5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Groceries & Avoid Food Waste

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The average family of four throws away $1,500 worth of food each year. Think about that! $1,500 is a lot of money that could be better spent or saved.

I used to pride myself in having little to no food waste at home. Part of it was due to good planning and the other was a great husband who always finishes the leftovers. But enter in my picky eating toddler, and I found myself wondering how many times can I re-microwave a piece of chicken before eventually tossing it. The constant unfinished meals made me get creative in trying to reduce what went in the trash.

The U.S Department of Agriculture estimates 31% of the available food went uneaten in 2010. And, probably to no surprise, the most wasted foods are fruits and vegetables. It’s upsetting to see the statistics especially knowing how many children and adults go hungry.

One of the best ways to avoid food waste is to meal plan and only buy what you need.

It’s easy to overbuy especially when things are on sale. I find that if I buy a bunch of peppers really cheap but don’t have a plan for how to use them, it could end up being a waste of money. I’ve learned that lesson and now have go-to meals for using up produce which include egg scrambles or quiches, veggie quesadillas, soups and smoothies. The beauty is most of these things can be reheated and eaten whenever I’m short on time.

Another thing I’ve learned the hard way is to not make special meals for my toddler.

I don’t like mac and cheese but since my child hardly eats, I made it because I assumed all kids liked mac and cheese! He would take a bite and not touch it again. So I ended up throwing out the entire pot, because there are some things even my husband won’t eat! One helpful trick I use is to save his unfinished yogurt and applesauce pouches. If he doesn’t eat them the second time around, I’ll throw them into smoothies or make oatmeal banana bars with the applesauce.

Once you get into the habit and know how much food your family will eat, it becomes routine to avoid food waste.

Here are some tips to help get you started on your journey to eat more and waste less!

  1. Meal plan and turn the same ingredients into different meals to avoid tossing leftovers. For example when I make a ham I’ll make ham, potatoes and veggies, a ham and veggie quiche and ham and potato soup. Or with chicken I’ll make chicken enchiladas, chicken tortilla soup and cut some up to throw on salads for lunch.
  2. Cut fruits and vegetables when you buy them and keep them visible so you don’t forget about them. It also makes it easier to throw together a salad.
  3. When fruit is starting to go bad or is unfinished toss into the freezer and use in smoothies instead of ice cubes.
  4. When vegetables are starting to go bad, roast them in the the oven for a side dish, toss them into egg scrambles or mix with quinoa for a chilled or warm salad.
  5. Utilize your freezer! If you don’t like leftovers, divide things like chili, soup and casseroles into two dishes and and freeze one for later. Also if you’re not going to have time to cook the meat you bought, throw it in the freezer for another time.

What do you do to avoid tossing food in the trash?

This article was originally published in 2016.

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Kim is a Wichita transplant who never planned to stay, but 15 years later she’s convinced Wichita is the perfect place to raise a family. She’s a wife to Jorge and a mama to Nico and Lucia. She moved here from the Chicago suburbs and works in the communications world. The rest of her time is focused on seeking out adventures with her little family. She also loves browsing grocery store aisles, reading cookbooks, iced coffee and wine. Kim’s trying to learn Spanish as well, her kiddos are bilingual and already speak better than she does!