6 Simple Tips to Save Money By Not Wasting Food

Did you know that the average American household wastes 14% of their food purchases- an estimate of about $590/per household per year? Just today I, myself, threw money in the garbage.  Well, not actual money of course, but it might as well have been.  It was money in the form of approximately 2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup peas, 1 cup cauliflower and 1 cup sour cream- all spoiled and all annoyingly wasted because of my negligence.   And I’m guessing you can relate.

So what can you do to help cut back on your food waste?  Here are 6 simple tips that should help keep you (and me!) from throwing food away.

1.  Shop smart
This is common sense, but it is amazing how easy it is to not do this!  When shopping, figure out how much you will use of perishable items and buy accordingly. Just because lettuce is on sale for an incredible price doesn’t mean you should buy 3 heads. Remember, if you are throwing food out, you aren’t saving a thing.

2.  Keep an eye on leftovers
There are two things that have helped me stay at least somewhat successful in not throwing leftovers out.  The one is to eat them the next day for lunch.  I find that if I don’t deal with them sooner rather than later it is way too easy to just forget about them until it’s too late. 

It has also helped me immensely to label any container that is not see through. I simply use a piece of masking tape and write on it with Sharpie. Then I am constantly reminded as I shuffle around in the fridge just exactly what all is in there that needs to be used up.

3.  Utilize your freezer
Speaking of leftovers, here’s another option.  If you have leftovers or food that you don’t think you’re going to be able to use before it goes bad, put it in the freezer right away. Then when you want to you can easily thaw it and reheat it.  Not only will it taste better than if it had sat in the fridge that whole time, it also won’t have spoiled on you!  The freezer is great for things like flour, crackers and bread too.

4.  Start a soup bucket
This is an idea I got from a lady that spoke at the mom’s group I attend.  To eliminate the whole leftover dilemma, she simply keeps an ice cream bucket in the corner of her freezer and whenever she has leftovers such as meat, cheese, broth, or veggies she just dumps them into the bucket.  When the bucket gets full, she tosses the contents into a pot and makes a soup/stew out of it, adding other ingredients to improve the taste if necessary. Now maybe that just grosses you out, I don’t know.  To me it sounded interesting and like a fun challenge.  I’d love to see if I could make something delicious out of all those random leftovers!

I’ll admit that I didn’t implement this idea mainly because I figured we do a good enough job using up our leftovers that I thought it would be a waste of my time to try it.  But in the past month I’ve realized how many times I’ve thrown stuff out that would have easily been “soup” material and so as of yesterday I have my own soup bucket.  I’m anxious to see how I like it!

Update: I did a whole post on tips for implementing the Soup Bucket Idea.

5. Be Smart with Produce
If you are like me, produce is one of the things that most often spoils on you.  Keep that from happening as quickly by not cutting apart your fruit and veggies until you are ready to eat them.  The longer they stay on the stem, in the bunch, and all one piece the longer they will stay fresh.  Also if you notice a bad “egg” in the bunch, throw it out immediately.  One bad berry or potato can quickly cause more to spoil.

6. Know what you have
In other words, be organized! If you aren’t, chances are you have food in your cupboards, fridge or freezer getting stale or unusable on you and you’re throwing it out.  When you come home from the store and put food away, place the new items behind the older ones so that when you grab a can of soup or box of crackers you’ll be using up the older food first.

I’ve also found helpful is to keep a running list of things to use up.  Then when I plan our menu I look off that and try to make dishes accordingly.  At times I’ve even taped a “to use” list on our freezer to help keep me aware of just what exactly needed to be used up soon.  For me, this is much easier than trying to keep a mental list of what I need to be finishing up.

This is only the “tip of the iceberg” and I want to learn from you!  How do you stay on top of food waste?  What are your tips?  

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