Wasting food is not only terrible for the environment, but it’s pretty awful for your wallet too. Stop wasting food with these innovative ways to throw out less and use more in your household.
Food waste plagues this country. In fact, it is estimated that Americans waste around 40% of their food amounting to around $163 billion in wasted money each year. Wowza! That’s absolutely jaw-dropping!
If everyone were to try just a few things on this list to stop wasting food we could cut a big chunk of that waste out of the equation – and put more money back in your piggy bank. The savings alone should be enough to motivate you to change your habits.
Imagine your grocery budget. Now take 40% of that budget and just throw that money in the trash. Makes you cringe, doesn’t it? It turns out that most people do just that.
In this guide to how to not waste food, we’ll dive into several ways to reduce food waste and put money back into your wallet. It’s good for the environment, good for your family, and great for your bank account. So let’s get to it!
How to Stop Wasting Food the Easy Way
It turns out that there are several, easy-to-implement ways to stop food waste. In this post, we’ll cover the easiest ways to avoid wasting food. Before we get started, you’ll need to keep a couple of things in mind.
First, no one can expect you to break all of your bad habits overnight. That’s just not reasonable. The best way to successfully stop wasting food is to choose one or two habits to enact every week.
Once you’ve got the new behavior down, you can add a new way to avoid wasting food. Over time, you’ll build a variety of new shopping and cooking habits that keep your food waste to a minimum.
The result is not only a more environmentally conscious lifestyle but also more money savings. Who doesn’t want that?
Here’s a look at 12 actionable ways to stop wasting food and start saving money.
1. Create a Meal Plan
You don’t need to be a world-renowned nutritionist to make a meal plan. It can be as simple as writing down the meals you’re going to make ahead of time.
The key to stopping wasting food is to check in the fridge, pantry, and freezer before you make your list. Select recipes that utilize things you have on hand. You’ll buy less and use more.
Another option is to plan for a leftover night once a week. This helps use up leftovers and reduces food waste.
2. Shop Smarter
Step two towards becoming less wasteful with your food is to shop smart. First, you should never shop without a grocery list. Planning out your meals and creating a list gives you time to take stock of what you have.
Always be sure to check your list against what you’ve got in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Don’t forget to search the rear corners for items that may have been pushed to the back.
Once you get used to making a list and checking it twice, you can try to plan meals that use up a certain ingredient. This is especially helpful if you bought something the week prior and didn’t use it all.
3. Stop Wasting Food by Becoming a Substitute Pro
Everyone loved the substitute teacher at school because you usually got to watch a movie instead of doing class work right? Well, think about food substitutions in the same, loving way.
Takes spices for example. They can be a slippery slope. You want to try a new recipe that calls for a teaspoon of smoked paprika and you only have sweet paprika in the cupboard. What do you do? You substitute with what you have on hand.
Get creative and use what you have! Instead of buying that one-off item you’ll only use a small quantity of, look at viable substitutes instead.
4. Prep Your Produce
Reduce the work on a busy weeknight by prepping your produce as soon as you get home from the grocery store. You’re more likely to consume fruits and veggies if they are ready to eat.
This not only stops food waste, but it also encourages you to reach for healthier snacks.
5. Make It Last
Another way to avoid wasting food is to not let it go bad in the first place. Do this by storing and prepping food in the same way the grocery stores do. Keep produce that doesn’t need to be refrigerated out in a bowl.
When you buy fresh lettuce give it a rinse, allow to dry, wrap in damp paper towels and store in a plastic container or bag to keep it fresh. If a recipe calls for half an onion, store the other half in a small baggie and use it with your next meal.
Store grains, pastas, and baking ingredients in air-tight containers after they’ve been opened to keep them fresh.
If you do find that your food is a little past it’s prime, you may be able to cut out the icky part and use the rest. Just because an apple has a soft spot, doesn’t mean you can’t cut out the soft spot and eat the rest of the apple.
6. How to Reduce Food Waste by Counting Condiments
Have you ever looked through your fridge to find five different salad dressings and six different mustards? I’m certainly guilty of this! I love to try new things and sometimes I get a little carried away.
One good way to reduce food waste is to take an honest look at your condiments, dressings, and sauces. Try to cut down on purchasing more than one or two different types of condiments or sauces.
Of course, don’t waste what you’ve already bought – instead use it up with your next grocery list (shop smarter, remember?). However, going forward only buy a sauce if you’ve used up other ones you previously purchased. Try to stick to just one or two types of mustard and salad dressing to avoid having an excess of sauces around the house.
7. Don’t Let Sales Sucker You in
One easy way to stop food waste is to stop over-buying food. If you’re the kind of shopper that can get suckered into sales, don’t fret, we’ve all been there.
Instead of over-buying foods on sale ask yourself if you can use it before it goes bad. Do you really need ten pounds of pasta, or will two pounds suffice? What happened the last time you over-bought at a sale?
Remember, grocery store sales work around a 6-week cycle, so pass if you can and purchase only what you’ll need for the next 6 weeks.
8. Freeze It
Don’t forget to utilize your freezer in order to stop wasting food. Here’s a quick look at how to not waste food by properly freezing grocery items:
- Split up larger quantities of meat into what you’ll use that week and freeze the rest for later. Invest in a vacuum sealer to keep freezer burn from affecting the quality of your frozen foods.
- You can freeze certain fresh herbs for several months.
- Freeze certain items from your garden. We love to freeze peppers and onions to use throughout the year. They do lose a little texture, but the flavor is still good.
- Did you know that freezing nuts is a great way to keep them fresh? The oil from nuts can spoil them, but they’ll last three times longer in the freezer.
- Coffee also can be frozen to stay fresh.
- If you’re using things like spinach or other veggies in soups, curries or other cooked, stew-like dishes, frozen is a great option. They will lose some of their texture but you won’t notice when utilized in soup or casserole recipes.
- Fresh noodles, wonton wrappers and the like can easily be frozen.
- Freeze leftovers that you aren’t going to eat right away. Package individually for lunches or in larger containers for a family dinner. These freezer meals come in handy on busy weeknights.
- Partially opened canned ingredients like coconut milk, tomato paste, broths, and other staple ingredients can easily be frozen for next time.
Now for the most important rule of freezing items: Check the freezer before you shop! Try to select a meal that utilizes some of your frozen ingredients for the upcoming week.
9. How to Avoid Wasting Food with a Pantry Challenge
My favorite way to avoid wasting food is running a pantry challenge. The concept is to eat your way through your freezer and pantry to get rid of food ingredients you have on hand, thereby reducing your food waste.
A pantry challenge is also a great way to save some money in the process. By using the food you’ve already purchased you’ll reduce grocery spending.
The challenge is flexible and can last anywhere from 3 days to several weeks. Run the challenge as often as you like. If you tend to always have a full pantry, try doing a challenge for a week every 2 months to start reducing the food items you have stocked up.
10. Keep an Inventory
I’ll be the first to admit that I love to stuff things in my freezer and forget about it. I’d dig through my freezer months later to find the relics of meals past, all unlabeled & freezer burned.
So I created a downloadable pantry inventory PDF to keep track of what I had on hand. This helped me cut back on sacrificing food to the freezer gods, and instead let me be organized and more resourceful.
11. Sharing is Caring
If you try something you don’t like, or you find yourself with an abundance of ingredients that you simply can’t use, don’t throw it away. Consider gifting it to a friend or neighbor.
Instead of tossing food in the trash, ask around to see if anyone needs anything. We went through a phase where we weren’t eating the bananas before they turned brown.
So I made the best of the situation and baked up a couple of batches of my Hawaiian Banana Bread recipe. But it was more than we could eat.
After stashing a loaf in the freezer for later and I offered the remaining loaves to neighbors. Instead of throwing away those brown bananas, I was able to bless friends with a tasty treat. It was a win-win for everyone.
12. Should You Buy in Bulk?
Consider if buying in bulk makes sense. If you’re the kind of household that has rice with every other meal, then it is, of course, cost-effective to purchase a 25-pound bag of jasmine rice. But if you only eat rice occasionally, then stick to smaller amounts.
Think critically about bulk items. It can be easy to buy anything and everything at a bulk item food store, but can your family really eat 10 pounds of lettuce before it goes bad?
Certain things just don’t make sense in bulk, so make sure you’ve thought about what your family’s eating habits are before committing to bulk food buys.
Final Thoughts on Reducing Food Waste
Overall there are many ways to avoid wasting food. The first step is to make a commitment to use your resources wisely.
With a little practice, you’ll find you waste less and less over time with these 12 ways to stop wasting food.
What do you do to eliminate food waste in your household? Have any tricks I forgot to mention? Let me know by leaving a comment below.