It is so easy to waste food nowadays. Big sales on items you think you’ll eat, only to try it once and then let it mould in the fridge. Forgotten items stuck behind containers of sour cream. Too many leftovers and not enough time to eat them. Ordering out when we just don’t feel like eating what’s in the house. What happened to eating what you have? Planning out meals (much different than meal planning…), and buying only what you needed? Food waste happens to the best of us, but you can cut down on how much you’re throwing away – and hopefully save you some money in the process.
Organize your fridge
This is the biggest food waste problem for my home. My fridge is rarely empty. It’s stuffed with food and a few choice beverages, but worse, we have every single sauce known to man. At least, it feels that way. We love sauces and dipping, but we also just haphazardly throw the bottles in the fridge, shoving them anywhere they can go. Which means that some of our more perishable stock gets stuck behind sauces and containers and whatever else.
Organize your fridge into sections. For us, one half of a shelf is devoted to sauces and sour cream and the like. Maybe a bit ridiculous for some, but it’s definitely what’s needed for us. Your fridge doesn’t have to look like a low-waste Pinterest fridge with everything perfectly lined up in containers and colour-coded, but it can probably look better than it is.
Devote specific sections to specific foods. If it’s empty, don’t stick anything there just because you can. Re-arrange, if necessary, but keep each section open for what it’s meant to hold. This should keep you from finding those leftovers you swore you put away right after dinner….three months later.
Do the same with your freezers. While we eat mostly from our freezer as we buy our meat straight from the farm, we can still lose food in the freezer. New items from the store, boxed up and easy to throw into the freezer, often hides a lot of things like frozen veggies or cookies that I made on a baking binge. Freezers can be trickier to organize, but taking inventory and marking it off whenever you use something can be a real food saver.
Freeze any leftovers
I mean ANY leftovers. Most of our dinner-made leftovers are eaten over the next two days, but there are so many things that we freeze because we wouldn’t be able to get to them in time. Frozen mac and cheese, lasagna, or stir fry makes for a delicious and easy lunch. I am constantly freezing lunchmeat, mainly pepperoni or salami. We never seem to eat sandwiches at the same pace every week, and sometimes packages are opened only to be forgotten for soup or salad or fries and left to sit in the fridge well past its due date. This kept happening again and again and I was tired of wasting money. Add in the fact that I’m a big believer that we are meant to eat meat, but should always be thankful to the animal for giving their life for our own, and thus, shouldn’t waste a scrap, I was starting to get incredibly frustrated. Grab a container, pop in the remainder of the meat you won’t be finishing before the best before date, throw it in the freezer. It makes it easy for breakfast sandwiches or pizza whenever you’re in the mood and unsure if you’ve the right ingredients. I also do this with any chicken, turkey, or roast that is remaining from our meals. If I know that we won’t be able to eat all of the meat in suppers before it goes bad, I pop them into a container, simple and ready to use once heated!
Don’t throw out those veggies that are starting to turn! The biggest food waste in our home, and most likely most others? Vegetables. You have good intentions. You’re ready to start eating a little healthier than you did the day before. So, you buy lots of veggies. Except, you don’t eat them all and they’re starting to look a little less fresh than they did. As long as they’re not actually turning and getting mouldy or soggy, you can still save those veggies! Chop them up and place them into a container (or freezer bag if you’ve not enough containers just yet…it took us a couple of years to move to freezing mainly in containers or reusable freezer bags) and throw them into the freezer. You can steam them or sautee them when needed down the road, and won’t have to worry about them going bad. The best thing? You can freeze just a carrot or two, and add as your veggies age. Keep adding veggies to the container until you’ve got yourself a nice stir-fry mixture!
Unfortunately, there is no saving lettuce.
Have a smorgasbord once a week
Some of my favourite meals are when I have a little bit of everything. Designate a day, once a week, to eat whatever needs to be eaten. Leftovers, veggies that aren’t looking so hot, sandwich meat, cheeses. Make yourself a charcuterie board of whatever your fridge has to offer. It’s perfect for those days when you don’t feel like cooking and don’t have tons of time. We don’t necessarily need to do this once a week in our home, but every so often we come across too many leftovers that need to be eaten. Mac and cheese with roast beef bits and roasted parsnips and parmesan as your appy? Yes, please!
Plan out your meals
I started doing this during the first lockdown, as I wanted to go to the grocery store as little as possible. Since nothing was going on the big calendar in our kitchen was blank. I started writing in what we would be eating that week, and soon had it filled two weeks ahead of schedule. I could go to the store, grab whatever I needed, and I made sure that I wasn’t wasting a single item. This was done so I wouldn’t have to go back to the store just to grab something, like I usually would, and it stuck with me. I’m not as rigid on our meals as I used to be when I first started planning them out, but I still plan them a few days to a week in advance, changing things around in case something starts to spoil and needs to be eaten ASAP. The odd lettuce or cucumber still gets forgotten, but it’s happening less often, which is a great start.
Have some apples that you don’t think you’ll eat in time? Dehydrate them! Some lemons that were bought for delicious cocktails/mocktails and weren’t all used up? Dehydrate them! Celery that was forgotten about? Dehydrate! Dehydrate! Dehydrate! I’m still eating apples from our apple trees because I dehydrated them. They make delicious snacks and made sure that I didn’t waste a single apple off of our trees. There are only so many pies you can eat! I’ve cut down on so much waste simply by preserving my food. You don’t need to know how to can (even though it’s incredibly easy!). Freeze or dehydrate for later use!