How to Reduce Food Waste

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 10:33 am on Friday, November 21, 2008

Not to brag, but it’s rare for me to throw out food. Very little food goes bad in my house before we eat it. This has not always been the case, however. I used to throw out a lot of food. When I first got married, I discovered that my husband won’t eat leftovers except for some rare foods like pizza or chili, so I had use other methods to keep us from wasting food. Here’s some things that worked for me:

1. Pay attention to how much your family eats–After awhile, I noticed a pattern with my husband. I was consistently throwing out about 1/3 of the food I put on his plate, so I reduced his portion size by 1/3. Now he usually eats everything I give him.

2. Prioritize older food—If an ingredient in the fridge is on the older side of fresh, make a priority to use it first before it goes bad. Make a continual mental list of what’s in your fridge or put a “use it up” list on the outside of the fridge, crossing out food as it gets eaten instead of wasted.

3. Use your freezer–-I regularly toss the remains of a can of something in Tupperware and stick it in the freezer. Then the next time I need that ingredient, I go to the freezer first before opening a new can. For example, I used to have tomato paste go bad before I could get through a can of it. Now I freeze it in between uses and never have tomato paste go bad.

4. Buy multitasking foods-–Buy food that can be used multiple ways. One of the reasons I’m having a hard time using up the box of instant oatmeal is because it has sugar, salt, and chemical flavorings mixed in, which makes it difficult to eat any other way than as instant oatmeal. The bulk rolled oats I usually buy are not only cheaper and better for you, they can be used in any recipe that calls for oats—for example, cookies.

5. Learn how to preserve food—Try out canning or pickling. Learn which vegetables can be frozen raw and which have to be blanched first. Dry something in your oven. It’s all much easier than it seems.

4. New uses old-ish food–-I know dozens of uses for stale bread starting with bread crumbs and ending with bread lasagna. I have recently figured out uses for stale tortilla chips and nonfat milk. And let’s not forget the ultimate frugal food, vegetable broth made from vegetable ends. So turn that bruised-but-good fruit to ice cream or cut up that old apple into apple pancakes. Reducing waste takes creativity and exploration.

The goal here is to use every penny you spend on food. You will know when you accomplished this when, on the rare time something does go bad in your fridge, throwing it out seems like a novelty. You’ll find yourself wondering when the last time you had to throw food out was and you won’t remember. That’s when you know you’re doing something right.

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