12 ways to reduce food waste—and save money

Image courtesy of magazineart.org 

  1. Plan a menu before you shop—and stick to it.
  2. Check your fridge/freezer/pantry before you plan your menu, and see that your menu uses the foods that need to be used up.
  3. Process your fruits, vegetables, and meats. Within a few days of your shopping trip, wash, dry, and chop any fruits and veggies that can be prepared. I know I'm a lot more likely to use nice, washed salad-ready lettuce than a giant, wilting head of dirty lettuce.
  4. Reduce your portion sizes. Not only will you and your family eat less, there will be less waste left on your plates after the meal is over.
  5. Make a plan for your leftovers. We usually eat them for lunch the next day. If you're not going to do that, what are you going to do with them? Serve them for dinner again? Put them in the freezer? Make them into something else? Do it.
  6. The day before your next shopping trip, check the fridge. What can you do with what you have? Sometimes I find I can make it a few more days or even a whole week before I visit the store again.
  7. The day before your next shopping trip, see how many of your remaining fruits and veggies you can use up. Here are some ideas. Then see #2 above.
  8. Don't buy more snacks before you eat the old ones. I am terrible at this—we have so many little odds and ends in the snack cupboard. Maybe some homemade trail mix is in order—my kids will often eat things in trail mix that they won't touch otherwise, especially if I add a little bit of something special, like chocolate chips.
  9. Buy less. I always buy too much candy—it always lasts us weeks and months, and it's not even good for us. If I can use a lighter touch at the bulk bins, I'll throw away less.
  10. Keep a well-stocked pantry, so you will have the resources at your fingertips to use up those odds and ends you need to deal with.
  11. Learn to cook confidently without a recipe, and to change recipes to use what you have. As you cook and experiment more and more, you'll learn what works and what doesn't. I'm so glad I have the chance to do this while my kids are still young and relatively laid back.
  12. Remember where your food comes from, and remember the price that you and others pay to get it on your table. Remember the many who don't have enough food, and be grateful.


  1. I'm so lucky that *B* eats leftovers like it's his job. When we make meals, we've been portioning it into three - one for him, one for me, and one for his lunch.

    I like the idea of preparing vegetables soon after they come home. I've heard of that idea before, I just never get to it.

  2. I have a small convenient store across the street. If I need one item, we walk there to get just the item, instead of driving to Walmart. It may be a little more costly per item, but Walmart is a black hole and you end up buying tons.

  3. My husband says I make some of my best meals working from odds and ends left in the fridge, probably because it forces me to be creative.

    I second the menu planning wholeheartedly. I also like to plan several meals that use the same base ingredients for a week - i.e. burritos one night and taco salads the next, that way I get through more of what I buy.

    I also like to work in one meal using exclusively nonperishable items per week. That way if we end up with a day we can eat leftovers and not make something new, the meal simply rolls over to the next week and saves us the trouble and money of an extra meal and there are no worries about letting fresh ingredients go too long.