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Save More in Your Food Budget by Addressing Food Waste

Wasting food has tangible effects and doesn’t stop at your trash can. One of the immediate consequences of throwing away food is that it isn’t being eaten, which means nobody is getting any of its nutritional value. Another consequence is that food waste affects the environment negatively by producing greenhouse gas emissions.

It doesn’t stop there. Economically speaking, unused food wastes resources. What this means for you is that food you don’t eat is money that went to nothing. Throwing away food is like tossing your hard-earned money into the landfill.

Fortunately, you can take practical steps to ensure much of your grocery budget is being put to good use. Here are some strategies we recommend that can take your groceries and your budget a little further.

Start With Your Shopping List

Making a shopping list goes a long way toward preventing food waste. The most immediate benefit is that you are taking control of your budget by defining what you will buy. It also reduces the risk of impulse purchases that might end up in the trash anyway.

Remember: stick to your plan! “Buy One, Get One” offers at your local store may tempt you. While these deals may help you stay within budget on certain items, it also raises the temptation to buy more than you or your family need.

Stocking up on sale items is only worth it if you use everything you buy. For instance, buying a bundle of discounted bread might turn into a mountain of mold if you aren’t careful. It pays to save, but saving smartly is a better investment. 

Good Food Practices To Adopt

Now that you know how to plan your grocery runs, it’s time to assess how you make food last. We’ll talk a little about storing ingredients and already prepared meals.

Again, food is only valuable if someone gets to eat it. Anything you throw away is money in the trash. Here are some fast tips for storing food:

  • Freshness matters. Most vegetables prefer the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator, while most fruits prefer lower humidity.
  • Ripened fruits ripen each other. Things like bananas, apples, and avocados release a gas that can hasten the ripening process of other produce, causing premature spoilage. Separate these items from other produce.
  • Position counts in the refrigerator. The door is the warmest spot, so avoid placing dairy and eggs there. The coldest area of the fridge is near the bottom, which is ideal for meats, poultry, and fish. 

Processed foods and meals you’ve already cooked have storage requirements, too! Here are some things to consider:

  • Not all dates are the same. You may see packages stamped with a date preceded by the phrase “Best By,” “Use By,” or “Sell By.” These dates aren’t necessarily predicting expiration or spoilage. Get familiar with food product dating and how to detect food spoilage of items that use them.
  • Used ingredients might have a new purpose. You might be able to use the scraps of one meal for another recipe, like a casserole, stir fry, or soup stock. Vegetable peelings can be used for soup stock, while leftovers from a stir fry can be baked into a casserole.
  • Make friends with your freezer. Even the best meal planning and prep can leave you with more than your family can eat sensibly. You can extend the shelf life of leftovers by freezing what you don’t eat for later. Just be sure to use freezer-safe containers and label them with a date.

The food you buy is money you’ve already spent. By avoiding food waste, you are making your dollar go further. The US EPA site has more pointers on preventing food waste.


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