According to the New York Times, Americans waste approximately 27 percent of the food available for consumption in the United States…about a pound per person per day. That’s an incredible statistic. And that statistic translates into lots of money, not to mention lots of food that could feed starving people.
Wasted Food is Not Frugal
When you waste food, it’s usually due to lack of planning. You bought too much. You got too busy to cook it. You forgot you had it in the first place, and you find it at the back of the refrigerator when it’s too late. Sound familiar?
There are steps you can take to make sure your food doesn’t go to waste.
Plan Your Meals
When you have a meal plan, you tell each portion of food that comes into your house where it’s going to go. Plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Make sure only foods you are going to eat come into your house.
If you don’t like to plan meals (and I don’t), try planning meals for a month at a time. It takes longer, but it’s great to have it out of the way for weeks at a time.
And always plan a night for leftovers. I usually end up making too much food, so I’ve declared Sunday mom’s “no cook” day. On Sunday evening, everyone gets what they want from the refrigerator. If we ever don’t have enough leftovers, I can always make a quick breakfast for dinner.
If you shop the sales to buy food at rock bottom prices, it’s good to plan meals out of your pantry and freezer. But in order to do that, you need to know what you have. Try keeping a list of things you have in your pantry, if your pantry is so big you can’t see everything at a glance. Do the same for your freezer. Then make plans to use that food.
Do a Pantry Challenge Once in a While
When your freezer and pantry get full, try taking a pantry challenge. Eat only items that you already have on hand for a week. If you want, stop by the store for milk and fresh fruits and veggies, but that’s it. All other items on your dinner menu must come from your pantry.
If you’re stuck for ideas on what to do with that can of diced chili peppers, check out Allrecipes.com. You can do a search for recipes by ingredient and try something new.
Clean Out Your Pantry
Every three months or so, clean out your pantry and freezer. Make plans to use what you have in your freezer. And if you find things in your pantry that you know you’re not going to use, donate them to a local food pantry. Most food pantries are desperately in need of donations right now, so please don’t throw your food away.
Every item you don’t waste is money in your pocket. Throwing out food that you bought with your cold, hard cash is like throwing your money directly in the trash.
If you need further inspiration to waste less, take part in the Food Waste Reduction Challenge at the Crunchy Chicken. For the month of February, you need to work on wasting less food. And watch out, because the Crunchy Chicken will be checking in to see how you’re doing! I’m taking part. Will you?
Photo by petrr.
@FINALLY FRUGAL what are those websites that use the ingredients you have to generate recipes?
Great to see so many people thinking about reducing their food waste. It’s good for the environment, our economy and our ethics. Check out my blog WastedFood.com for more on the topic.
Yesterday I came home to a wonderful smell in the house. I had started a veggie stock in the crock pot the night before. It came out great.
The best part about it was I used vegetable parts that would have been fed to the worms before. In a plastic bag in the freezer, I saved all of my vegetable cast offs — the carrot peels and onion skins the rough tops and bottoms of carrots and celery, etc.
The stock came out great, and now I can put the vegetables into the worm bin knowing I got the absolute most out of them.
I always try to let my pantry go almost bare before going back to the grocery store, which means sometimes I come up with the strangest combinations :), so I think that’s a great idea!
I try not to waste food and use leftovers. Great post!
Great post, Lynnae! On my own, there wasn’t any real food waste, but with my husband on board, things are a little tricky because both of our schedules are so varied that things do get forgotten about in the fridge and freezer.
Since we don’t want to waste, but we also want to eat fresher food (we want to stay away from questionable health hazards or experiments growing in our kitchen), we’ve limited the number (variety) of fresh veggies and fruits we get at a time and just make more trips to the local market (we can walk there or if we need a greater selection, we drive to the bigger market but only when we combine that with other errands/work).
With just the two of us, that has worked out well. Plus, we have a list on our fridge to remind us of everything that is in the fridge/freezer/fruit bowl at any given time and we can mark that off as we use up our food. And so we can also know what we need for our next trip to the market.
Be flexible in when you eat what also… meaning, leftover dinner is good for breakfast also :)
Yesterday morning I had leftover clam fritters (homemade) for breakfast. This morning I had leftover clam au gratin (homemade of course) and for lunch left over beef/barley stew (homemade too) – the broth and meat being from 2 neckbones I had pressure cooked down and saved the night before I made the stew.
Try supercook.com also for great recipes – type in what you have available and it will give you lots of choices of what to make!
I try to keep an up to date inventory on my freezer door. But more importantly, I try to keep the leftover inventory on the refrig door on one of those little white boards. While it doesn’t work perfectly, cuz sometimes I forget to jot something down, it does give me a good idea of what’s in the frig that needs eaten or frozen, and the day I put it in there.
We’ve recently at Coupon Dad’s house started doing monthly meal plans. We go to the store at the beginning of the month and buy everything on the list based on the plan (except the veggies and fruits – we buy those weekly).
Since we started this we have really done a better job not wasting as much food. This has also helped us plan ahead and find coupons for most everything we need.
Another thing we did is we have a large family (like most on here I imagine)- feeding 9. With that many people it is hard to plan meals everyone will eat. So we established the rule that if you don’t like what’s for dinner than your other option is to eat leftovers. We used to let them eat a sandwich or something similar. This has helped make sure all the leftovers get eaten and not wasted as well.
@Coupon Dad – I LOVE the idea of giving picky children the option of eating leftovers! I never would have thought of that, but I’m going to try it for sure!
I have a busy life (like many of us!) and leftovers have saved me precious time, again and again. At this point, I try to make meals that will mean leftovers for days at a time—and I eat it all! I don’t mind eating the same thing over and over as long as I like it (for example: lasagna).
At the end of the month, if I’ve already spent my budgeted grocery money, I’ll often try the ‘pantry challenge’ and attempt to piece together meals from the items that are left in my cupboards. What helps in this are recipe websites where you can enter the ingredients you have, and it spits out recipes that use those items. . . .
We usually carry out the Use What You Have strategy every three months or so…planning menus using what is in our freezer, fridge, and pantry (and in the garden in the summer!).
This is a great post. My grandmother will buy tons and tons of food at deep discounts and much of it will expire before she can use it. She thinks she’s getting great deals but because she’s wasting so much she really isn’t.
I am a big fan of finding ways to use every scrap of food – whether it is making scraps into stock, putting them in the compost to grow new vegetables, or just shopping your own cupboards. Great post!
I also have bought food and then wound up having to toss it….great savings! I am now planning my meals one week at a time. I only plan dinner and I don’t pick the day so that way I can be flexible. It’s working so far.
When you see a great deal the temptation is to stock up, but then you have to make sure you actually eat the stuff (or freeze it).
I employ what I call the Use What We Have strategy to avoid waste and in the case of a short financial setback . . .
The “Use What We (You) Have” strategy means eating what is in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. This means wearing the clothes in your closet. This means not spending on anything until you have or exhausted everything else first.
When the unfortunate happens, we put the “waste” into the compost pile . . .
More on the Use What We Have strategy here: