The Dinner Less Wasted: 10 Tips for More Efficient Eating

While we’re focusing on ending child hunger in America this month by participating in the Go Orange campaign, it might be a good idea to look at our own relationship with food. How can we search for constructive ways to feed the kids across the street when we can’t even manage our own food consumption? The average household wastes around $1,600 worth of food a year, which adds up to an unappetizing 90 billion pounds of uneaten meals. That is, literally, a lot of bread.

Whether it’s crazy portion size, letting fresh produce expire in the fridge or buying unnecessary food items in bulk to save money, we seriously need to rethink our eating habits. Are you ready to make some changes for the better? Look over these 10 easy tips for cutting out the waste and join us at the table for “the dinner less wasted.”

1. Shop with a Grocery List. The first tip, one of the most obvious, is also the easiest to overlook. Planning ahead before your next trek to the next grocery store will ensure you come home with more of what you actually consume. A realistic list of the everyday necessities, along with meal goals, will ensure less duplication and impulse buying – that great deal on Chocolate Silk will ultimately save you nothing if you’ve already got three cartons in the fridge. Take a good look inside your pantry and refrigerator and try to assess what’s really going on. The few minutes it takes to plan your grocery trip will save you time at the store and quite a bit of (literal and figurative) bread in the long term.

photo of leftover food2. Label Foods Properly. Whether you’re freezing, canning or storing leftovers, make sure that the food is properly labeled and dated. Mystery food is often forgotten and, by the time a full investigation is performed, it’s not something that anyone would want to eat. Clearly labeling food and storing it in easy-view containers will ensure more constructive use of perishables and leftovers. Try keeping some masking tape and a marker near your food storage items for an easy reminder.

3. Plan a Leftover Night. You don’t get any points for keeping leftovers that remain uneaten after a week. Setting aside a night each week for leftovers is an effective way to ensure that last half of delicious spinach lasagna isn’t wasted – it’ll also save you shopping, prep and cooking time. A fresh salad and simple side can go a long way in dressing up (and even transforming) a reheated dish.

4. Shop Frequently. A good way to ensure produce stays fresh is to buy only what you need for a few meals at a time. While not everyone has the time to go grocery shopping every few days, a little ambition will help keep the nutrient count high and the food waste low. This is especially important if you have a favorite farmer’s market nearby with organic produce that has a short shelf life. Keeping a heavy rotation of fresh vegetables and fruit is also a good way to maximize nutrients and fridge space.

5. Buy Bulk Foods in Moderation. If you have a large family, a plastic-wrapped palette of 50 mac and cheese boxes is a perfectly valid purchase. But be mindful of bulk buying, especially on off-brands and time-sensitive products. The big lie of the “big bargain” is that more is better – but when dealing with food, quite the opposite is true. Also, be aware of expiration dates on boxed, canned and processed foods. An extended date might seem convenient, but the amount of preservatives used to keep that food “edible” might not be worth the savings.

6. Keep Fridge Food Fresh with BerryBreeze. Using BerryBreeze to keep food fresh longer is a great way to minimize the waste. BerryBreeze works to neutralize bacteria, mold and other harmful microbes dancing around in your fridge and on your food. This new technology can keep your fruits, vegetables and other perishables fresh up to three times longer, which is especially ideal for homes where the fridge is in constant use. It pays for itself in no time! Click here to get a BerryBreeze of your own – it’ll be one of your favorite purchases of the year.

7. Be Mindful of Serving Sizes. Unless leftovers are part of your plan, try to make only enough food for each meal. It’s a simple enough concept, and one that can be achieved by being more aware of your actual daily meal consumption. Understanding what a “normal” portion size is will help with keeping the servings – and your waistline – in check. Small tips, such as never eating out of a bag (put chips or other munchables in a bowl), buying individual snack packs (instead of economy bags) and leaving the “super-size” helpings to the fast food chains, will make a great start.

prevent food waste8. Get Creative with Edible Odds and Ends. There is always an odd onion or squash or some other vegetable that wasn’t used in that new recipe and lies at the bottom of the fridge drawer until it is completely unrecognizable. Make the most out of these forgotten foods by the clearing out the clutter a few times a month. Before they become compost, make a stew, salad or side with that half a bag of frozen corn or leftover spinach. Make this part of your routine on leftover night and the options for repurposing are increased greatly.

9. Utilize Your Freezer. Those delicious strawberries that you bought too many of will taste just as great frozen – even several weeks later. Frozen fruit is ideal for smoothies, sauces or dessert accents. Certain leftovers, especially soups and stews, will keep for months. Don’t be afraid to freeze food for a later date. If packed properly (to avoid freezer burn), frozen meat and produce can stay preserved for quite some time. And now that you are clearly labeling all of your fridge food (remember tip #2?), you won’t forget that frozen broccoli minestrone you saved a couple of weeks ago.

10. Know Your Eating Habits. Make a mental note – or even a literal note on pad and paper – of foods that you’re constantly throwing away. Do you find yourself wasting partially-eaten blocks of cheese or expired containers of yogurt on a regular basis? Make sure you keep this information with you on your next grocery run. It isn’t simply a matter of buying less, it’s buying smart. Taking stock of what you’re actually consuming, and how often, can make a huge difference in reducing food waste.

By utilizing just a few of these tips every week, you’ll be minimizing waste, reducing your family’s carbon footprint and eating healthier – plus saving some serious money. Enjoying the dinner less wasted isn’t a difficult endeavor, it’s a smart one that can be easily attained by being more aware of your habits and setting some realistic goals.

What do you think of these tips? If you have any suggestions for tips that we should add, please leave them in the comments section – they might just find their way into a future blog.