6 Ways to Avoid Food Waste


Statistics say that the average family of 4 produces 840 pounds of food waste a year. After being so careful when purchasing my groceries, the last thing I want to do is end up throwing them away. Here are some ways that I keep our hard-earned food dollars from hitting the trash.

  • ‘Soup’ any leftover veggies that you have.  I stash mine in a bowl in the fridge for easy soup starters. The soup pictured here is a great use for leftover green beans. (Related: MAKE soup at least a couple times a week.  It is filling, healthy, and affordable.)
  • Scrape containers out well. A dab of water added to near-empty condiment bottles, shaken well, will usually get you another serving or two. Obvious stuff, I know, and sometimes it feels like it isn’t worth your time.  But getting the last dab out of everything will save you many servings over the course of a year, and models wise stewardship to your kids as well.
  • Shake out and wipe out ziplocks and re-use when they’ve been used for dry things like bread or cookies.  I do this with thin bags I’ve gotten in the bulk food section at the grocery store as well. (Any bag that has been used for raw meat always hits the trash, however.)
  • Store leftovers in reusable containers as much as possible instead of using spendy ziplocks or yards of plastic wrap that will be thrown away.  Recently I got a nice pyrex set that makes it easy to see what I’ve got in the fridge, and more likely I’ll remember it in time to use it.
  • Stash single servings of leftovers in freezer containers and freeze them immediately to go in lunch boxes.  This keeps you from having to guess if  a leftover is still edible. My husband routinely takes frozen leftovers to work and reheats to eat at lunch time.  He says that the ladies at work often notice the good smells and asks what he’s eating today.  🙂
  • Serve it different ways.  When I’ve made a large quantity of an item, I rarely serve it the same way twice. Beans can be served with rice on the first day.  A second day I’ll toss a cup or two of beans into beef stew. Another day I’ll make the remainder into re-fried beans served with cheese in tortillas (hint for making refried beans yummy: butter).  I sometimes freeze extra items to be served a different week, saving my family boredom now and me cooking time later.  I also routinely have one or two leftover meals a week, where I set out all the leftovers and folks zap what they want.

Like everyone, we still waste food at times, but these tips keep us from throwing too many dimes, quarters and dollars into the trash. What do you throw away most often? How do you minimize food waste at your house?


  1. Definitely going to read over this list and figure out how to solve our food waste problem. We have two refrigerators. One of them broke down last week and we cleaned them both out and fit everything into the good one with room to spare. I cried. And apologized to my husband for wasting all that money/food. 🙁 Thanks for sharing your tips.

  2. We most often waste fresh veggies and things like lettuce and cilantro. I cut off and toss bad bits, but sometimes end up tossing the whole thing. I’m getting better at buying less, but I despise having to run to the grocery store last minute. Our problem is that we often end up not eating dinner as a family–Donn and I will get invited out or end up eating huge Iraqi lunches at 4 p.m., and the kids often have youth group events with pizza. So my best-laid plans of healthy salads and home made salsa go awry.
    I hate wasting food though. I really try not to!

    • Yes, fragile produce is my biggest problem too. I console myself that whatever is wasted in that department goes to our chickens, but still…

  3. Sandwichinwi says:

    Produce. I always intend to cut it up and package it for easy access, but never do. I have gotten into the habit of immediately repackaging my cilantro with a paper towel to soak up extra moisture. That’s adds a couple of days. And jam. I always seem to find jars of moldy jam in the fridge. More so now that we are gluten free.

    We like to make quesadillas with leftover pork or chicken.

  4. Produce of any kind. Have started making apple fritters, apple crisp, apple pies, apple bread, apple soup- apples are the cheapest fruit around.
    Luckily, we love stir fry because on the night before garbage pickup everything in the refrigerator goes into the stir fry. We sometimes have bok choy, asparagus, celery, carrots, whereas other times we will have green beans, mushrooms, zuchinni–one never knows. Cooking veggies in stir fry gives it a couple more days life too.
    I don’t remember the last time I threw any food away. Make just enough for everyone to have a good helping and then always have fresh bread and/or rice to go with every meal as a filler.

  5. Should have mentioned, kids love ‘creamed’ everything too. So will have creamed corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turkey, fish, chicken; you name it – they love creamed food.
    And by creamed I mean melting tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup milk in saucepan then mixing a bit of flour until a bit thicker than gravy and seasoning with pepper and then put in your veggies or meat and having over noodles, rice, or toast. This is one of their all-time favorite quick meals!

  6. Or KEEP CHICKENS!!! And then have the simple pleasure that comes from knowing that all of your scraps turn back into eggs for your family. 🙂

    • Alas, our Town Council put the kabosh on having chicken coop within city limits. even if limited number of birds and no noisy roosters. Our Youth Pastor was really wanting one…

  7. Love this post! I’m trying to cut back our food waste this year. Sometimes I link up at The Frugal Girl for food waste fridays.
    Sometimes I save veggie scraps, like onion skins, carrot peels, etc… for making stocks with.

  8. I will put taco shells in the oven at 200 degrees to recrisp them so they’re not stale. I also buy spinach for lettuce as I can always sautee it and put in into lasagna or a pasta dish.

  9. I see a lot of people agonizing over throwing away cilantro/parsley, or other highly perishable greens. My solution to the problem is to sew two large washcloths together on three sides and store my washed greens in those. THe greens will stay fresh longer than a week, keeping the towel damp, and there is no drying of the vegetable after initially washing it. If the bag is not kept damp, then the veggie will dry out instead of go soggy and gross. Either way, the greens can be used. For larger leaf greens, I place two cotton hand towels together and sew on three sides. If you can think about what the old fashioned baggies used to look like with a fold over top, I try to sew the larger ones like that so I can fold over the top to close. THere are also “veggie bags” that are sold on the internet.