When you cook on a budget, you’re not only saving money, you’re also reducing food waste. That’s because using up the ingredients you bought means you won’t have to go out to buy more food. The more food that gets thrown away, the more money that gets tossed as well. We’ll share with you ways to waste less so that you can also spend less and help the earth while you’re at it.
Tips on How to Avoid Food Waste
Food waste is becoming a big problem in America. The average American family throws away over $2,000 worth of food every year. Food waste is not just bad for our pocket books, it’s also bad for the earth. Here are 6 ways that you can help reduce food waste:
6 Tips on How to Reduce Food Waste
Get tips on reducing food waste to help save money and the Earth's resources with this video.
1. Make a meal plan and grocery list before grocery shopping
Yes, this is also our number one tip for Shopping for Savings, and we cannot stress how important this step is. When you have a list, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy, so you won’t end up buying things that will just go bad and need to be tossed away. But before you hit the grocery store, take stock of what you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, so that you won’t buy something that you already have at home.
2. Store your ingredients correctly
When you get back from the grocery store, pack all the ingredients away correctly. A lot of ingredients tend to spoil quickly because they’re not stored properly.
Meats should be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge, below any prepared or ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. If you don’t plan on using meat within a few days, it should be stored in the freezer.
Store fresh produce in the vegetable drawer, and remember to keep the ones that will spoil faster on top. That way you’ll get to them first. As for fruits, if you’re not going to eat them all in a day, put some in the fridge, and keep the rest out for easy access (and healthy snacking).
Herbs should be planted in a jar of water, covered with a plastic bag, and tied with a rubber band. See how we do it in this video:
How to Store Herbs
Learn how to store herbs so that they'll stay fresher longer and last you for many recipes.
3. Ingredients with a shorter shelf life should be cooked sooner
Veggies like kale or chard have a shorter shelf life, so you’ll want to cook them earlier in the week. Hardy veggies like broccoli, carrots, and potatoes can hold out longer, so you can save them for later in the week.
Produce Shelf Life Guide
Reduce food waste when you learn how to care for fresh produce.
4. Reuse the remains of your ingredients
Here’s where you can get creative! Vegetable trimmings and bones can be stored in a stock bag and stored in the freezer. When the bag is full, you’ll be able to turn these trimmings into homemade stock. You can make breadcrumbs or homemade croutons with stale bread or even from bread ends that you don’t want to eat.
How to Make Simple Homemade Croutons
Learn how to make simple, homemade croutons.
5. Reuse leftovers in your meals
Get creative and repurpose leftovers into new meals. Meat sauce from one night can be made into tacos the next. Rice one day can be fried rice the next day. And a huge crock pot of slow-cooked meat can be used for sandwiches, salads, burritos, and more for the whole week. Stir-frying is also a great way to use up both veggies and proteins. We’ve got 16 creative ideas here to make leftovers new and exciting again:
Repurposing Leftovers & Leftover Ingredients
Get more life out of your leftovers, so that you can reduce food waste and save more money.
And if you’re looking to save up on time, in addition to money and food, try the idea of cooking once and eating twice. Instead of making the exact portion for dinner, double it up to specifically use for a repurposed meal or a leftover lunch. Cooking 2 cups of rice will take the same amount of time and effort as cooking 1 cup.
If you keep a well-stocked pantry, you can start transforming your leftovers into whole new meals immediately with a few simple, but creative ideas. Now this is a fun and delicious way to waste less money and reduce food waste!
From Dinner to Lunch
Get 5 simple dinners that make delicious lunch leftovers.
6. Freeze ingredients or cooked meals that you won’t get to before they spoil
If you have leftovers that you know you won’t be able to eat before they go bad, you can pop them into the freezer. Same goes for most ingredients, as most of them freeze just as well. To learn more about what foods you can freeze and how to freeze them properly, check out our full lesson on freezing and print out this handy infographic to hang on your fridge:
Guide to Frozen Food Storage
Everything you need to know about how to properly store food in your freezer.
It also makes sense to cook in larger batches and freeze extra so that even during busy times, you won’t have to stress about cooking or resort to less-healthy, more expensive food options. Freezing meals can also equate to big grocery savings, and buying meat and produce in bulk for a variety of meals can reduce costs.
Cook a bunch of freezer meals over a weekend to get you through any busy period of life, or just pick a few to have on hand during those unexpected moments of chaos. One of our favorite things to do when stocking the freezer is to make it fun. Invite a friend or two, share recipes, shop together, and spend an afternoon cooking and packing up your meals together. You can even split up the freezer bounty at the end of the day for more variety! Not only will it make the process enjoyable, but you’ll be able to celebrate together when you have those weeknight victories of quick, healthy, homemade dinners.
Best Freezer-Friendly Meals
Stock your freezer with quick, healthy meals, so you’ll always have dinner covered.
5 Ways to Use Up Leftover Vegetables
Even if you do store your produce properly and follow our tips to reducing food waste, sometimes there are random vegetables hanging out in your fridge. Every home cook has had moments of looking into their fridge and realizing that they have no idea how they’re going to clean out those random veggies. We encounter this every now and then, and we’re a meal planning service, too! But instead of letting them spoil or tossing them, we have 5 ways that will help you use up those veggies and turn them into something delicious.
Almost any medley of vegetables are housed in the fridge can be turned into a stir-fry. If you’re unsure, just ask yourself, “Have I seen this vegetable on a Chinese restaurant’s menu?” If yes, just slice them up to add to your stir-fry.
The Quick and Versatile Stir-Fry
Learn how quick and easy it is to get a simple and healthy dinner on the table with the stir-fry cooking method.
2. Slow cooker soup
Throwing vegetables into a slow cooker with a chopped onion, a can of diced tomatoes, and quart of chicken stock is one of the easiest ways to turn leftover veggies into something comforting and tasty. If you don’t have quite enough fresh veggies to fill the pot, dig into your frozen arsenal. Add some Italian spices and cook for 8 hours on low or for 4 hours on high. Even if you can’t eat this right away, go ahead and make it to prevent your vegetables from spoiling, and freeze for a later time.
3. Roasted vegetables
All vegetables shine when roasted. High temperatures bring out a vegetable’s natural sugar content, creating lovely caramelized color and taste. At the most basic, just toss with some oil and salt and pepper. For a little extra credit, try adding different spices or tossing in a vinaigrette. If you’re roasting more than one vegetable, and if they really vary in cooking time, separate them onto two sheet pans or start the longer-cooking one first, and then add the others later in the roasting process.
How to Roast Veggies
We use super high temperatures to roast veggies quickly, making it perfect for any weeknight dinner.
4. Pureed soup
If you have just 1 or 2 vegetables that need to get used up, try making a pureed soup with them. Roughly chop the ingredients (include an onion and a few garlic cloves, if you have them), saute them with a tablespoon of cooking oil and some salt, and pour in just enough stock to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Puree and season up your soup however you’d like. Or keep it simple with a small pat of butter, which will make it feel rich and special.
How to Make Pureed Vegetable Soups
See how we turn vegetables into creamy goodness in this short technique video.
5. Thai curry
Any combination of vegetables can blend into the bold flavors of a delicious curry. A couple spoons of curry paste and some coconut milk will turn your about-to-spoil cabbage, peppers, carrots, squash, etc., into something magnificent.