You might be amazed at how much food your family throws away each week, even if you are diligent about trying to save leftovers and cook appropriate portion sizes. Whether it’s a couple of spoonfuls of vegetables leftover in a dinner pot or a few pieces of leftover breakfast coffee cake that no one ate, we are sometimes too quick to throw food out when there are alternatives to avoid such waste. Using leftovers and budgeting wisely can save money – and resources. Learn to become cognizant of how much food you really do dispose of, and then consider these tips to improve the efficiency of your kitchen:
Put away leftovers as soon as you can.
One of the easiest ways to inadvertently waste food is to accidentally leave perishable items out of the refrigerator for too long. Perhaps you didn’t have the chance to put away your groceries right away (and some dairy products went sour), or you don’t have time to clean the kitchen one evening after dinner (and your leftovers became stale and dry). This oversight can be a costly one when it comes to wasting food, so be as cognizant as possible about storing perishable items correctly as soon as you can.
Organize your fridge and pantry by expiration date.
It’s important to always be aware of foods that have an expiration date or can spoil quickly so you’ll be sure to use those up before they go bad. Instead of just pushing all of your current refrigerator and pantry items to the back of the shelves after a large grocery store run, be intentional about bringing forward the items you already have that have an approaching expiration date.
Be cognizant of portion sizes.
Whether you’re cooking for two or for ten, determining portion sizes can be one of a mum’s biggest kitchen challenges. You must always strike a balance between making sure your family is full while also not making so much that you’ll just end up throwing out a large portion of the meal. Here are some tips for realistic portion sizes:
- Read recipes carefully. Most recipes will include serving sizes, so make sure the quantities you use correspond to the number of people for whom you’re cooking.
- Watch children’s portions. Make sure your little ones are taking only what they’ll eat, as sometimes little eyes are bigger than little stomachs!
- Always be prepared for leftovers. Simply having an ample number of food storage containers on hand will encourage you to save leftovers and not throw away uneaten food.
Plan meals around leftovers.
Meal planning is an essential if you’re trying to stay frugal in the kitchen, but it’s important in the process of planning to make sure you can use up all of the ingredients you buy. Sometimes you have to buy in quantities larger than what a recipe calls for, so make sure you incorporate those extras into other recipes throughout the week. If you have to buy a large block of cheese for tacos one night, for example, make sure you can finish up what’s left by making macaroni and cheese, a cheesy chicken casserole, or a big bowl of chili topped with shredded cheese.
Don’t shop until you really need to.
This is often one of my biggest temptations in the kitchen simply because I am tempted to take a big grocery store run as soon as I run out of one or two kitchen staples. When and if you plan your meals for the week, challenge yourself to always start the week with meals that use ingredients you already have on hand. With a bit of creativity, you will be surprised at how many different meals you can whip up with what’s already in your pantry, even if your grocery list is getting long.
Learn to compost or start a home worm farm.
Food that has become rotten or spoiled must be thrown out for obvious reasons, but instead of just tossing it in the trash, consider starting a home worm farm or small compost. Not only will you be turning your food waste into something beneficial for the environment, but you will be saving money on outdoor soil and possibly cutting costs on garbage disposal services.
While some food waste is inevitable, simply being aware of how much food your family really does throw away can be an impetus toward taking practical steps to eliminate it. More than anything, eliminating waste involves intentional decision-making and deliberate usage of every food item in your home (in a timely manner). And keep in mind: saving money on the family food budget could eve help you save for the next family vacation!
What are some of your tips for cutting down on food waste? Share your ideas with us here!