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.

Take Inventory

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 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.

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2009

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.