Save Money, Save the Environment: Your Guide to Reducing Food Waste

Fresh vegetables in eco cotton bags on table in the kitchen

When thinking about the personal habits that have a negative impact on our way of life, it’s easy to overlook mundane, routine behaviors. And one of the costliest, most destructive things we do happens every day: wasting food.

A 2018 study found that each American throws away nearly one pound of food every day. That measures out to approximately 30% of the average daily calories consumed—it’s like throwing out almost one-third of the groceries that fill up your shopping cart. Wasting food every week (whether in large portions or a little bit at a time) means you’re sending both food and money down the drain. According to Feeding America, Americans spend $218 billion annually on food that ends up in the trash.

But it’s not only detrimental to our wallets. Food waste is also a major global issue. Letting food rot results in 45 trillion gallons of water being wasted every year. It also releases damaging greenhouse gases into the environment and harms biodiversity, which both cause a ripple of harmful effects. But the good news is that there are a ton of simple things you can do to kick the habit.

1. Store Food Products Properly

One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste is learning how to properly store ingredients. Incorrectly storing food items, whether by leaving something out of the fridge or forgetting to add the lid to a container, causes food to spoil much faster than it would otherwise.

Healthier people tend to waste more food than others because they’re likely to eat more fruits and vegetables—the food group that most ends up in the bin. Compounding this even further, many fruit and vegetable varieties need to be stored differently. Doing a little bit of research to find the best methods can save you a lot of money in the long run.

2. Freeze Excess Food

Frozen food stored and organized in fridge

Freezing food that you won’t be able to finish before its expiration date is another effective way to minimize waste. Almost everything can be frozen and defrosted to perfection when done properly (e.g. placing items in the fridge overnight).

Just don’t forget about what you’ve frozen and accidentally double up on ingredients. Regularly look inside your freezer to know what’s available to you before going to the grocery store.

3. Plan and Prep Meals in Advance

Pay close attention to sell-by and expiration dates on all food items, especially those labeled on produce and dairy products. By creating a weekly meal plan for you and your family, only buying what you need—while taking expiration dates into account—you can ensure that food doesn’t rot under your watch.

Prepping meals is an excellent idea, but don’t overdo it by cooking up excessively large quantities of one dish. You don’t want to find yourself unable to eat everything before it goes bad, or worse, avoiding pre-made meals because you’re burnt out!  

5. Use Every Ingredient in Your Kitchen

We’ve all stood in front of the fridge, hungrily scanning full shelves for snacks and thinking “I have nothing to eat!”—only to realize the irony of the situation.

To avoid doing this, consider adopting a minimalist lifestyle. It’ll help save you money and protect the environment because its driven by the idea that every product should be used in full (minimalists rarely have more than they need). And the same principle can be applied to our eating habits. Knowing what ingredients you have, using “the whole fish” and buying bulk are all ways of being resourceful.

Wasting food is, unfortunately, easy to do. But there are countless ways to break this habit. Maximizing every ingredient in your kitchen (in a timely manner) goes a long way towards saving the environment and your bank accounts. Waste not, want not—right?

Looking for more ways to reduce food waste? See our tips for extending the shelf life of Tilapia.

Photo Credits: Bogdan Sonjachnyj / Shutterstock Inc., Africa Studio / Shutterstock Inc., yurakrasil / Shutterstock Inc.