25 Ways to Stop Wasting Food and Save Money

By   

View as:

Throwing away leftovers
Photo credit: AndreyPopov/istockphoto

WASTE NOT WANT NOT

Grocery stores have their methods to keep food fresh, but are you as thrifty? Food waste can add up to $360 per household each month, according to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans by Morton Salt. Joel Gamoran, a food waste crusader and author of the book "Cooking Scrappy," identifies food waste as a hot button issue: "Food waste is a crucial issue because of the negative impact it has on our environment, wallets, and recipes. People are literally throwing away money and flavor all while contributing to global warming." Here are a few tips on how to reduce food waste.
Wrap made from leftovers
Photo credit: LauriPatterson/istockphoto

MAKE LEFTOVERS FUN

Turning leftovers into a cooking challenge, or even a family vote on what they should become (soup, quesadillas, noodle casserole), adds an element of excitement. This is more compelling than just reheating the same old meal.
Savory bread pudding
Photo credit: wsmahar/istockphoto

MASTER BREAD PUDDING

Fresh bread goes stale fast, but only in contemporary times is it commonplace to throw it out. Bread puddings, both sweet and savory, can accommodate just about any ingredient and turn it into a delicious dish.
Fresh local produce
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

OPT FOR LOCAL PRODUCE

Fruits and vegetables that are sourced locally and from farmers markets are typically going to be fresher than what you find at the supermarket. This means they have spent less time on trucks being transported and less time sitting in fridges and on shelves, which means they will last longer once you get them home. When produce is in season and abundant, it's often priced lower as well, and farmers may be willing to offer a discount if you buy a larger quantity at once, especially toward the end of the day when they're packing up and would prefer to minimize what they have to bring back to the farm or keep it from going to waste.
Checking expiration dates on milk
Photo credit: FangXiaNuo/istockphoto

CHECK EXPIRATION DATES

Newer items with expiration dates further into the future are usually stocked behind the items that have upcoming expiration dates. Especially when buying in bulk, make sure you have enough time to use up the item before it goes off.
Junk food
Photo credit: nkbimages/istockphoto

AVOID IMPULSE BUYS

Buying a bag of chips or a container of cookies may seem harmless enough, but if that replaces a meal or two that you otherwise have planned, it can start a cycle of food going bad and ending up in the can. One way to avoid impulse buys is to shop on a full stomach.
Shopping list on a chalkboard
Photo credit: andresr/istockphoto

HAVE A VISIBLE MENU

Using a whiteboard on the fridge to see what's available at a glance, from snacks to prepared meals and drinks, allows for quick decision making. This also helps keep hard to see items top of mind, and members of the household who didn't shop or cook in the know.
Organizing the refrigerator
Photo credit: gilaxia/istockphoto

ORGANIZE YOUR FRIDGE

Being able to see the food is important, but it's about more than just visibility. Knowing the colder and warmer spots of the fridge and what to store there helps maximize shelf life on perishables. See this guide from The Kitchn to get started.
Homemade fruit preserves
Photo credit: Matveev_Aleksandr/istockphoto

HOMEMADE FRUIT PRESERVES

Letting fresh fruit go bad is a very 21st century problem, as fresh fruit was in short supply and high demand for most of history. Turning fresh fruit into preserves allows you to extend the shelf life of the fruit for months. Even slightly overripe fruit, as long as it's not moldy, can be used. Try some of our favorite jam recipes that preserve seasonal flavors, while also saving you money and avoiding waste.
Food storage containers
Photo credit: hedgehog94/i9stockphoto

PROPER STORAGE

Investing in high quality container and bags is a smart idea. Even if it costs a little more upfront, the right equipment will soon help you save. Use freezer bags for freezing, and containers that are tailored to whatever you are storing. There are even special wrappers for cheese.
DIY avocado face mask
Photo credit: kazmulka/istockphoto

DIY COSMETICS

Plenty of food items can be repurposed into all natural and effective body treatments. While things like oats and honey are shelf stable, items like yogurt, milk, and avocado can all be used to make body and hair treatments. While you may not get to eat it before it goes bad, you can at least treat yourself for a home spa day before the perishables pass their prime.
Ice cube tray with frozen herbs
Photo credit: Qwart/istockphoto

FREEZE HERBS

Herbs can be expensive and usually come in batches that are difficult to use before they start to degrade. Freezing them in ice cube trays makes it easy to pop them into soup, sauce, and stock without compromising freshness.
Canned vegetables
Photo credit: YinYang/istockphoto

GET INTO CANNING

Turning fresh fruit and vegetables into shelf stable items is something of a lost art, but is actually really fun and easy. From homemade marinara to pickled green beans there are plenty of ways to preserve the season's best ingredients.
Bowl of fruit with a produce sheet
Photo credit: Courtesy of shop.tastemade.com

USE PRODUCE SHEETS

Modern technology never ceases to amaze, even when it comes to prolonging the life of produce. Especially for those who like to buy in bulk for bigger savings, produce sheets can help keep those fruits and veggies fresher for longer.
Planning menu
Photo credit: AndreyPopov/istockphoto

PLAN MENUS

Planning menus helps in so many ways. It helps to create an efficient grocery list, so you can choose items that can be used in more than one recipe. Including plans for leftovers and what new meals they will become is also a good idea. If there is a plan for everything, it's more likely to be consumed.
Making soup
Photo credit: oska25/istockphoto

MAKE IT INTO SOUP

Everything from bones, scraps, and leftovers can be used to make soup or stock. Store these odds and ends in the freezer and when ready, use it to make a flavorful homemade soup or stock.
Fresh carrots, radishes, and beets
Photo credit: laughingmango/istockphoto

BUY VEGETABLES WITH EDIBLE TOPS

Items like beets, carrots, and radishes can all be found sold with their green leafy tops attached. These are edible, tasty, and healthy. Using the entire food not only stretches the dollar but also eliminates the tops being discarded.
Salad bar
Photo credit: elxeneize/istockphoto

USE THE SALAD BAR

When shopping for a small quantity of an item for a recipe (such as nuts, raisins, or a particular vegetable), the salad bar at the grocery store can be your best bet. Buying just the amount you need will make sure you don't end up throwing any out.
Various pantry items in glass jars
Photo credit: Yuliya Pinkasevich/istockphoto

STORE IN PLASTIC OR GLASS CONTAINERS

Buying in bulk can save money, but only if you know how to keep everything fresh until it is needed. Using plastic bins or glass jars can extend the life of dried goods like rice and beans for a long, long time.
Ice cube tray with pureed vegetables
Photo credit: belchonock/istockphoto

USE ICE CUBE TRAYS

Buy a second send of ice cube trays and dedicate them to freezing single use ingredients. Everything from stock to herbs can be portioned out so that you can pop a cube into a pan or pot as needed, without having to defrost the entire portion.
Flour in a glass jar next to a bowl
Photo credit: EVAfotografie/istockphoto

SWAP BAGS FOR JARS

Many foods come in plastic or paper bags, like sugar, flour, nuts, etc. Transferring these items to glass has helps keep them fresh for longer while also protecting against spills from toppling over. Another benefit of jars is organization, which makes everything easier to see, find, and use.
Olive oil
Photo credit: dulezidar/istockphoto

KEEP OIL COOL

Oil is one of the pricier staple ingredients, especially when buying olive oil or organic oils. It's tempting to keep the oil right next to the stove, but heat damages oil, making it go rancid quickly. Keep oils away from heat for freshness. If you buy a large tin of oil, transfer a small portion of it to a small bottle to keep within arms reach, and the bulk of the product away from any heat source.
Bowl of apples and oranges
Photo credit: RichLegg/istockphoto

KNOW WHERE TO STORE PRODUCE

There are certain chemical reactions between fresh produce that can make them ripen and go bad faster. For example, bananas give off a chemical that will ripen anything around them, which is why their tops are usually wrapped in plastic. Another tip: apples help potatoes stay fresh. Learning how different fruits and vegetables should be properly stored can also help avoid waste and save you having to buy more.
Food in bags in the freezer
Photo credit: Qwart/istockphoto

LABEL YOUR FOOD

Labeling is especially important for frozen foods, which may be hard to identify. If you don't know what it is you are more likely to let it languish in the fridge or freezer until it's expiration date drives it into the bin. Always use a date when labeling to know what needs to be eaten by when.
Cleaning the fridge
Photo credit: AndrewRafalsky/istockphoto

KEEP A CLEAN FRIDGE

Cleaning out the fridge is a good idea on a regular basis. Using some baking soda to keep things fresh will help even more. This prevents funky fridge smells from sticking to otherwise good foods like butter and cheese.
Stocked pantry
Photo credit: NoDerog/istockphoto

KNOW YOUR INVENTORY

How many times have you bought something at the store that you already had in the pantry? Keeping a list of your inventory, either in the pantry or on an online spreadsheet, will ensure you don't buy duplicates. Knowing exactly what you have on hand at all times will also help you make better use of fresh and more perishable ingredients.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.