When it comes to cutting your grocery budget, you can make the biggest impact not by cutting what you spend but by limiting what you waste. According to a study by NRDC, “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.”
Imagine what that does to your food budget. It stands to reason that you can potentially cut your food budget by 40% just by eating everything you buy.
So how do you limit food waste?
Use your Freezer
Your freezer is your best weapon in the fight against food waste. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables if you have a habit of letting produce go bad. Freeze extra portions of food after a meal to save time and money.
Nearly everything can be frozen. Bananas that are overly ripe can be frozen for use in smoothies or banana bread. Avocados can be mashed and frozen for use in guacamole or as a spread on sandwiches. Even fresh herbs can be frozen by chopping them and adding them to ice cube trays full of water.
Inventory your Pantry
It’s tempting to make a menu plan based on all the tasty new recipes you want to try on Pinterest but why not start with what you already have. Make an inventory of the food in your pantry (and your fridge while you are at it) and plan your menu around that. Have a food item you aren’t sure what to do with? Do a search on Google or Pinterest for “xyz” recipes.
Add Leftovers to your Menu Plan
I used to have a huge problem with wasted leftovers. My menu plan helped me cook fresh meals and avoid eating out but I didn’t have a plan to use the leftovers. Since I had a plan in place already for the next meal, those leftovers often went bad.
Incorporate your leftovers into your menu plan and you’ll avoid unnecessary food waste. Use protein from one meal to supplement the next. I like to cook a whole chicken in my crockpot then plan to use the extra meat in sandwiches or a chicken casserole the next day.
You can make this simple by planning a leftover night. You may get some creative food combinations but you’ll avoid food waste and save money.
If you overestimate how much leftover food you’ll have, plan a backup meal that you can cook from food in your pantry or freezer.
Clean your Fridge Often
We’ve all found mystery containers in the back of our fridge. A lot of the time they are things we would have eaten had we remembered they were there. Clean your fridge often so you stay aware of what is in there and what needs to be used up. I like to clean one shelf at a time so it doesn’t turn into such a time intensive ordeal.
Think Beyond the Dinner Table
I’m a bit twitchy about expired food but most food has uses that extend beyond your dinner plate. Expired apple cidar vinegar? Use it as a hair conditioner (Trust me. Try it. It works amazingly well). Stale flour? Make salt dough for your kids. Oranges or lemons past their prime? Cut them in half and use them to shine your stainless steel or disinfect your kitchen counter.
While it’s unlikely that you can entirely eliminate food waste, you can prevent that wasted food from going into the landfill and help it contribute to something good. It’s surprisingly easy to compost your leftover food in your backyard and you’ll be left with rich soil that can be used to plant a vegetable garden.
You can purchase a rotary compost bin for your backyard if you want to keep things contained. If you are looking for convenience, try a countertop compost bin like the Oxo Good Grips Compost Bin. Our easy Soda Bottle Compost activity gets your kids involved and shows them what happens as their food decomposes.
What are your tips for preventing food waste?