If you’re trying to save money, you likely employ a variety of techniques. Perhaps you set your thermostat to a lower temperature in the winter and to a higher one in the summer. Maybe you start clipping coupons or riding your bike more often. Perhaps you rent a DVD from the library instead of going to the movies.
However, one way you may not have considered is to try to reduce your food waste. Turns out, if you got better at curbing your food waste, you could have a lot more money in your pocket.
How Much Does Food Waste Cost the Average American Family?
According to a study from The Natural Resource Defense Council, “the average American family of four ends up tossing the equivalent of $2,275 of food into the trash annually” (The Christian Science Monitor). That equates to nearly $190 EVERY month. To break it down further, that’s over $45 per person, per month.
Are you surprised? I was.
Ironically, in our family, when I was couponing and buying lots of processed foods, I ended up wasting more food. This happened for three primary reasons:
Either we would get tired of eating leftovers and not want to finish them, or
I would buy food that the grocery store had already discounted for quick sale, and we wouldn’t finish it before it went bad (which was usually in a day or two), or
I would buy items in large quantities to get a cheaper price per ounce, but we wouldn’t be able to finish it all before it went bad.
Since we’ve stopped couponing and begun eating a cleaner diet, our food waste has dropped dramatically.
How You Can Reduce Your Food Waste
There are many ways you can reduce your food waste without affecting the quality of food that you eat.
1. Buy fewer groceries. Most people intend to eat healthy, so they buy more produce than they can eat before it goes bad. Instead, buy the minimum you think your family will eat. You can always go back to the store if you run out.
2. Repurpose food scraps. Our kids don’t like the heels of bread or the crust. Yes, we cut off the crust, but we save those scraps in the freezer as well as the heels. When we have enough, we make Bread Pudding for breakfast. Other ideas include making Homemade Tomato Soup, croutons, or bread crumbs for meals like meatloaf.
3. Repurpose leftovers. Many families don’t like to eat the same meal twice, or another problem is that there isn’t enough leftover for another meal for the family. Avoid waste here by repurposing the food. If you have one piece of fish left, dice it and turn it into the base of a fish chowder. Or, let all of the leftovers accrue for several days, and then at the end of the week, have a meal of all the various leftovers. Everyone gets to pick which leftover they would like.
4. Have an occasional pantry challenge. Every few months, have a week where you don’t grocery shop at all and instead use up what you have in the house. If you’re stumped about what to do with various odds and ends, use a site like Big Oven that will let you enter up to three ingredients you have on hand and give you recipes you can make with those.
5. Use the freezer. As a last resort, you can always freeze the food you can’t eat. If you have leftover yogurt, freeze it in ice cube trays and add it later to a smoothie. Same thing with fruit, meat, and other leftovers. I freeze celery that is a bit past its prime to use later in homemade chicken stock where it makes no difference if the texture is compromised.
At a Restaurant
Restaurants are also major culprits of food waste. If you’re eating out, here’s what you can do to limit food waste:
1. Split a meal with someone. Restaurant meals are huge. Yes, you could order the full meal yourself and take the leftovers home, but only do this if you know you’ll eat the leftovers. Otherwise, split the meal with a friend or family member.
2. Order an appetizer. An appetizer may be the perfect size for one person’s meal. You get to eat what you’d like, and there’s no waste.
3. Order the lunch portion. If you can choose between the lunch and dinner portion, order the lunch portion for a more manageable size.
When you’re trying to cut corners, considering every possible way is important. If you can learn to curb your food waste, you’ll be well on your way to saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.