Minimizing Food Waste
Let’s talk about minimizing food waste.
But, saving on grocery costs doesn’t just stop at spending less at the grocery store.
You can make your grocery budget go farther by extending the life of your groceries and throwing less food away.
Minimizing food waste isn’t just a household budgetary concern. The EPA reports that retail and consumer food waste in the United States a whopping $161 billion dollars per year!
Food waste is also an environmental problem. Food is the largest stream of materials in American trash. In 2018, the EPA estimated that American households generated 40% of the 63 million tons of food waste that year.
Once that food hits the landfills, it generates methane and speeds up global warming.
Coming back to the micro level of my life, having grown up poor and not always getting to have everything I wanted to eat, wasting food just breaks my heart. When produce goes bad and I have to throw it out, I find it really tough.
So, I have spent a fair amount of energy trying to figure out the best ways to store and eat foods so that I don’t have to throw anything out.
Here are 10 tips to minimize food waste and make your groceries last for longer!
1. Make Greens Last Longer
As much as I want to eat salads, there are days when I don’t and some weeks the greens go bad before I can eat them. To make the greens last longer, store them in the fridge with a sheet of paper towel to absorb moisture, preferably in a container. Here’s a fun experiment on how to best store greens. Here’s a nice infographic about storing foods property by the EPA.
2. Make Cilantro Last Longer
I LOVE cilantro. But, it doesn’t last very long if just thrown into the produce bin in the fridge. It’s easy to let the cilantro go bad before you find a need to use it.
To make it last longer, put some water in a mason jar (or any cup) pop the cilantro stem side down in it, cover with an upside-down plastic bag, and then put it in the fridge. This makes the cilantro last SO much longer. Here is a nice illustration.
My mom bought me this container which works really well, too.
3. Make Berries Last Longer
Yummy summer berries are so delicious but tend to go bad fast. In order to make them last longer, kill fungal spores by washing them in a vinegar bath. This will significantly increase their fuzz-free time in the fridge! Here’s how.
4. Take Left Overs for Lunch
Don’t let those leftovers rot in your fridge! Take them to work for lunch and you save money and the environment, at the same time!
5. Buy Veggies That Would Otherwise Be Thrown Out
Americans love their perfect-looking produce. So, a lot of produce gets thrown out if it is just a little wonky. Services like Misfits Market rescue that wonky but yummy produce and sell it to you for a discount. Frugal and environmental win!
6. Clean Your Fridge Out Often
How many times have you found something in the back of your fridge that you totally forgot about and would have loved to eat, but you had to throw it out because it was moldy? Not going to lie, that has happened to me quite a few times. I’ve found that if I make myself peruse the very back row of the fridge more often and keep it cleared out, that happens less often. Less waste and more yummy in my tummy.
7. Repurpose Food
If you REALLY don’t like leftovers, try repurposing those foods. Leftover rice is great for next day stir fry. Left over meats can make a nice breakfast omelet or burrito in the morning.
Don’t forget to look for other uses for your food. Old looking vegetables may still be good to cook with. Bruised fruit can make a nice fruit salad. Stale bread can make nice croutons.
8. Know the lingo
The food industry has a lot of dates listed on food packaging. Just because a product is past its best if used by date doesn’t mean it’s not safe to eat. Here’s a good breakdown of the difference between “best if used by,” “Sell- by”, “Use by,” and expiration dates.
9. The Freezer is Your Friend.
Freezing leftovers is a great way to make food last a long time. And, it’s awesome to have a fall back for those days where you REALLY don’t feel like cooking.
Freezing leafy herbs can also extend their life. I’ve found I use curry patta (an herb used in Indian cooking) very occasionally, but I can make one bunch last for many months if I keep it in the freezer.
Finally, if you have to throw produce away, consider composting it instead! Then you can repurpose your waste to feed your garden instead. My mom has been doing this for ages and I just haven’t gotten into it until now. I think having a stinky pit in the yard attracting critters was stopping me. I just bought this tumbling composter that is more compact and rodent unfriendly. I’m super excited to try and report back to you guys.
Until next time!
Stay frugal, y’all!
Standard Disclaimer: Not meant as individualized financial or medical advice. This post contains affiliate links which means your purchase helps support this site, at no additional cost to you.