Quit Throwing Out the Most Expensive Ingredient in the Kitchen

Think.Eat.Save – Reduce your foodprint!

Food waste doesn’t start in your fridge and it doesn’t end in your trash can. I’ve seen estimates that Americans as a whole discard at least 40% of the food they purchase. That is a sad fact because if only one in five people are hungry, we clearly have more than enough to go around. I think the biggest problem is too much diversity in food choices. By attempting to please everyone, we make it easier to discard something unappetizing. Here’s my plan to cut down on food waste.

leftoversAt home, we’re keeping our meals simple, especially during the winter. This is one of my favorite ways to be green while saving green. First of all, I’m using the same ingredients over and over so I can save by purchasing the larger quantities. I also don’t balk at buying organic because the prices are closer to the small, non-organic counterparts. We’ve cut back on buying processed foods and I am still campaigning to get my husband on board with drinking more water instead of other beverages. At around $60 per week, our grocery bill is completely manageable even when we factor in $125 at the butcher each season.

It was easy for me to accept the idea of eating chicken noodle soup 4 out of 7 days per week because I grew up eating PB&J nearly every day for years at a time. I’m used to repetition of favorites and I’ve found that my daughter likes it, too. By having this one simple meal as our staple, I can splurge a little on other things. We make a great spread for each Holiday and we like to have a hearty breakfast every weekend. Whether we make french toast or pancakes, our Saturday breakfasts can’t be beat. No matter how small, the leftovers are great for my toddler in a pinch so I save everything.

My microwave is my biggest ally in the kitchen. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to put a healthy meal on the table so quickly for my daughter. My own version of ‘fast food’ generally consists of leftovers. Often, I use 2 oz jars to freeze small portions, but old spaghetti sauce jars also make great storage vessels for anything in the freezer as long as they aren’t filled to the brim.

We finally began composting late last year and I am thrilled that we’re off to such a great start with the practice. I love discarding our leftover peels and kitchen scraps knowing that in a few months they will feed our garden healthy soil. I’ve seen a huge drop in the amount of trash my family produces from the time when my husband and I were just a new couple. Because I changed, I know that others can, too. Taking on a new habit is a challenge, but living with a new habit like being mindful about food consumption is so easy.

There are a lot of additional costs to factor beyond just the price of any food that ends up in the trash. Think about the cost of your trip to the store or the transportation of the food throughout the production process. How much did the packaging cost? When you throw food away, how much are you paying for garbage bags? Your county may even be raising the cost of garbage pickup because of the volume of trash in town is so high. These changes need to start at home because the big companies are even more wasteful. I have seen few fast food restaurants or grocery stores with recycling programs in action. For me, that is inspiration to stay at home and cook a healthy meal.

I value my time at home with my family above all other things. I enjoy taking fewer trips to the grocery store in favor of lazy afternoons reading book after book with my girls. Going to the grocery store with two under two is a huge challenge, even when I wear the baby. By keeping our shopping list consistent and slim, I can get in and out of the store in under an hour. What I’ve noticed so far is that my toddler is very receptive to eating healthy foods when I keep them readily available to her. In fact, I’m going to grab her a carrot right now. We’ll peel it together, compost the peelings and then split the healthy snack. The same foods that used to end up in my trash after being forgotten are now our favorite staples.

I am so happy I made these changes and I invite you to change your food mindset as well. What is one thing that you can do to minimize food waste in your house?

I wrote this post to enter to win an amazing  trip to blog for United Nations Environmental Program’s World Environment Day 2013. If it inspired you to reduce your foodprint, please comment, like, share, tweet, pin and help me get the word out about this important message. Thank you for your support! Learn more: http://unep.org/wed/blog-competition/howto/

10 comments on “Quit Throwing Out the Most Expensive Ingredient in the Kitchen

  1. Lauryn says:

    Great post! We have been working on this a lot in our household as well. My biggest challenge is getting the hubby on board with eating more “simple” meals. He grew up eating a large “meat and potatoes” plate for every meal. He is starting to give:)

  2. Sonia says:

    This is fascinating. Any way you could photograph one of your receipts and share what your typical purchases look like? Thanks

  3. jaimeweis says:

    This is so great, and true. I know so many people think organic food is so much more expensive, but honestly, since I started eating real foods, our grocery bills are *lower.* I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m more conscious of the food, so we waste a *lot* less than before – and that processed crap actually is more expensive than people realize!

  4. We compost or feed to our farm animals unwanted food. Never goes in the trash! I hate when I see others toss food away.

  5. Steph says:

    Growing up we always did leftovers! We try to have one leftover night a week. I call it smorgasbord night!

  6. My other half refuses to eat leftovers and tosses food ALL the time…but fusses at me when something I bought goes bad in the fridge. Drives.me.nuts.

    I just told him a few days ago we need to start making less food. He made a whole bag of potatoes for three people, because ‘They’ll go bad anyway’. o.O

  7. We try to serve each kid an amount less than they will likely eat so they come back for seconds rather than having too much food on their plate. It doesn’t always work as planned, but we try. We’ll save any food that hasn’t been put on someone’s plate and eat left overs all the time.

  8. carrie says:

    I never thought about the savings when I don’t go to the store as much but I’m seeing it in my budget for gas! We’ve been doing a big trip once every 2 weeks and fill in with milk while running other errands. Thanks for these great tips!

  9. I’m a big fan of leftover night. If I need to, we’ll have 2 in a week to make sure nothing gets wasted. I also like to include leftovers in meals to save on cooking time and prep.

  10. I am very impressed with the $60 a week food spending! Maybe a post breaking it down at some point? I am always trying to find ways to trim our expenses.

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