7 Easy Ways to Avoid Food Waste

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To avoid food waste is to save money. Have you considered that? You’re throwing money away when you waste food. Good reason to stop, eh? Here’s how.

mexican dinner

It’s estimated that in the United States 30-40% of the food supply ends up as waste. Imagine if that was happening at your house. A third of what you bought ended up in the trash.

If this statistic is true on a consumer level, depending on what you’re throwing away, you could reduce your grocery expenses by a third! Now, of course this depends on what you buy and what you’re throwing away; a steak you forget to cook likely costs more than a few ribs of wilted celery.

That said, it’s in our grocery budget’s best interest that we avoid food waste. When we waste food, we disrespect our wallets and our time.

After all, you spent time and effort working for that grocery money and you spent time in the grocery store buying that food. You waste the food, you waste all your own time and effort as well.

blank meal plan calendar for February on clipboard with pens

How Can We Eliminate Food Waste? – 7 Easy Ways!

Here are seven simple strategies to help you avoid food waste, be a good steward of your resources, and save money:

1. Plan your meals.

When you plan your meals, you’re making a decision in advance of what to spend your money on; you have a plan for using up the food you buy; and you’re less likely to get take-out when you remember how EASY it is to cook something up at home.

Take a few minutes this week to plan your meals. Shop your pantry, fridge, and freezer, before you head to the store, so that you don’t buy duplicates or more than you need.

Leave margin in your plan; that is, one or two fewer meals than you need. Chances are something will come up; you’ll eat popcorn for dinner one night, get invited out, or have leftovers to use up.

groceries on the kitchen table

2. Buy enough, but not too much, of perishable items.

It can be all too easy to overbuy, especially when it comes to perishable items like produce, meat, or dairy products. Consider how far away your store is. If you truly run out of something before the week is out, you can always go pick up more.

Europeans have long understood the benefit of buying just enough for the next day or two. You enjoy ripe produce and don’t worry about too much to use.

Limiting your perishables will help you avoid food waste.

fridge with meal prep containers

3. Storing perishables properly.

Are you storing those perishable groceries in a way that will maximize their freshness and shelf-life? Poor storage can diminish the texture and taste of your foods as well as speed their decay.

  • Freeze meats and breads that you aren’t going to use in the next few days.
  • Store cilantro and parsley in water glasses to help them last longer.
  • Keep milk in the coldest part of the fridge to keep it from going sour.
  • Assign certain containers/fridge shelves for leftovers so you can spot them easily and use them up.

ingredients for bean and rice soup

4. Plan your leftovers.

It’s difficult to perfectly gauge how much food you’ll need on a given night, particularly if you have an irregular schedule or kids in the house. Once the meal is prepared and served, start thinking about a plan for leftovers.

Freeze meal-size portions of soup, chili, and stew in microwave-safe containers. These make for great lunches to take to work.

Consider how you can turn leftovers into other meals. Incorporate leftover chicken into soups and casseroles. Plan a catch all meal, like salad, soup, or pizza to corral small bits of meat and veg from throughout the week. Soup from leftovers is delicious!

pot of chicken noodle soup

5. Clean out your fridge regularly.

Every few days (about three or so) take a gander at what needs to be used up. Prepared food properly stored in the refrigerator has a shelf-life of four days. Use it or lose it.

Clean out the fridge on a regular basis. Take note of what you’re dumping.

  • Why are you throwing it out?
  • Did you make too much?
  • Prepare a recipe no one liked?
  • Forget it was there?

Once you trouble shoot why you’re throwing it away, you’ll be able to avoid food waste at its source.

canned beans and tuna in pantry

6. Do a pantry challenge.

Every six months or so, we do a Pantry Challenge. I focus on using up what we have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. The result is that we avoid food waste, use up things that have lingered, and save some money.

I also learn better shopping habits and am reminded how good I have it.

skillet of pasta next to plate of pasta

7. Eat at home.

If you’ve got a fridge or a freezer full of food, stay home! Other than business requirements and very special occasions, there’s little reason to eat out when there’s perfectly good food at home.

Mine is the first generation of Americans to make take-out and restaurant fare more regular than eating at home. This should not be — particularly if we’re still buying food at the grocery store.

And trust me, you can make restaurant quality dishes for so much less! Check out this Shrimp Pasta with Garlic Cream Sauce!

Make this week an eat-at-home week and see if you don’t save some money at the restaurant, the check stand, and the trash bin.

What’s your go-to trick to avoid food waste?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Karen W says

    I clean my refrigerator once a week (Sundays as Monday is our garbage day). Sunday breakfast is always an egg scramble with any extra veg/meat/potato bits leftover from earlier in the week. Last Sunday it was a chopped up burger patty, spinach, mushrooms and onion topped with swiss cheese. It seems to us that most leftovers mixed with eggs and topped with cheese make a tasty breakfast.

    We look forward to every January’s pantry challenge to use up the excesses of December, save money, and to rotate stock.

    I do struggle with using up cilantro and parsley, even when I store it upright in water glasses. I know it’s not terribly expensive, but I try hard not to let it go to waste.

    • You’ve got some great strategies going! Nicely done.

    • Karen says

      If it looks like you won’t use up fresh herbs, pop them in the freezer! Parsley stems for stock, cilantro in black beans.

  2. Sandra Hembree says

    To make cilantro and parsley last a little longer, make a tent out of the smaller, thinner plastic bags that you veggies are in and cover with the cilantro, or parley , before placing in frig. I’ve had cilantro last for two weeks like this.

  3. Jeanne says

    Chop up herbs that you can’t use up right away and place them in a little olive oil and pop them into ice cube trays. This way they’re always at the ready for a recipe.

    I am terrible using up vegetables because many times, a recipe calls for a cup or half cup of chopped (fill in the blank) and I have half a (fill in the blank) left over. So I have started washing, drying and chopping up my veggies and popping them into a ziplock bag and into the freezer they go. This way, whatever I need, it’s there and ready… no cleaning/chopping necessary. Soups are a snap. Stews are a snap.

  4. Patricia says

    Today was interesting… Had two tiny plain donuts with a cup of tea (they were found in freezer in sm freezer bag) – Lunch was individual pizza (also in freezer) with some frozen broccoli and dinner was 1/2 very small cabbage, two carrots, 2 red potatoes and 1/4 kielbasa – all boiled together and sprayed with I Can’t Believe its not Butter… but still have stuffed freezer… pulled 1/2 pkg of bacon out to defrost some for breakfast but still have two full pkgs of bacon
    stuffed in there. I will need more than a month to clear my freezer.

  5. I share your Pantry Challenge links every chance I get. It is a game changer as far as reducing waste as well as sparking a family effort to save money and use up what you have.

  6. Heather Lawless says

    anyone help me get back onto the profile page where I logged in to make purchases. behind in the kitchen due to health issues, but still want to be part of the essential challenge.

  7. Marci says

    it was nice to be reminded of the strategies to avoid food waste. I buy way too much veggies and either our meal plan doesn’t work out or I forget it in the back fridge. This past week I made a stir fry meal kit for one of the meals. This month I’m trying to plan for just 3 meals a week eating leftovers on the other days. We’ll see how this goes….

    • Marci I am in the same spot, Hubby runs late getting in , one of us gets sick or it doesn’t get moved from basement frig to kitchen frig and gets forgotten. I think I will try your 3 meals a week and then the leftovers. Got to be better than tossing produce in the compost or trash

    • Good move with the stir fry kit!

  8. Marci says

    yes! I have mixed feelings about a “full compost bin”. I’m downsizing my veggie purchases. It’s been going ok so far with the 3 meals. Leftovers are a bit boring so I need to figure out what to do. I need a “back-up” meal when there aren’t any leftovers. Let me know how things are going.

    • Pat says

      Hey Marci! I feel you on produce getting yucky before you can use it.
      I buy forzen corn, peas and stir fry veggies. When I buy broccoli, cauliflower or green beans I prep it all and only keep out what I’ll use in the next couple days– the rest gets frozen in 1 or 2 cup portions. We roast alot of veggies and I take them out and put them on the cookie sheet with the other stuff and they roast just fine. The potatoes onions and carrots will keep for a long time

      • Marci says

        oh I like that idea of freezing some of the fresh for later! I’ll need to try that- thank you

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