These easy-to-follow tips can help you reduce food waste, save time, and save money.

Ever found yourself discarding those forgotten leftovers in the fridge or disposing of a half-eaten, stale bulk box of cereal? Food waste is a more significant issue than many realize, and it's akin to tossing your money down the drain. Interested in discovering how to be more efficient and save extra cash? Keep reading to learn eight effortless methods to curtail food waste.

8 Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste

While we don't set out to squander food, the hustle and bustle of daily life can make it challenging to prioritize food waste reduction. To kickstart your efforts, here are eight valuable tips.

1. Craft a Meal Plan – and Stick with It

One of the most straightforward approaches to curbing food waste while saving both time and money at the grocery store is to create a comprehensive weekly meal plan. For instance, designate Monday for a delightful tuna salad featuring walnuts for lunch and a delectable baked chicken dinner. On Tuesday, indulge in a scrumptious pasta dish – and so forth for the rest of the week. To make meal planning even more enjoyable and expand your culinary repertoire, search online for enticing recipes. Armed with your meal plan, you'll be well-prepared at the store, knowing precisely what ingredients to purchase for each meal, thereby avoiding impulse buys – items that may end up uneaten. By focusing on buying only what's necessary for your meal prep, you'll ultimately buy less and waste less. Plus, remember, not every meal has to be consumed at home; you can easily incorporate pizza nights or lunches with friends into your meal plan.

2. Make a Shopping List

After planning your meals, it's time to go grocery shopping. Make a list of the things you need for the meals you'll have at home. Think about how often you'll eat out or use frozen or pre-cooked meals. It's a good idea to specify how much you need, like "salad mix for two meals." You can write your list on your phone or a piece of paper on the fridge – whichever you prefer.

Food waste is a more significant issue than many realize, and it's akin to tossing your money down the drain.

Before you go shopping, check your pantry, fridge, and freezer. You might already have some things you think you need. Keeping a list of what you run out of each week will help you avoid buying the same things twice.

And remember, never go shopping when you're hungry. Shopping on an empty stomach can make you buy snacks and treats you don't need. Eating a meal before you go shopping will help you stick to your list and save money.

3. Choose Imperfect Produce

Have you heard of 'ugly' produce? It's fruits and veggies with some bumps or bruises, but they're still good to eat. Many people skip these imperfect fruits and vegetables in favor of prettier ones. However, the not-so-pretty produce is just as safe and healthy, plus it's often cheaper. You can use imperfect produce in lots of ways. Chop up the veggies for sauces, soups, or stews, or blend the fruits into a healthy smoothie. You'll enjoy a delicious meal, save money, and help reduce food waste, as long as you use it!

4. Don't Crowd Your Fridge

A fridge with enough food for your meals is great, but when it's too full, food can go bad. To stop this from happening, the FDA suggests having a special spot in your fridge for food that might go bad soon, and use it before anything else.

Buying lots of food, especially stuff like fruits and dairy, might seem like a good idea, especially if there's a sale. But if you get too much, you might end up throwing it away.

5. Store Food Properly

Storing food the right way, especially things that can go bad quickly, can help you waste less. Here are some easy tips:

  • Put leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli in the drawer of the fridge that keeps things humid (moist).
  • Most fruits, like apples and grapes, should go in the drawer that keeps things less humid.
  • Bananas, apples, pears, and avocados give off a gas that makes other food ripen faster, so keep them away from other fruits and veggies.
  • Wait to wash berries, cherries, and grapes until you're ready to eat them to avoid mold.
  • Set your fridge to be 40°F or colder.
  • Don't put milk or eggs in the warmest part of the fridge, which is the door. You can keep condiments like ketchup and mustard there.
  • Keep meat, chicken, and fish on the lower shelves where it's coldest.
  • Store potatoes, onions, and garlic in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Keep grains in sealed containers with labels showing what's inside and when you put it there.
6. Get Creative with Your Leftovers

When you throw away leftovers, you're basically tossing out both food and money. Using leftovers again is a simple and smart way to prevent food waste. Here are some easy ideas:

  • Right after your meal, put the extra food in shallow containers and store them in the fridge or freezer. Now you have lunch or another dinner ready to go.
  • Change up your leftovers: For instance, if you had baked chicken, you can use the leftovers for sandwiches, pot pies, soup, or salad later in the week.
  • Skip eating out for lunch: Buying lunch often costs a lot. If you spend $12 on lunch twice a week, that's $96 each month. Bringing leftovers from home can save you a significant amount!
7. Use Caution When Buying in Bulk

Getting a huge pack of toilet paper can be a great idea because it doesn't go bad, but buying a big pack of yogurt might not be wise. Yogurt can spoil, unlike toilet paper. That's why experts advise against buying large quantities of most food items. You might spot fantastic deals on things like a five-pound box of cereal or a giant container of cheese puffs, but if you can't eat them all before they go stale, you're wasting both food and your savings.

However, buying in bulk isn't always a bad move. When you buy food from bulk bins, like cereal or nuts, you can get just the amount you need instead of a set quantity. This not only cuts down on packaging but also saves you money and reduces waste. Make sure to store these foods in airtight containers with labels to keep them fresh. Most nuts are best kept in the refrigerator.

8. Make Good Use of Your Freezer

Your freezer can be a handy place for leftovers, but you can take it a step further by preparing meals and freezing them for later. When it's time to eat, just grab one from the freezer and warm it up! You can find lots of freezer meal recipes online that taste great. The best part? Freezer meals save you both time and money. Here are a few more freezer tips:

  • When you buy chicken, fish, or other raw meat, divide it into portions for your recipes that week and freeze the rest.
  • Keep bread or bagels in the freezer and defrost or toast them when you're ready to eat. This keeps them from getting stale.
  • Freeze berries and ripe bananas to use in your next delicious smoothie or baking project.
  • Chop up and freeze veggies to use in soups and stews.

More Ways to Cut Down on Waste: Composting and Donating

With some easy steps, you can waste less food and keep more money in your pocket. Here are a couple more tips:

  • Instead of throwing away your leftover veggie scraps, you can compost them. This not only helps the environment but also adds nutrients to the soil.
  • Think about donating extra food to a local shelter or food pantry. The food you won't use can make a big difference for people and families who could use some help.

According to the nonprofit group Feeding America, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States every year.