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How to Have a Zero-Waste Summer Party

Save money on your summer cookouts with these tips for a zero waste summer party! No need to throw out extra food when you have a plan!

Summer is in full blast, and with it comes lots of delicious food. From 4th of July celebrations to regular cookouts with family and friends, it’s easy to go overboard with the food you buy and make. Do you ever cook so much for parties that you end up throwing some away because you couldn’t eat it in time? I have some tips to help you have a zero-waste summer party, which will save you money and give you even more food!

Have a plan

Just like with your weekly meal planning, having a plan for your summer party is a must! It’s easy to go crazy because these chips look delicious, or you totally need 5 kinds of meat. Keep these in mind as you put your party together:

  • How many people are coming?
  • What is your party budget?
  • What are your guests’ likes/dislikes/allergies?

Take advantage of sales

You can start doing this even a couple weeks before the party. Summer is when things like condiments, hot dogs, and hamburgers are at their lowest prices. Those will keep for awhile (as long as you buy frozen hamburger patties), so don’t be afraid to stock up early! The buns will probably need to wait until a couple days beforehand; but if you have a bread outlet store nearby, check to see if they have markdowns on buns! I do this all the time, and most of the bread items have an expiration date of a couple days out.

Also, plan your side items according to what’s on sale. Fruit salads are a wonderful summer side item, but what you put in it should depend on what’s on sale. I love strawberries, blueberries, and grapes in mine, but if grapes are $2.49/lb instead of $.99/lb, I’ll find a different fruit to put in it instead.

Buy only what you need

This may sound counter-intuitive to what I said above. “Stockpile everything that’s on sale, but wait, don’t buy too much.” If you know you’ll use all of that fresh food, or just want to stock up on shelf-stable items, feel free to buy as much as you want. I often find myself buying way more than I need, and end up throwing away things like fruit because we just can’t eat it in time. That’s why having a plan (as stated above) is so important. However, I know things happen, and sometimes you still end up with too much food. This brings me to my next point:

Freeze or re-purpose leftovers

My freezer is my best friend! Anything I don’t use gets thrown in there- cut up fruit, bread, hot dogs… all of that can be used later, as long as you remember they’re in there. Make sure to label your bags with the contents and date! Things like meat and buns will have about the same texture once thawed, but the fruit will need to be used in smoothies, parfaits, or baked goods. They end up having a mushy texture when they thaw out.

If you don’t have a ton of freezer space or don’t want to freeze anything, try re-purposing the items instead. Your leftovers will determine what you can make; here are some ideas (Some healthy, some not-so-much):

Hot dogs

  • Chili dog casserole
  • Macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs
  • French toast casserole with leftover buns (Anyone else always have buns but no hot dogs left over?)


  • Potato soup- Just throw whatever you have in a slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours on LOW. I put in all my leftover potatoes, some carrots, onion, chicken broth, and other leftover veggies; then once it’s cooked, I blend it all up with some cream cheese if I have any. It’s delicious, and very freeze-able, too!
  • Potato peel chips– If you peel your potatoes for potato salad, keep the skins for this easy recipe! I haven’t made it myself yet, but I’m trying it next time I have to peel potatoes.


  • Fruit smoothies (Milk, fruit, yogurt, ice)
  • Bake in bread/muffins (Especially great with blueberries!)
  • “Candy” grapes: Coat grapes in any flavor Jell-o powder and freeze on a cookie sheet. They taste like candy!

Don’t feel bad if you have trouble following these suggestions, especially at first. Avoiding food waste can be hard; in fact, I still have problems with throwing away food I never got around to using. It takes time, but soon you’ll be a pro, and zero-waste summer parties (and other occasions) will be your specialty! What other tips do you have for avoiding food waste in the summer? Leave a comment below!

Be sure to check the other posts in my ABCs of Frugal Living series!

Save money on your summer cookouts with these tips for a zero waste summer party! No need to throw out extra food when you have a plan!





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