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Waste Less Food to Save $100 a Month

Updated on March 15, 2013

Trashed Food

The average family wastes $1,365 to $2,275 each year by throwing away 25% of its purchased food!
The average family wastes $1,365 to $2,275 each year by throwing away 25% of its purchased food! | Source

We Waste 25% of Our Food

The average family of four wastes 25% of its purchased food, according to the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. In monetary terms, this family throws away $1,365 to $2,275 worth of food each year. Thus, the average family can save $100 a month (or more!) simply by wasting less food.

Below are 18 practical ways to waste less food. By following these tips, a typical family of four can expect to save more than $100 a month. They can also lessen their impact on the local landfill, prevent greenhouse gas emissions, and save natural resources.

Plan Meals

By planning meals, you'll avoid buying more perishable food than your family can eat. You'll also more accurately determine how much of each food you need to buy, so you won't end up throwing away the costly extras.

Beware of Volume Discounts

Don't buy a bigger size of a perishable food than you need just because it costs less per unit. This also applies to super-sized food packages from warehouse stores like Sam's or BJ's. You won't save any money if you throw away much of the food.

Societal Impact of Wasted Food

Wasting food also has a tremendous harmful impact on society at large:

  • 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is thrown away, most into landfills;
  • The food that's thrown away results in 33 million tons of landfill waste;
  • Rotting food produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas;
  • 25% of the freshwater used in the U.S. is used to produce food that's wasted;
  • 4% of total U.S. oil consumption is used to produce food that's wasted;
  • We collectively spend $165 billion per year on wasted food, including $750 million just to dispose of it.

Know Your Refrigerator

Almost every refrigerator harbors long-forgotten foods. Remember what you put in so you won't forget it. Put dated labels on the packages. Not only will you waste less food, you'll make your refrigerator seem bigger, and avoid nasty (and smelly!) surprises.

Make the Butcher Your Friend

Find ways to buy just the right amount of each foodstuff, rather than buying pre-packaged foods with more than you need. Use bulk bins (if available), ask the butcher for the right amount of meat, or buy just the number of rolls you need from the bakery.

Invest in Good Quality Containers

Buy a few good quality, air-tight containers to store foods. Rubbermaid and Tupperware sell great containers of many sizes and shapes which will help food last longer.

Cook It Before It Goes Bad

Many raw foods can be preserved by cooking them. For example, if you have raw chicken meat that's starting to get old, throw it on the barbecue and then save the cooked meat.

Use Your Freezer Liberally

Freezers extend the life of many foods. Leftovers will last long enough so you'll feel like eating them again. Even if a food doesn't usually need to be frozen, freeze it once it looks like it'll go bad before it's eaten. Even milk, fruits and lunch meats freeze well.

Buy Food Bag Clips

Cereals and many other foods get stale quickly unless their bags are closed after each use. Buy some clips to seal the bags after each use to extend the food's lifetime.

Serve Less Food

Don't serve more food than your family will eat. Once food gets on someone's plate, it can no longer be saved. There's nothing wrong with getting seconds.

Eat Leftovers

How often have you put leftovers into the refrigerator only to toss them out later? Eating leftovers gives you free meals, saves time, and keeps the food out of your local landfill. Freeze leftovers so you can wait longer before eating them.

Understand Food Expiration Dates

Most people are surprised to learn food expiration dates are not generally required by federal regulations, except for infant formula. Rather, the expiration dates printed on most food packages are merely manufacturers' recommendations for when the food should be used for quality purposes, and they do not address safety issues. Indeed, most foods can safely be consumed after their "use by" dates. For more information on labeling, see the USDA's food labeling factsheet.

Use Your Paring Knife

Many people throw out perfectly good fruits and vegetables merely because of a small blemish or bad spot. Use your paring knife to cut out the blemish, and eat the remainder.

Donate

Donate unwanted non-perishable foods to your local food bank, soup kitchen or shelter.

Give it to Friends or Family

If you can't eat all the vegetables sprouting from your garden, give some away to friends or family. Alternatively, can them for later use.

Compost

Compost food scraps to recycle the nutrients and keep them out of the landfill.

Get Rid of the Bad Apple

Immediately throw away any bad apple, potato, onion or berry so it can't infect its neighbors.

Feed Fido

Most dogs are anything but picky eaters. Why let things spoil if they'd make your dog's day?

Buy Smaller Restaurant Servings

Most restaurant meals are super-sized. Consider splitting an entree with your dinner companion, asking for a half-size portion at a discounted price, skipping the appetizer or dessert, or bringing home a doggy-bag.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All excellent suggestions! Happily we follow all of them. Well done!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Hi Tipsto.

      I hate seeing food wasted, but it´s surprising how many people do it on a regular basis. Great advice for some ;)

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      These are excellent ideas, and I am pretty good about not throwing out food. What is left over for dinner is good for lunch the next day. Thanks for sharing all these useful tips. Voting UP.

    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      We use these ideas too! I just whipped up a batch of banana bread this morning because my bananas went ignored this past week with Thanksgiving and the leftovers.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great ideas tips, those food volume bargains end up with the wild life. Good lessons and so well written. I pinned it, FB'd it, and tweeted it. Great article and thanks for the Tips... Tips.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Great tips. I actually never thought about freezing lunch meat but sometimes I do end up throwing a few slices away here and there - next time I'll throw them in the freezer instead of the garbage.

    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 4 years ago from Texas

      I find that planning meals for a week can sometimes have a flaw - unexpected nights out with friends. To deal with that, I always make sure I have an "open" night without anything planned. If we wind up without plans, then we can just whip up a salad and some chicken from our stock of frozen chicken. If we do go out, then we can have leftovers for lunch one day. It's all about finding the balance that works. We're greatly reduced our waste in the kitchen thanks to making our weekly meal plans and buying accordingly.

    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 4 years ago from Texas

      I find that planning meals for a week can sometimes have a flaw - unexpected nights out with friends. To deal with that, I always make sure I have an "open" night without anything planned. If we wind up without plans, then we can just whip up a salad and some chicken from our stock of frozen chicken. If we do go out, then we can have leftovers for lunch one day. It's all about finding the balance that works. We're greatly reduced our waste in the kitchen thanks to making our weekly meal plans and buying accordingly.

    • hisandhers profile image

      hisandhers 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I find reducing my portion sizes have really helped me cut down on food costs (and reduce waste!) I was buying and making way too much food to eat all in one sitting and if the leftovers were too small to save they would just go in the garbage- which amounts to a lot of food over time! When I go shopping it's really only to buy what I need and now I make a conscious effort to try and use my leftovers more creatively.

    • tipstoretireearly profile image
      Author

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Buying just what we need to make the right portion sizes saves a lot of money, and keeps lots of food out of the disposer. Thanks for the comment!

    • ienjoythis profile image

      Marissa D. Carnahan 4 years ago from Nevada

      Really great tips. I definitely plan my meals and stick to it. I shop for what I will need and no more! As if I happen to have a lot of leftovers that I know I won't eat, I take them to my dads- definitely won't go to waste there!

      Thanks for a great read!

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 4 years ago

      I love leftovers. As a young married woman, I would make enough food for two meals. Having enough for another meal, already prepared, saved time for other things. It was especially handy on a night when I'd get home late. Eating dinner at 9 pm was not an option, so it worked out well. A thought that has crossed my mind regarding leftovers is when the refrigerator was getting rather bare, to then take out everything and try to create what I like to call a 'potluck' dinner. Two things, one, you could call upon your creativity skills and come up with some amazing meal, or, two, if that fails, and you happen to have a garden, it would make great compost.

      Just food for thought :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      These are super tips. It's so easy to go the "waste route." All you have to do is over buy and under eat. Definitely, $100/month loss is believable. Up, useful, and all that jazz.

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great advice! Who couldn't use an extra $100 a month? Sharing :)

    • Ebonny profile image

      Ebonny 4 years ago from UK

      Great suggestions here and I was particularly interested to read what you had to say about food expiry dates - I've often thought it's a handy way for manufacturers to get you to throw stuff out and buy more, which equals more profit for them. In the old days we would just use our eyes and our nose to know whether or not something is safely edible and I don't recall hoards of people getting food poisoning! I plan to revert to this more and more - although I suspect my kids will be horrified!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image
      Author

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Hi Ebonny - The USDA's food labeling factsheet definitely makes for interesting reading. I routinely threw out food just because its labeled date had passed. Now I know better. As you said, its better to trust your eyes and nose!

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Great ideas for having less waste. Too much food goes into a garbage disposal when it could have been saved in so many ways!

      Separate question for you: I love the side bar text you have in the blue and grey boxes. I'm not sure how to do that....can you point me to a hub or area that explains how to do that? Thanks!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image
      Author

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Thx for stopping by!

      Its easy to format the side bars, and they do make hubs look better. The Learning Center describes it at http://hubpages.com/learningcenter/the-hubtool-tex... Best of luck!

    • Boisegal profile image

      Holly 4 years ago from Boise, ID

      We recently organized our pantry and kicked ourselves for letting so much cereal expire (we'd bought a lot because they were "great deals"). We cautiously went ahead and tried it anyway since it was only within weeks of the expiration. It tasted fine!

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      These are very useful tips. I have been planning meals for a while because it's easier to maintain my weight and shop as you stated. Thanks for sharing this info.

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