Are you tired of wasting food? I know I am! It’s hard to see all of my hard work cooking dinner, just go down the drain. Also frustrating is realizing food in my cupboard or refrigerator is no good and has to be thrown away. So, what can we do to stop wasting food?
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While reading my Real Simple magazine (May 2016), I read an article that I really liked about how to cut down on food waste. It was written by Yolanda Wikiel based on her conversation with Dana Gunders, author of The Waste-free Kitchen Handbook. I saved the article to refer to later when I need it.
10 Ways to Stop Wasting Food and Save Money
1. Use what you have left from the week before. If you’re like me, you sometimes have food left from the week before. For example, if we had brussels sprouts for a side dish, I may still have several left over that I didn’t cook. So, when I’m planning my meals for the next week, I will look for a vegetable recipe that can use those brussels sprouts.
Also, if we had a recipe that called for bacon, but only 6 bacon, I’ll still have some left. So, I’ll look for a recipe to use the next week that has bacon in it.
Doing this, will save you lots of money and keep you from wasting food. You’re using up what you have and not having to buy anything else.
2. Use your leftovers the next night. In my post, 10 Best Ways to Prep for a Healthy Family Dinner, I talk about how I cook enough dinner to last us 2 nights.
I understand some people don’t like to have the exact same meal more than one night. So, instead, you can use the meat you used in one meal, to make a different meal the next night. It still saves you from wasting food.
Also, some people like to freeze the extra. You can have those for other meals at a future time. When you’re ready to use the frozen meal/meat again, you just have to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it the next night.
3. Take your leftovers for lunch. Even after having our dinner for 2 nights, we often still have some leftover. So, my husband takes it to work as his lunch. This saves us from wasting food and it also saves a lot of money. Eating out, even for lunch, can be expensive!
Sometimes on Friday nights, we only have a one night meal. (Every other Saturday we have dinner with my parents.) So, if we have leftovers from that meal, I eat it for lunch on Sunday. We go out for lunch after church, but since I have dietary restrictions, I often can’t eat where my family eats. So, I just eat the Friday night dinner for lunch, and it saves us money and keeps us from wasting food.
4. Mix food together. If you still have food leftover, you can mix things together. I’ve heard of people freezing all of their vegetable leftovers. Then, when they have enough bags of vegetables, they put them all together to make a soup.
You can put lots of things together in a tortilla. When we have meat and rice leftover, I like to put that in a tortilla with some cheese. I just heat it in the microwave, and have a delicious lunch!
My mother-in-law likes to mix her assorted leftovers with leftover rice, to make a fried rice dish.
If you have leftover fruits, you can freeze them. When you have enough, mix them together to make a smoothie.
5. Just take less. The magazine article talks about how a lot of people in our culture expect large amounts of food. So, they load up their plates, can’t eat it all, and end up wasting food. The solution is to just take less!
If you are afraid to take less because you think you won’t have enough to eat, you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry. If you try this, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. You’ll find you don’t need to eat as much as you think. You might end up with an added benefit of losing a little weight too!
Then, you’ll be able to do the next tip, #6, and end up saving money too!Are you tired of wasting food? I know I am! It's hard to see all of my hard work cooking dinner, just go down the drain. Plus, I don't like throwing away food that expired. So, what can we do to stop wasting food?Click To Tweet
6. Only buy what you need. I have trouble with this one! I’m always afraid I’m going to buy too little and there won’t be enough for everyone to eat. However, I often buy way too much and even after doing the first 3 tips, sometimes I still have some leftover! So, I need to get better at only buying what I need.
One way, I’ve been trying to solve that lately is figuring out how much everyone actually eats. So, we all eat about 4 brussels sprouts halves each night. There’s 5 of us. We eat the vegetables for 2 nights. That equals 40 brussels sprouts halves, which is 20 brussels sprouts. So, from now on, when I buy brussels sprouts at the store, I will only buy 20. That way we won’t be wasting food and it will save us money.
The article in the magazine also suggests buying frozen vegetables. They’re already in a bag, in a size the typical family would eat.
I’ve also learned to do this with meat too. The 5 of us need 3 1/2 pork chops per night. For 2 nights that’s 7 pork chops. I usually make 1 additional for my husband to take to lunch. Since I buy the big package of pork chops to save money, there’s usually 10 in there. I just freeze the other 2 for the next time.
This also works for chicken. We buy the big bag of individually wrapped boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Costco. So, it’s easy to just take out what we need. I used to take out 6 for us for 2 nights, but that was way too much. So, now I just take out 5. They’re so big that my husband and older son can share 1. My younger son, daughter and I can share another. Then there’s one for my husband’s lunch.
You can read more about this in my post, Saving Money Buying Meat Doesn’t Have To Be Hard.
7. Plan ahead. If you plan out your meals for the week before you go grocery shopping, you will only buy what you need. When you plan, make sure you take into account any special activities your family has during the week. If there are any sports events, school meetings, etc., plan for those. Maybe you’ll need to make sure you cook the night before an event and have leftovers the night of the event. Knowing you have food waiting for you at home, ready to quickly reheat, will save you from stopping for fast food. It will save you money and also keep you from wasting food. Plus, you’ll still get to eat a nice, healthy meal together.
You can read more about how to do this in my post, The Best Way to Save Money on Your Meals.
8. Don’t impulse buy. If you follow my tip above, and plan ahead, you can prevent impulse buying.
If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll end up walking through the store and just grabbing what you think you need. You’ll just wander the aisles looking around, and taking things off the shelf because you might need it. When you go to checkout, you’ll be shocked by how much your groceries cost!
Plus, when you get home, you’ll find out you didn’t really need those bag of potatoes, because you already had a bag at home! Now what? You’ll end up wasting food!
The magazine article had a great idea to check your cart one last time before you check out. “Think about when in the near future you’re going to eat each item. If you don’t have a clear answer, don’t buy it.”
9. Check your expiration dates. You should keep your cans, boxes, etc. in your cupboards in the order of expiration. Then, make sure to pull out from the front first. That way you’ll use up what will expire sooner first. You can do the same thing in your refrigerator.
Also, once a month, go through your refrigerator and cupboards and see what’s expiring soon. Then, you can use those items in next week’s meal plans. You can see how I do that in my post, How to Save Money by Shopping Your Pantry.
By the way, I found this explanation once from the Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis.
“Sell By” dates – use within 2 or 3 days. Except milk and yogurt can be used up to a week after the date. Eggs are good for 5 weeks!
“Use By” dates – either eat it by this date, or freeze it.
“Best If Used By” dates – it’s usually on nonperishable items so use your judgment. Obviously, if it’s stale or a funny color, don’t eat it. If you don’t open it, peanut butter can last up to nine months. Cereal up to a year. Canned fruit for 12 to 18 months. Canned vegetables up to 5 years.
10. Conduct a waste audit. This is my favorite suggestion from the magazine! I think the results will surprise and amaze you!
They suggest to do this audit for 2 weeks. You write down everything you throw out in that 2 week time period. Also make note of why you threw it out. Did you make too much food? Did your plans or your kids’ plans change? Forget you had an activity? Maybe you bought way too much when an item was on sale?
I’ve done that last one. I love taking advantages of sales and buying as much as I can when an item is at it’s lowest price. It’s even better if I can combine it with a coupon. However, I have been known to buy way too many crackers. We end up having to throw some away because they expired and went stale. In the end, that didn’t end up saving us money because we were just wasting food.
That’s why the article suggests to also write down how much money the items cost that you’re throwing away during this waste audit. That way “you feel the financial pain.”
If you end up doing a waste audit, I’d love for you to come back and leave me a comment with your results! Or if you’ve already done one before, please share the results with us.
Here are Some Products to Help You Stop Wasting Food
Just click on any of them to read more about them. You can also type in what you want to search for in the search bar under the products if you don’t see what you’re looking for.
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Also, here’s a week’s worth of healthy meals to help you and your family stop wasting food! These meals are tested by my kids, so your kids should like them too!