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Of all the ways that I find money can be wasted in my home, food waste would have to be one of the biggest culprits. Not only is it just a general waste of money, but food waste can actually double your grocery bill if you aren’t careful. If you’ve realized that your family is wasting more than you thought, finding ways to reduce food waste is really the only way to save money on groceries. It’s pretty simple to me; if you’re wasting more food than you need to be, you are quite literally throwing away money. Learn how to reduce food waste and you’ll save more than you waste. You can use as many coupons or apps as you want; you can shop all the sales you want, but if you are throwing your money away, none of that will really make much of a dent.
When our family first started working toward having a zero waste home, I found the amount of food we were wasting completely shocking. I knew we threw out a lot, but I didn’t realize just how much we tossed. I think it becomes habit for most families and we become blind to it out of that habit. Once I started paying attention and realized how much money I was quite literally tossing, that blindness was broken.
Ways to Reduce Food Waste to Save Money on Food
Learning how to reduce food waste to save money on food can be a bit difficult if you are not already used to do it. Often, you’ll find yourself simply overlooking an easy way in favor for the more complicated option. We are human beings. We tend to gravitate toward the complicated instead of seeing the simple. Unfortunately though; it is often those simple ways that help us to save the most money.
Benefits of reducing food waste
Not only does reducing food waste mean we put less in the landfills and have to grow or raise less to feed ourselves, but it also has a huge financial impact. As I told you in the post where I shared ways my family is going zero waste to save money, we waste an insane amount of food each day. The United States alone wastes as much as 150,000 tons of waste each and every day. For those that don’t want to do the math – raises hand – that is three hundred million tons of wasted food each year and millions of dollars wasted along with it. How much of that wasted money is coming out of your own pocket? To me, one of the single greatest benefits of reducing food waste is saving the money that gets wasted right along with it.
Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste
1. Eat More Leftovers:
It should be obvious, but throwing out fewer left over meals is not only a super simple way to reduce food waste but also an easy way to save money on groceries. Leftovers are great as lunch the next day or as a leftover buffet at the end of the week for an easy dinner night. Just be sure you are storing them in airtight food storage containers so they stay fresh. Otherwise, you will likely lose them anyhow even if you’re trying not to.
2. Freeze leftovers for later:
Another great use for leftovers and a super easy way to reduce food waste is to freeze them for later. For this, use specific freezer containers or use a Foodsaver to vacuum seal them. Later when you’re ready to use them, simply thaw in the fridge and go. I do this quite a bit and it makes my life so much easier.
3. Learn how to freezer cook:
Freezer cooking is a fantastic way to prepare meals for your family while saving money on food. It’s also an easy way to reduce food waste. Before you begin, make sure you have any recommended freezer cooking supplies you might need and that you set aside a day or two to actually cook.
4. Learn How to Regrow Food from Scraps:
Did you know there are quite a few different vegetables you can regrow from scraps? Most, such as potatoes, are really easy to grow and not only help you save money on food, but also to reduce the waste you’re putting out. Even if you don’t have space for a huge garden, most can grow in containers making them perfect for small spaces.
5. Buy fewer items in bulk to reduce waste:
Bulk buying is great if you watch what you are doing, but it’s also great for adding to your food waste. When you go to make a bulk purchase, double check that your family can and will use all of the item before it spoils. If not, you are better off buying a smaller container.
6. Start a compost pile:
Composting is a great way to reduce food waste you might not otherwise be able to use. Vegetable scraps, certain papers, even cut grass and hair from your brush are all able to be composted. If you’re growing a garden, be sure to take the time to learn how to start a compost pile. It will give your soil the push it needs to grow lush and beautiful plants.
7. Learn how to menu plan:
One of the biggest causes of wasted food is not having any idea what you’re supposed to be cooking. How many times have you placed meat in the fridge to thaw only to forget about it and have it spoil? Instead of allowing that to continue to happen, grab a printable menu planner and plan your menu. You won’t regret doing it.
8. Shop less often:
It may not seem as if shopping less would help reduce food waste, but it will. When you’re in the store more often, you often buy more than you need. At least 75% of the time, these extra purchases turn into food waste. Instead, try to scale back your shopping to once a week at most. If you can go longer such as once a month that is even better.
9. Eat proper portions:
We are all guilty of taking more food than we can eat. What happens to that food? It gets wasted. Instead of allowing that to happen, take a smaller portion. Once you finish it, wait 15 minutes. If you are still hungry, allow yourself to have a small second portion. Not only will you be more fit since you aren’t overeating, but you’ll be wasting less food each day.
10. Keep your fridge and freezer organized:
Another huge cause of food waste is an unorganized fridge or freezer. This is especially true if you have a deep freezer. Things can easily get lost or buried. By the time you find them they are out of date or spoiled meaning more wasted food and more wasted money for you.
11. Learn how to read expiration dates:
Food labels are notorious for being confusing but expiration dates can be even more so. By learning how to read food expiration dates, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache, wasted food and wasted money.
12. Understand that expiration dates are guidelines:
While learning the difference between a use by date and an expiration date will help reduce food waste, the lesson that will teach you the most is coming to the understanding that most food expiration dates are guidelines. Not understanding this causes people to toss food and other products that are still good for use. For instance, milk is typically good for 5-7 days after the date on the jug. In this post HERE, I explain why that is and how to know whether your product is still good.
13. Learn how to vacuum seal food to reduce food waste:
As I’ve already mentioned, freezer burn can be a great way to lose your frozen food. Learning how to vacuum seal food properly so you don’t lose the seal or your food is the only real way to combat that. By properly vacuum sealing your food, you give it the chance it needs to stay fresher longer and you’ll reduce the amount of waste you’re throwing out.
14. Learn how to use Mylar bags for food storage:
Another way to keep your food fresh and reduce food waste is to learn how to use mylar bags to store food. These thin bags help keep out light, moisture and oxygen – all of which will help your food go stale or spoil quicker. Mylar is great for pantry goods such as cereal or flour.
15. Use proper food storage containers to reduce food waste:
Mylar and Foodsavers are great, but if you’re not going to be storing the food in the freezer or on the shelf, you’ll want just “regular” old air tight food storage containers. When you buy your containers, make sure they are airtight or you’ll only lose what you’re trying to keep.
16 Learn different ways to use leftovers:
Sometimes you will have leftovers after dinner, but not quite enough to make another meal. In this case, find new ways to use leftovers that will allow you to use them instead of wasting them. For instance, leftover meat can be used to make homemade dog food; leftover vegetables can be composted if they don’t have a sauce on them or leftover mashed potatoes can be frozen until you get enough for a meal. Just because you have a small amount does not mean you have to waste it.
17. Shop with a grocery list:
I talked about spending less time in the store and how it can help you reduce food waste already. Shopping with a grocery list is another simple way to reduce food waste that can be stacked onto doing fewer shopping trips. When you shop without a list, you leave yourself open to impulse purchases (Six Dollar Family) which often cause wasted food and wasted money every time.
18. Make certain your food storage is properly dated:
If you have taken the time to build a stockpile to save money, the last thing you will want is for it to expire. To prevent this, make certain you are marking things with the date of purchase as you bring them in. You only need to add the date with a sharpie so you can tell when things have been purchased and make sure they get used.
19. First In First Out:
As you’re marking dates of purchase, be sure you’re also using your food in a first in first out manner. This basically just means to use the older items before the newly purchased. If you’re using up older items before newer ones, you won’t be risking those things spoiling before they get eaten.
20. Track which foods you’re wasting:
If you want to get a good idea of which foods you are buying too much of, start a list to track which foods you’re wasting. When you compost something or throw it out, write it down. Over time, you will notice a pattern as to which items are being wasted more than others.
21. Shop discount grocery stores:
If you have never shopped at a discount store, they are great for helping to reduce food waste. Items may be overstock items, close to their date or scratch and dent. These stores are especially good for things such as bread, but some stores sell all sorts of items. Not only do they help to reduce waste, but they also help to save money on food as well.
22. Learn how to can food:
A fantastic way to help reduce food waste and wasted money is by learning how to can food. All you need is a water bath canner, pressure canner and canning jars with lids and rings to get started. Not only will this help your family waste less, but it will also help you build a stockpile on a budget to have when times are hard.
23. Learn how to dehydrate food:
Aside from canning foods, learning how to dehydrate foods is another great way to preserve food (Six Dollar Family) and cut the waste your family is putting out. Dehydrated foods are great for recipes such as soup since you can simply toss in the pot and go. All you need is a few good dehydrator recipes and a good quality food dehydrator.
24. Buy imperfect:
The United States wastes a crazy amount of fresh produce because it is imperfect, but even imperfect produce can be used. Imperfect items are usually a lot cheaper than perfects. I often buy imperfect potatoes, onions and bell peppers by the bag for just $2.00 each! To use, simply cut out any bad spots, toss them into the compost pile then use the rest to make your recipe.
25. Shop Clearance Sales first:
Before you purchase anything, always head to the clearance (Six Dollar Family) section first. Those items are in danger of being thrown away which means you’ll be able to buy them cheaper. If you find something on your list marked down, you’ll be able to save money and rescue it from the waste pile.
26. Use orange peels to help clean your home
Orange peels are great for doing things such as making homemade orange oil cleaner or a homemade potpourri. You can even use them to freshen your garbage disposal simply by running them and some water down through it. You can even use orange scraps to make homemade orange peel emergency candles.
27. Learn new uses for apple peels:
Apple peels are one of my favorite things to keep from going into the waste pile. There are so many ways to use apple peels that I just can’t bring myself to even compost them! You can make things such as apple scrap jelly or homemade apple cider vinegar.
28. Rescue stale bread
Stale bread is almost always thrown out which is costing you at least $3 or $4.00 per month. Instead, throw the pieces in the freezer and when you have enough, use a coffee grinder to grind them up into bread crumbs for recipes.
29. Save Chicken Fat for Lard:
Instead of wasting chicken fat, why not save it until you have enough to render into lard? You can also do this with pork or beef fat. Rendering isn’t hard to do as long as you have a slow cooker. Rendered beef fat is called tallow and is perfect for making homemade emergency candles with.
30. Save beef and chicken bones for stock:
While you’re saving the fat off your meat, make sure to save the bones too. Chicken, turkey or beef bones make amazing homemade stocks and broths when you combine them with vegetable scraps.
31. Save Seeds for snacks:
When you’re cleaning out your vegetables and fruits, be mindful of which seeds you’re throwing away. Certain ones are great for snacks! Pumpkin seeds especially can be roasted and turned into an amazing – and healthy! – snack option.
32. Save seeds for growing:
If the seeds you’re saving can not be eaten as a snack, why not clean them up and dry to regrow into new plants? This is a great way to start a garden on a budget and to reduce food waste at the same time.
33. Learn to make smoothies:
One of my favorite ways to reduce food waste to save money on groceries is by making a smoothie! All you need is a few amazing smoothie recipes and a personal blender and you’re good to go! I love using strawberries and bananas that are about to go bad this way. To make it even healthier, I add my Thrive Chocolate shake to the mix and a bit of milk and I have a super healthy and delicious breakfast!
34. Forage for food instead of buying
Foraging for food is an amazing way to cut waste and provide your family with what they need. This is especially true for greens to add to salads, berries and even mushrooms! Even the dandelions in your yard can be food!
35. Use overripe fruit to flavor water:
Overripe fruit such as strawberries, kiwi, bananas or even citrus fruits are great for using in a fruit infusing water bottle to flavor your water naturally. It makes your water taste great and reduces waste!
36. Use coffee grounds in new ways:
You can even use coffee grounds instead of throwing them away! First, brew a second pot of coffee with them. Usually, you can get at least 2 pots out of the same grounds without losing too much in taste. Then, toss them in your compost pile or use the leftover grounds to make a homemade coffee scrub. Your skin will never look better!
37. Freeze produce to lengthen shelf life
Most produce can be frozen to preserve it and help it last longer. Wash well or use a fruit and vegetable wash – then cut into serving sizes and pop in the freezer. Some fruits – such as grapes – are actually so much better tasting when they’re frozen!
38. Make banana nut bread or banana muffins:
39. Make homemade dog food
Homemade dog food is not only cheaper than conventional, but it’s a great way to use up meat, certain vegetables and even egg shells that you would otherwise be throwing away. All you need is a good recipe and of course, a coffee grinder to grind up those calcium adding egg shells.
40. Use the 10 minute rule when eating:
As I mentioned above with portion sizes, one of the largest causes of food waste is taking too much. In addition to monitoring the sizes of your portions, the 10-minute rule can help too. When you want to go back for seconds, force yourself to wait 10-minutes. Waiting gives your body the time it needs for the “I’m full” signal to travel from your stomach to your brain. If you’re still hungry, have your seconds. If not though, you’ll avoid wasting the food.
41. Ask for a doggy bag when you eat out:
If you eat out, why are you leaving a half eaten meal on the table when you’re done? Instead, get a takeout container and take it home. Heat it up for lunch the next day and you’ve avoided wasted food and wasted money.
42. Split the entree:
Another tip for wasting less when you eat out is to split the entree. Restaurant servings are usually pretty large. If you know you won’t eat the entire thing yourself, order one and split it with someone else in your family. This is especially great for families with kids.
43. Clean your fridge coils:
You may not think that your fridge coils being dirty would cause waste but it can. Dirty coils can cause your fridge or freezer to not cool correctly. If they aren’t cooling correctly, your food could thaw or get too warm causing it to spoil.
44. Make your fridge and freezer work at their best:
As I just mentioned, if your fridge and freezer aren’t cooling at their best, you could waste food due to it being too warm. Aside from keeping your coils clean, make certain your fridge and freezer are at their working best. Your freezer works best when it is full. Your fridge works best when it is not crammed full and can allow air to circulate. Not only will this help reduce food waste, but it will cut your electric bill by a small bit as well.
45. Use a water bottle in your freezer:
Another super easy way to keep your freezer from getting too warm is to use water bottles to fill in gaps. As I said earlier, your freezer works best when it is full. By using water bottles to fill in gaps, it will help keep the temperature inside your freezer colder and reduce risk of your food thawing.
46. Donate it:
If you really have food that you know will not get used, consider donating it to your local shelter or food pantry. Be sure that it is unopened and unexpired. It will get used for a far better purpose than simply sitting on your shelf and going bad.
47. Use shelf stable milk:
Milk is often one of the most wasted products for families. One really simple way to reduce milk waste is by using shelf stable milk. It allows you to have just as much milk as you need and no more. Dollar Tree sells quarts of shelf stable milk for $1.00 each that taste exactly like fresh milk. If those won’t work for you or if you can’t find them, powdered milk is also an option. If your local Dollar Tree doesn’t carry the milk, you can order it online and have it shipped to your local store.
48. Measure ingredients properly:
A major cause of food waste – and one I am guilty of myself – is not measuring recipe ingredients properly. In the past, I have had an issue with this with things such as cheese in a recipe. When you use more than the recipe calls for, you’re basically throwing money down the drain. A little play in recipes is fine, but when it comes to ingredient amounts, try to keep them pretty close.
49. Cook proper portions:
In addition to eating proper portions, cooking proper portions will help you reduce food waste. It can be hard – especially if you’re going from cooking for kids to only one or two – to judge how much you need. While you’re learning, make certain to freeze any extra for later so your over-cook doesn’t go to waste.
50. Drink more water:
Drinking more water has a bigger effect than simply helping you be healthier. It also helps to fill you up quicker so you don’t feel a need to take more food. This can help reduce the number of seconds you have and help stretch your food longer.