I’ve been throwing away quite a bit of food lately. While I hope I’m the only person with this problem, I’m going to jump to the conclusion that I’m not. While digging into other people’s experiences and thinking critically about how I can reduce my food waste, I’ve compiled commonly used tips.
I tend to lump reducing food waste into two camps – buying less and throwing away less.
Look At Your Calendar
Are you planning on going out to dinner this week? What does your schedule look like? If I’m having a busier week than I normally do, I’m less likely to cook a time-consuming or intricate meal. I will pick up items at the grocery store that reflect this (like the staples I know can heat up quickly, like hummus pasta) or just purchase less in general (because I love Chick Fil A).
If you do a food haul equivalent to a full week’s meals you’re likely to be wasting more than normal.
Meal Prep With Your Pantry, Not Pinterest
I’m not very good at thinking past a week when it comes to food. Come Sunday afternoon I hop onto Pinterest or go crazy and head straight to the store. I find myself picking up things ad hoc instead of having the foresight to sort through what I actually own first.
Why do I continue to buy items I already have in my fridge? Or push good things to the back to make room for the new ones instead of using them first?
Instead of being like me, open your fridge, freezer, and pantry and start from there. Have some spinach that’s about to go off? Plan a few meals around smoothies or salads.
Buy in Smaller Quantities
Sometimes it is good to forget the Costco mentality of buying everything in bulk. Non-perishables or items you use frequently are a great Costco investment, while eight pounds of lettuce may not be.
If you take a good look at the grocery store, most of the items listed as “2 for $4” say “or $2 each” in the fine print. If you only need one, only buy one.
I find myself pretending that I’m some mega-healthy person who eats spinach like it’s going out of style and buying a container that could feed a family for a week. Realistically, I could get by with a small bushel (and go more eco-friendly without the packaging).
Don’t just buy mushrooms for that one dish you’re making this week. Find a few recipes with your perishable ingredients to add variety and not end up wasting.
Bought a spice you needed for that one recipe and can’t make yourself get rid of it? Search on Pinterest for a few recipes to actually use it up.
Put your leftovers from a restaurant or your homemade dinner and bring to lunch tomorrow. Even if it isn’t enough for an entire meal, you can always bulk it up with something like quinoa, spinach, rice, or whatever pairs nicely with your leftovers.
List It Out
Create a list and stick to it.
If you want to try something new but can’t find a way to put it into this next week’s meals, write it down! I’ve been known to take note of cool items I see at the store and head home to do a little research to incorporate next week.
Can you revive the item?
There are some items that can be revived with a little TLC.
For example, I had a bunch of asparagus in the fridge that was going a little floppy. I pulled it out of the fridge and placed it into a cup with water this morning, finding that this evening the veggies were back to their spry state. This may not last forever, but it gave me enough time to use them all to their full extent.
I go through quite a few lemons each week for both drinking and as a meal-topper, but I typically cut one up and leave the rest in the fridge. After a day or two, the slices look a little sad. I’ve learned that putting them in the microwave for about 10 seconds helps bring them back to life.
While I love the convenience of Ziploc bags and aluminum foil, I’ve been trying to add more environmentally friendly (and more cost-effective) options to my pantry.
I have a bad habit of buying a loaf of bread either letting it go bad or eating too much of it (which may or may not be a bad thing). I’ve started storing my bread in the freezer – I’m already going to toast the bread anyways!
I haven’t jumped into composting, but I want to. I’ve heard that storing it in your freezer helps with the smells. If you do end up with food waste you can always just add to your compost bin (be sure to find a guide online for what you can and can’t compost in your city).
Looking for more content like this? Check out my post from October of 2018 below: Money Saving Tips for Food!