One of the simplest and easiest ways to waste money is to throw away food, and it’s something we’re all guilty of.
Whether it’s buying produce that turns brown before you use it, letting meats get freezer burned beyond recognition, or throwing out two-week-old leftovers in danger of becoming science projects, you’re wasting food. This is not only a drain on your dollars, but it’s also just a shame to waste food.
Some great, easy ways to avoid food waste include:
- Make sure you use everything you bring home from the grocery store by not bringing anything home from the store without a plan to use it.
- Only buy as much fresh produce as you can use in a few days or a week, or used canned or frozen fruits and veggies.
- Properly package and store your foods. For example, tomatoes should never be refrigerated and strawberries should always be refrigerated, unwashed. Click here to read more about properly storing produce.
- Carefully label and date anything you put into the freezer, and organize frozen items with the oldest near the front. Make sure you know the shelf life of each item, and use them before they exceed that, or before they get freezer burned. Click here for a refrigerator and freezer food storage chart.
- Organize your pantry in the same way, with newer things in the back and older things up front. If you really want to get organized, print out a pantry inventory list.
In my house, our biggest food-waste area is leftovers. My husband does most of the cooking (yes, I know how lucky I am!), but he is physically incapable of cooking for two. So we wind up with a ton of leftovers, which is unfortunate, because he also has a bizarre aversion to eating leftovers. I think his palate craves variety so much that he can’t bear to eat the same thing twice in the same week. I wind up cleaning out the fridge once or twice a week, tossing just about all of the leftovers I packed up and put in.
I’ve had to get creative on ways to repurpose and repackage leftovers so they don’t wind up in the garbage.
Besides the obvious (like making chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken stock or chicken pot pie out of leftover roasted chicken), I’ve learned to use pot roast to make shredded-beef tacos. I’ve made croutons out of stale bread. Chili dogs with leftover chili. Breakfast omelets with chopped tomatoes, onions and scallions left over from taco night.
If you have a leftover dinner element, try to find a way to use it differently. When in doubt, Google it! Chances are someone, somewhere has made something out of leftovers similar to what’s in your fridge, and has shared the recipe online.
Of course, some things you just can’t turn into something else. Take the amazing Mexican casserole we had for dinner on Monday night. After dinner, I looked at it and realized there was really nothing else I could make with it. So, knowing we would probably not be eating it again for dinner this week, I transferred the leftovers to a storage container, labeled it with the contents and date, and popped it in the freezer. I’ll take it out in a few weeks when he’s forgotten about it, and it will just be dinner, not leftovers.
Have you used leftovers in a creative way? Share your story below in the comments.