Mar 13 2008

Wasting food is so unfrugal

"Waste not, want not," as they saying goes. Super true.

Tossing out expired food is among one of the most unfrugal things that can happen in your kitchen. You paid for the food, but didn’t use it to its potential. It’s like throwing money in the trash AND you’ll have to replace the item sooner than you would have otherwise.

Unfortunately, I end up tossing more foods than I would like.

In an effort to be less wasteful (and, by definition, more frugal), here’s a few things we can all do to avoid wasting food.

  • Plan your menus. If you buy your groceries based off of your meal plans, you won’t buy random ingredients that you don’t need.
  • Store foods in clear containers if at all possible. If you can see the contents, you might be more likely to grab it the next time you’re raiding the fridge for a snack.
  • If you don’t drink much milk, buy less than a gallon at a time, so that it won’t spoil before you can drink it. Or, try freezing milk.
  • If you need to drain a can, consider saving the liquid. You can save fruity liquid (such as from a pineapple can) for the next time you make a fruit salad, smoothie, etc. For vegetable liquid stuff, you can use it in your next soup. Pour it into a container, label, and freeze.
  • If you regularly throw out the same types of foods, see the pattern and either stop buying that food, buy less of it, or force yourself to use it up. We tend to throw out a lot of lettuce. It browns faster than we can eat it. In the future, I’m going to only buy leafy spinach. That way, if it’s starting to get old, I can cook it and freeze it for later. Better for ya, too.
  • Cook and/or freeze fruits and vegetables that are about to expire, and use them in the future.
  • If you don’t plan to get a "doggy bag" when you go out to eat, then share an entree or only order what you can eat in that sitting.
  • Have a plan for leftovers. If you’re making a double batch of something, be sure it shows up on your dinner table before freezer burn gets it. Consider using leftovers for your lunch the next day. If you’re really talented, you can use leftovers for an entirely new dish.
  • Use all of it. Check out what you can do with one chicken.
  • Use stale bread to make bread crumbs or croutons.
  • If you simply can’t stand leftovers and never eat them, then cook less food!
  • Edit: One more idea: Once per week, pull out all of your leftovers and reheat & serve them, buffet-style. Or, weekly, go through your fridge and cook and/or freeze whatever is still in there.

These are just a few ideas. What can you add to the list?

Also, be sure to check out 50 ideas to keep us from wasting food. You won’t want to miss those tips!

12 Responses to “Wasting food is so unfrugal”

  1. I also freeze leftover herbs like rosemary, basil, cilantro, and parsley. They taste better than dried!

    I keep rosemary “stalks” (after I’ve used the “needles”) and the tops of carrots for use in stocks/soups.

  2. I buy lots of produce (which means lots of perishables). I keep two lists taped to the side of my fridge: one of the contents of the freezer (usually just leftovers I’ve frozen … I’m not likely to forget when i buy a pint of sorbet!), and one for items in my fridge. This is especially helpful as I share a fridge with roommates, and it’s not always easy to see what I have at a glance.

  3. I also keep a list of perishables on my fridge. Lately, I try only to shop for 2-3 days worth of food. Everytime I shop for the week, I end up throwing food away.

  4. Great ideas. This is also an area where I’d like to improve.

    One thing that helps me is to wash and prepare all of my produce right after I get home from the store. The kids are more likely to grab fruits or veggies for a snacks if the apples are already washed and the carrots are already peeled and cut into sticks.

  5. Good ideas. I had never tought of doing a leftovers buffet.

    Another thing I do is freeze things like pesto or tomato paste, where many recipes call for only a little of the smallest portion you can buy, in smaller, 1-tsp. chunks. Ice cube trays work well for this, though I need to get another ice cube tray since I left mine behind when I moved.

    If I have only a few of something leftover, like broccoli florets or 1/3C. frozen corn, I’ll just throw it in the next casserole or frittata or soup I’m making. Those kinds of dishes can absorb a lot of extra miscellany, and you use up your food before it goes bad.

  6. I’m pretty good at using up food before it goes bad, but my fiance is another story! The worst part about it is that I’m a fairly picky eater, so if he buys something that only he likes and doesn’t eat it, it goes straight in the trash since I won’t touch it. I really need to get on him about this!

  7. Great article. Thanks for the link love. I gave you a thumbs up on Stumble.

  8. Great post! I hate to waste food, too, and find that it happens a lot, simply because it’s difficult with only two people and one shared meal a day during the week. But I’m going to start meal planning soon, so hopefully that will help. I’ll also read that going through your refrigerator once a week when you plan out your meals can help you keep foods from going bad.

  9. I hate wasting food too. My husband hates leftovers so I try to portion out our meals just right.

  10. If you’re saving the liquid from canned vegetables, be aware that it has a lot of sodium in it — unless you buy no-salt-added veggies — and be chary about salting the soup you make from it.
    Along those lines: When you’re draining the liquid of vegetables you cook from scratch, such as potatoes or frozen peas, save that liquid to make soup, too.
    Recently I had a pan of cornbread go stale because I got sick and couldn’t eat much of anything for a few days. Some people would have cut it up and saved it to make cornbread stuffing; I decided to try making bread pudding with it. I added some blackberries I’d frozen last summer (they grow everywhere in Seattle; on the corner half a block away, I can pick all I need for jam and freezing) and a little extra cinnamon. I still prefer ordinary bread pudding, but it was a pretty tasty dessert and it kept the cornbread from going to waste.

  11. One thing that I do when I menu plan is to account for one or two days when we’ll have leftovers or eat out with friends. So I only plan 4-5 meals a week for two people (and we still usually have enough for lunches!).

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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