Did you know that most American families throw out 25% of the food they buy every year? (Source) The food waste is insane!! But if you think about it, it starts to make sense.
When you peel and chop off the tops of your carrots, do you throw those away? Do you buy too much food and leave it in the fridge to rot? Or do you put so much food on your plate that you end up throwing some away when you’re done?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of buying more produce than we need, and it gets lost underneath everything else and goes bad. According to the article I linked above, the food waste amounts to about $1,365 to $2,275 annually for a family of 4.
So not only are we wasting food, we’re wasting our hard-earned money as well! Take a stand and work together with me with these tips to help avoid food waste.
Plan your meals carefully
Use bulk produce for multiple recipes: When you make your meal plan for the week, think about what you’ll be using and how you can make the most of all of it. If a 10-pound bag of potatoes is on sale, don’t just make one meal that uses potatoes (unless you’re using all 10 pounds!).
You can make baked potatoes one night, potato soup the next, and even some baked french fries another night. Taking advantage of cheap, bulk produce will help you save money each week!
Check your fridge before shopping: Have you ever bought a tub of sour cream only to find out there was a half-opened container hiding in the back of the fridge? Or better yet, you buy strawberries but realize you already have a half-rotted container in the bottom drawer?
I’ve done this before, and I get so mad about wasting the food I’ve spent so much money on. Before you go on your grocery trip, check your fridge to make sure you don’t already have what you’re buying! This is where an app like Out of Milk comes in handy, to keep track of what you have.
Buy less food: If you find that you throw out expired food because you simply can’t eat all of it, don’t buy as much. Instead of 2 containers of strawberries, just buy one. The worst that can happen is that you have to go back to the store later in the week.
I know, taking your kids back to the store doesn’t sound very appealing; at least it might give you inspiration to make your food stretch!
Re-purpose nearly expired food
Tell me if you’ve been in this scenario: You buy a package of spinach to use a little in a recipe, but by the end of the week, the rest is still in your fridge getting ready to go bad. And you decide to throw it away because you can’t do anything else with it.
I’ve been there! But you don’t have to pitch food just because you think it’ll expire soon. There are SO many ways you can re-purpose items; here are some examples:
- Bananas: The obvious thing to make with bananas is banana bread, but you can turn brown bananas into pancakes, muffins, cookies, and even mash into your morning oatmeal.
- Miscellaneous vegetable scraps: If you have a little lettuce here, some tomatoes there, some carrots laying around, you can make a huge salad. I once saw someone call them “Everything But The Kitchen Sink Salads” because really, you’re using whatever’s left in the fridge. I do this all the time; just throw in a protein, like leftover shredded chicken, add some cheese, mushrooms, bell peppers, salad dressing… sometimes mine are so big I have to put them in a mixing bowl (no judging!).
- Other fruits: If your berries are getting a little mushy, you can blend them into delicious smoothies, use them as a pancake topping, or bake some yummy muffins!
- Cooked meats: I hate wasting meat; it’s one of the most expensive parts of a meal. If you can’t stand the idea of eating last night’s dinner again, use the meat for something else! If you had a pulled pork sandwich for dinner, use the meat for quesadillas the next day. The chicken that you used in a wrap last night can be used in a salad today! Re-purposing your dinners like this is like getting a “free” dinner; and who doesn’t like saving money on their grocery budget?
Freeze the rest for later
If you still feel like you can’t use up your leftover food, there’s nothing wrong with freezing the rest for later! I’ve frozen berries, bananas, pineapples, bell peppers, meat of all kinds… just make sure you place your food in freezable bags or containers and label them.
One thing I’m starting to do is collect vegetable scraps- the ends of potatoes, carrot ends and peelings, bell pepper pieces- and put them in a bag in a freezer to eventually make vegetable broth. How cool would it be to have a free, endless supply of broth just hanging out in the freezer? Not to mention it would probably taste delicious!
So the next time you peel potatoes, stop and think about what you could do with the peelings. If you have almost-black bananas, don’t throw them out! Avoiding food waste requires a bit of careful planning, but the savings of the environment and your money is totally worth it!
What kind of things do you do to help avoid food waste? Share in the comments and give us more ideas!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.