Ways to Save Money by Reducing Food Waste

Our country wastes so much food! (Trust us… it’s A LOT.) When you throw out food, you’re also throwing out those precious dollars. Make it a habit to reduce as much food waste as possible, and you’ll find yourself saving money along the way!

Save Money by Shopping Realistically

Know what your needs are for yourself and your family:  what you eat frequently, how much, and what is likely to go bad. Plan your meals ahead of time and always make a list of what you will need. Your trip will go faster and you won’t be throwing random things in the cart that might expire before they are used. Try making more frequent trips to the grocery store, so you will be getting fresh foods and not leaving them in your kitchen to go bad. If you prefer to make fewer large trips, plan your shopping list and meals accordingly. Cook meals with perishables first, and push back meals with ingredients that have longer shelf life.

Save Money by Portioning Correctly

We’ve become accustomed to huge portion sizes thanks to the restaurant business, but we really don’t need that much food! Dishes served at restaurants can have way more calories than we need, and we many of us will find food still left on our plates when we are full. Learn to ditch the restaurant habits and serve just the right amount of food for yourself, your family, and your guests. Remember, there is always the option to go back for seconds. It is easy to save remaining food that is still left on the stove after dinner, but that process becomes much more difficult if it has already made its way onto someone’s plate.

Save Money by Eating Leftovers

When you start serving the appropriate amount of food and refrain from over-serving, you might find yourself with a lot more leftovers than you’re used to. That’s great! You can save them for later and use them again. Take them to work for lunch to save the money from having to go to a restaurant or get carry out. Leftovers don’t have to be boring! You can use them as ingredients to make completely new and creative meals. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you actually eat them! Leftovers don’t do you any good rotting in the refrigerator, where you’ll just end up tossing them out anyways sooner or later.

Save Money by Decluttering Your Kitchen

A cluttered kitchen means you’re more likely to lose items in the mix of the mess. Keep everything clear and organized so you’re able to see everything and know what you have. This is especially true of perishables in the refrigerator and anything that expires quickly! It is unfortunate to buy something, only to soon realize that you already had it! What’s even worse is accidentally push something to the back of the fridge, and then to find it later, moldy and no longer edible. Ick! When you bring in new groceries, move the older products to the front. They are more likely to get used up that way!

Save Money by Storing Food Properly

Learn where food should be stored to get the maximum life out of it. Boxed items and unopened cans belong in the pantry, but produce items are a bit trickier. Some items, such as bananas, citrus, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, melons and onions do better left out on the counter. Some other fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, mushrooms and dairy should be stored in the refrigerator (but make sure to separate the fruits and vegetables.) You can keep meat and fish, pies, stock, and coffee in the freezer to prolong their life. For even more information on how to store a variety of food items, check out this article.

Save Money by Rethinking Sell-by Dates

Learn the difference between “sell by” and “use by” dates. Sell by dates are guidelines to let you know when a food will be at its maximum quality and flavor. When that day passes, the food is still good. You probably won’t even notice much of a difference! Use by dates should be handled with more caution. Depending on the item, many foods will be good past their expiration dates. Use your senses and common sense. If the food smells normal, is free of mold, and looks/feels like it is supposed to, you can probably still use it. Food safety does come into play, especially with things like meat, so don’t eat something if you’re unsure. Your health is more important, so when in doubt, throw it out!

Save Money by Tracking What You Toss

When the time comes that you do have to clean out your refrigerator or throw something out, write it down. This is a learning process when trying to decrease your food waste. Over time, you will see what items you are throwing out most frequently and you can change your habits or grocery list accordingly. If you throw out a certain produce item often, don’t buy as much of it. If you find that you are tossing your leftovers, make less food or plan ahead so you know they will be used. You’ll soon stop throwing out so much and stop throwing out those dollars.

Save Money with Canning and Pickling

If you’ve never tried canning or pickling it is a great and fun way to preserve your food and expand their shelf life by months. It seals the food up to prevent spoiling that would take place otherwise. Try canning fruits, jams, salsas, pickles, tomatoes, sauces, condiments, and more. There are two different methods to canning, and you can learn about them here.

Save Money with Kitchen and Food Apps

In this age of technology, there are lots of helpful apps and gadgets that will help you keep your food waste in check. You can use an app that keeps track of what is in your fridge and when it will expire so you can be sure to use it. You can keep a shopping list on your phone so you always have it handy whenever you go to the grocery store. There are websites that will tell you what kind of meal you can make with ingredients that you have lying around the kitchen. Use whatever is available to make sure you are buying only what you need and are actually using it all up!

Reduce Food Waste by Donating

If you still find yourself with more than you need (or just want to do something nice), it’s a great idea to donate to local food banks or farms where the food will be used. Make sure you check with each location about what kind of food they will accept. Note that this is not an out to get rid of expired food. If you wouldn’t eat it, why would you expect someone else to? It is more important to prevent the food from expiring in the first place.

Reduce Food Waste by Composting

Composting is a great way to put those scraps to good use, but it shouldn’t be your first priority. In fact, it should be the last thing you do when talking about food waste. First, try all of the other above steps and make sure you are reducing and reusing wherever you can. Recycling, or in this case composting, comes afterward. The compost if great for use in gardens where you can grow your own produce. If you don’t have use for it yourself, try finding a friend or family member who does garden, or you can always donate it to a local farm or garden where it will certainly come in handy.