We all hate to waste food, but we still find ourselves throwing out more every week. Use these simple tips and reduce food waste at home in no time!
Americans waste (on average) a pound of food per person per day.
That sounds incredible…until you think about the last time you cleaned out your fridge.
(How many nasty science experiments went straight into the trash? Sometimes you throw the whole container away ’cause you’d rather buy more Rubbermaids than look at or smell whatever was in there.)
We’ve all had the occasional fruit fly take up residence in the kitchen because we missed a bad piece of fruit.
(Or a whole bowl of fruit has gone bad. No judging here.)
Not only is it gross, but it also makes you feel horribly guilty about the amount of money you’re wasting.
But what can you do about it?
Well, here are a few ideas…
Reduce Your Food Waste By Using What You Have
Here are a few tips that will help you get to your food before it becomes a science experiment.
1. Rotate It
Don’t leave food in the back of the fridge to rot!
It’s easy to just shove food in the fridge without thinking. But try to get in the habit of putting the new stuff in the back while pulling the older stuff to the front.
I can’t be the only one who nearly cried when I discovered a rotten piece of cheesecake in the back of the fridge that I totally forgot about. wah!
2. Have a Leftover Night
If I had a dollar for every person who told me their family won’t eat leftovers, I wouldn’t have to worry about eating leftovers anymore.
I get it. There is definitely an art to getting the family to partake in leftover night.
It took me a while to win my family over, but believe it or not…they actually love leftover night now. Here’s what works when you want to teach your family to eat leftovers.
3. Buy Less
Here’s what happens…you hit the produce department and decide that this is the week you’re gonna eat healthy!
So you stock up on every sort of salad ingredient possible.
You also pick out a new fruit they started carrying, because…why not? The kids will probably try it.
And a week later, you’re tossing all of that wrinkled and slimy produce into the trash.
I know how tempting it is to think we can change our habits…but it’s always harder than you think.
Only add the produce on there that you know you’ll eat this week.
Leave yourself wiggle room to pick up one deal that you weren’t expecting to find. But that’s it.
Then keep track of what you’re throwing away. And vow to either make eating that thing a priority or accept the truth that your family just doesn’t eat that item anymore and quit buying it. Guilt free.
(Ditto other foods you might be wasting in your home.)
4. Freeze It
If you have a nice deep freezer, then you should definitely take advantage of it.
But if you only have the one in your fridge, use it up! Just be more organized about it.
When I come home from the grocery store, I put all the meat and cheese I bought directly into my deep freeze.
Then I don’t have to stress about getting to it before it expires in a couple of days.
(My family never notices the difference between eating meat I didn’t freeze first and meat I did freeze.)
I got super tired of opening a bag of something to find that it had gone bad, always much faster than I expected. So I’ve started freezing…
- corn meal
- flour (sometimes)
- egg noodles
- fruit like berries and bananas (use them in banana bread or banana cake)
Other Ways To Use It Up
Most often, I like to reinvent the foods I find in the fridge. I try to start with what I have in the fridge each day before I move on to the freezer or pantry.
Here are some of our family’s favorite ways to use up food.
The secret to a good casserole is the seasonings you use.
They’re crazy forgiving. You can put nearly anything into them and they come out yummy!
Try to make a casserole that isn’t much bigger than what your family will eat in a sitting. Unless you eat leftovers. (Hint: learn to eat leftovers!)
Meat (What do you have leftover? Chicken, ham, pulled pork, bacon, ground beef, roast…or even a combination.) Put this in your 9×13 dish first.
Veggies (Mix up any veggies you have leftover.) Sprinkle over the meat.
Starch Shredded or cubed potatoes, pasta, or rice make this a very filling meal. Add enough of this to make the whole dish full.
Cheese If you like it and have some, you can choose to mix it in with everything else or sprinkle over the top (or both!).
Seasonings This is where you get to shine. If the meat was already heavily seasoned when you first made it, you can probably skip this step. Otherwise…
Go with a simple salt and pepper (or my favorite, garlic powder and onion flakes) and be done. Or…
- Italian: add basil, oregano, garlic, and onion
- Mexican: add oregano, cumin, chili powder, garlic, and onion
- Yum: add paprika, garlic, onion, and a dash of hot sauce
- Your combination: It’s hard to go wrong using your family’s favorite flavors.
Then mix all of that up a bit (you can do that right in the pan with a spoon or your sparkling clean hands).
Cream Something to keep it all together. Cream of anything soup, or milk and some flour, chicken stock or broth with some cornstarch. Use 2 cups for a 9×13 pan, depending on how full the dish is. Start with less and add until it covers the bottom of the pan and goes part way up the ingredients you already added (but not all of the ingredients…it’s not soup!).
Topping Totally optional, but breadcrumbs, corn flakes, or croutons over the top give a nice crunch.
Bake it for 30 to 45 minutes. When it’s nice and bubbly along the edges, you know it’s done.
Here are some favorite soup recipes…all of them are perfect for leftovers!
Ham & Beans… I love to use the leftover ham bone, but you can also just drop leftover ham in this soup.
Homemade Potato Soup….Great way to use up mashed potatoes and/or baked potatoes.
White Chicken Chili…My go to when I have leftover chicken in the fridge.
Another frugal favorite…keep a freezer bag available in your freezer. Add any leftover veggies to this bag. In a seperate bag, put any leftover bits of meats (chicken and pork work well together…just no fish!).
Then combine that into some broth for a yummy soup any time you want.
Breakfast for dinner is so much fun! What kid (or adult for that matter) doesn’t love a good breakfast meal?
And the bonus is that you can make it when your eyes are fully open (because you already had your coffee, right?).
Some of our favorite brinner ideas are:
Always delicious. And there are so many ways you can top them! Syrup is an obvious answer, but also fresh fruit or a fruit sauce (sprinkle a little sugar over most fruits and cook it down until it forms a nice syrup).
Or choose fresh fruit for a healthier option. Also custards, puddings, or jams can be great ways to mix it up!
There are so many things you can do with eggs!
- Omelets (great way to use leftover meats, veggies, and cheeses!)
- Hard boiled
Get yourself a quick easy biscuit recipe (like this one) and go to town.
You can make breakfast sandwiches like you’d find at a fast food restaurant.
Smother them in sausage gravy. (Our favorite! I find sausage at Sam’s Club the cheapest.)
Or just use some jam or jelly.
Shred or cube them into hash browns.
You can add your favorite meats, eggs, cheeses, veggies, or herbs and seasonings to create a dish your family will love.
Convince The Family
Here’s how I convinced my family to go meatless one night a week. It’s a good money saver!
And coming soon, I’ll give you ideas for getting everyone to eat leftovers.
Learn to lower your food waste so you have money for the fun stuff.
Heck, maybe you can lower your garbage bill, too!
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How do you reduce your food waste?