Reducing our waste often feels like it only applies to non-perishable items. Things like trash, plastic, and products we do not need. However, there’s another area of reducing waste and it’s one that many of us are guilty of ignoring… food waste!

Reducing food waste is an area that I feel strongly about. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s because my family lives on a rather tight grocery budget so seeing others waste food/money is something I just do not understand. In any case, people can waste a lot of food if they are not paying attention. The average American wastes over 200 pounds of food each year! Just think about all the money we waste if there is no other reason to make you want to reduce your food waste; 200 pounds of food equals quite a bit of cash that we just throw away!

How do we go about reducing our food waste? There are quite a few ways actually and all of them are great.

Buy Only What You Need

This I’m sure, is a pretty obvious way to reduce our food waste. If you don’t buy it, you can’t waste it!

Only Cook the Amount You’ll Eat

Okay this too should be obvious. Do not make enough lasagna to feed a family of six if you are going to be having dinner for one! Now if you are going to eat the leftovers before they go bad or you are going to do some freezer meals then go ahead and make a lot of lasagna. If not… make only enough for you.

Make a Grocery List

If you go to the store without a grocery list, you will very likely buy more items than you actually need. You might use those items but you might not. A list also helps you determine just how much of a food item you need. Do you have just one dinner of spaghetti on the list? Then you do not need to buy 3 boxes of pasta.

Bulk Buying Beware

I’m definitely a fan of buying in bulk. It’s actually a great way to reduce packaging waste. However, if you are not going to eat a 25 lbs of apples before they spoil than it’s best to put that lovely crate back on the shelf and buy the amount that you will go through before it goes bad.

Make Friends with Your Freezer

Say you bought a bunch of carrots… a lot of carrots. You had every intention of using all of them but something came up and you are now looking at 5 lbs of carrots that are just days away from going bad. Freeze them! Cut them up, stick them in a container, and freeze them! Now you will have carrots on hand when you need them and you avoided creating more food waste. This is also where you can still buy in bulk but avoid food waste. Go ahead and buy 10 bunches of bananas (my family does) if you will freeze them before they go bad just make sure you use them once they are sitting in the freezer!

Take Inventory

Go to your pantry and refrigerator and see what foods you already have. This is beneficial in two ways. One, you can make sure there is nothing that is about to spoil – if you know something will be going bad soon then guess what’s for dinner tonight?! Two, you can incorporate what you already have into your next grocery list – do you have some mozzarella leftover then perhaps homemade pizza should be on the menu next week!

Know When Food Will Go Bad

Some items have expiration dates but it’s also important to know when food that does not have dates printed on it will go bad. Find out how long you can keep leftovers, how long the eggs should last, when that lettuce will turn to mush. That way you will know how long you have until your food goes bad and you can make sure to use it before it does!

Eat Your Leftovers

There are people who have no issues with eating leftovers and then there are those who just do not care for them. Now I’m not saying you have to love eating leftovers but if you made extra then eat them later on! Making enough soup for two meals and then only eating one makes no sense. You are just wasting food and wasting money. So eat your leftovers, use the leftovers to make something new, or stick the leftovers in the freezer for a “new” meal later on.

Use Every Piece

The idea of using every piece of the product is probably more feasible in some foods than others… for example, I cannot think of what you would do with corn husks if you are eating corn on the cob but I’m sure there is something out there if you really want to get creative. However, things like the tops of veggies can be turned into veggie broth, the bones from chicken or beef can be used from making homemade broth, if you have a few random veggies left in the produce bin you can add them all to an omelet.

Donate What You Don’t Need

If you bought a can of beans and you see that it will be going bad before you ever get around to it then donate it! Someone can use that can of beans and it’s much better to give it away then to wait around until it spoils and you just end up throwing it away.

photo credit: onion 2 via photopin (license)