • sheri

    My husband will not eat leftovers so I have had to learn how to use portion control. I cook for the two of us instead of four. I also buy only enough to cook for two. If I have leftover ingredients I freeze, or plan several meals using cilantro or parsley. I also freeze my fruit and then cook muffins, cakes, and breads with them when I have free time. These are great because they can usually be frozen and then pulled out one at a time when we are in the mood for them.
    If I have to cook in larger portions I invite friends or family to come for dinner or I take some to them for them to enjoy. (which usually results in us getting some great meals in return, and wonderful social visits!)

  • Jackie Lee

    The big things I do are to meal plan weekly. I love to cook and I love to try new recipes. The one thing I am really doing now is checking how much recipes make before I buy the ingredients. If it’s going to serve more than 4 I cut the recipe. There are only 3 of us and I know even if I plan leftovers for lunches it doesn’t usually work out that way. Better not to make more than we need in the first place. Great tips, thanks!

  • Alan Takushi

    Thanks for the great tips. It’s definitely a challenge to not let any food go to waste. One thing we’re trying to do is buy the freshest veggies and fruits and our local farmer’s market. It tends to last longer than the store bought stuff.

  • Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

    I try and meal plan and freeze things before they go bad if they can be frozen.

    Great tips!

  • erin

    Great conversation! Thanks to everyone for their tips, and for the original article.
    Since I started making carefully planned meal calendars, I have managed to reduce a significant amt of waste – paying close attention to using similar ingredients for multiple meals in one week if there is a special ingredient that I don’t normally use or is usually purchased in larger quantities. For example, I noticed that no one likes roast beef leftovers in our house, so now I plan Day 1 to cut the uncooked meat in half and serve a traditional roast, and then on Day 2, we make an alternate meal using the 2nd half of beef, such as a fajitas.
    And last year i realized that you can freeze bell peppers to be used in stews/soups/quesidillas, etc. When our veggie platter peppers start to look wilty, I send them into a bag which sits inside our freezer door. I have not wasted any peppers since making this discovery. :)

  • ECC

    Great tips, I have to say that I throw out more then I cared to admit.. But these are some good tips!