1. Buy less, waste less. This is the simplest solution to reduce food waste (and save a few dollars.) If you bring less food into your home, you will not have as much to throw out. Only purchase what you will actually use. Buying in bulk can be great to save a few bucks, but don’t buy more than you will need. Know your family’s habits and keep track of your waste. If you find that you always seem to find a half-used bag of spinach in the back of the fridge, buy it in smaller quantities/less frequently, or only when there is a specific need for it.
2. Use more. America has become a disposable society, and we are quick to toss out food that is still perfectly edible. Understand the differences between “use by” and “sell by”, and use your best judgement when deciding if food is still safe to consume. (These tips of course do not apply to questionable meat or fish. In this case, follow the rule “When in doubt… throw it out!”) Produce that might not look pretty will still taste delicious when cut up and used as an ingredient in dishes. If it’s starting to deteriorate, revive it with a soak in cold water and use it in a stew. Chicken necks or celery leaves can be used for homemade stock which citrus peels are great for cleaning. Don’t forget about collecting your food waste in a compost pile!
3. Take inventory. Keep track of items you have in your refrigerator and cupboard (and if you can, their expiration dates!) This will allow you to use up those items in the back of the freezer before they get freezer-burned and that bread before it gets stale or moldy. Rotate your inventory and use up items that are nearing expiration. This will also prevent you from accidentally purchasing something that you already have in your kitchen.
4. Reduce the number of shopping trips. Before you head out to the grocery store, plan your meals and make a list of everything you need. Only purchase those items. Look around your kitchen for ingredients that need to be used up and plan your meals accordingly. There are many recipes that are great just for “fridge-cleaning” days that will allow you to use up food before it goes bad.
5. Use Mom’s tried and true advice. Have a plan before you go to the supermarket, and don’t go to the grocery store when you are hungry! You will end up purchasing unhealthy, processed foods (and more of it!)
6. Write a list of what you need. Leave yourself some flexibility to jump on great sales that you come across. Keep a list of what you buy for larger events, such as birthdays and holidays. This will take out of question the “how much will I need?” issue, because you will have a guide with what items you’ll need and how much you purchased last time. Keep organized by storing them on a phone or tablet device. This can even work for your every day lists to keep note of how much you are purchasing week to week.
7. Try shopping at just one supermarket. You can buy items only when they are on sale instead of driving to multiple stores to get sale items. You can save money (and gasoline) in the long run, even if another store has the same item for a slightly lower cost. It will save you time, and you will learn the layout of the store, so you won’t be wandering the aisles and you won’t be tempted to throw extra (or unhealthy) items in your cart that aren’t needed.
8. Store leftovers safely to keep them appetizing and safe to eat. Don’t leave foods sitting out for a long period of time. After dinner, promptly begin storing leftovers. Use quick cooling methods to bring down the temperature of cooked foods before refrigeration.
9. Use the trick of purposeful repurposing. Make meals with the intention of using them for leftovers. For example, make some extra food and take leftovers to work with you for a second meal. Or cook several meals at once. You can use a rotisserie chicken one day and then chop up the leftovers as an ingredient to make a chicken salad that you can eat another day.
10. Experiment. When you only have a little bit of leftovers, they can be used for something else. Try mixing them in as an ingredient (a tasty new casserole?) or just serve as a small side dish to a completely different meal.
11. Freeze leftover single ingredients. You can freeze egg whites for up to 12 months. You can collect and freeze bread to eventually make into bread crumbs. Many other foods will freeze well and then can be used put in the blender or food processor for tasty ingredients.
12. Repurpose tasty foods. Use foods with tasty flavor to enhance other things. Parmesan rinds can be used for soups. Orange peels can be used for zesty tea and other beverages.
13. Turn foods into compost. The result will enrich your garden and allow you to grow fresh organic veggies to use in the future. Plus, it costs almost nothing!