5 Easy Ways To Stop Wasting Money On Food

And help save the planet

Food waste is a huge problem ― not only for the planet, but for your budget too.

American families throw out about 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. For the average family of four, that’s about $1,365 to $2,275 wasted each year.

A recent survey found that most Americans feel bad about wasting food. But a full 42 percent said they don’t have enough time to worry about it, and they’ve got a point: When you bring home groceries, do you always properly wash and store them to prevent spoiling? And do you also take the time to separate food scraps from the rest of your trash and make sure they get composted correctly? Most of us don’t or can’t.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to save food at home that won’t eat up too much of your time and will also save you some cold, hard cash.

1. Pre-Plan Your Week’s Groceries
John Lamb via Getty Images
Planning out a week’s worth of meals sounds like a drag ― but ithelps. With recipes planned ahead, you’ll make fewer trips to the grocery store ― which saves you all that time you’d waste standing in the aisle thinking, “Am I in a lasagna mood, or am I feeling some tofu tacos?”

By pre-planning, you’ll also buy only what you need, which means no money wasted on things that you don’t end up using and ultimately toss out.

You also won’t waste precious cash on last-minute takeout on evenings when you’re just too damn tired to shop in the first place.

If you really want to do this right, order groceries online: You’ll likely buy less, and spend less, than if you go to the grocery store when your stomach is rumbling.
2. Dub One Night Per Week Leftover Night
marekuliasz via Getty Images
No matter how much advance planning you do, inevitably there will be some food left over during the week. And for every wilted spinach leaf you toss, that’s money going to waste.

So rather than let those random bits and pieces of produce go bad, use them on a designated leftover night to make some easy recipes: Toss all your extra veggie bits into a vegetable quiche, or make some fancy French meals with wine that’s past its prime.
3. Frozen Foods Are Your Friend
Issaurinko via Getty Images
So you want to add some corn to your tacos, but you really only need a few kernels to sprinkle on top. Now what to do with the rest of the ear of corn, not to mention the other three that came in the package?

Rather than buy fresh vegetables that come in pre-sized bundles, try buying frozen. Frozen vegetables allow you to portion out whatever quantity you need, and preserve the rest. This means they don’t go to waste, and neither does the money you spent on them.

The same goes for canned beans, which people often only use part of, and then let the rest sit awkwardly in the fridge with the metal top gaping open. Try buying beans dry ― they’ll last forever, and the best part is, they’re actually better for you than canned ones, which are often preserved in a high-sodium liquid.
4. Think Twice Before You Buy Bulk
Molly Riley / Reuters
Buying in bulk saves you money ― but not if you end up tossing part of that bulk purchase in the trash. So when it comes to buying food, choose wisely and buy stuff that lasts.

Avoid fresh produce, and instead go for frozen, dry or canned fruits and vegetables. Other foods that are good to buy in bulk are cereal, candy and coffee.

Everyone loves a good Costco deal ― just make sure it’s on stuff you’ll actually use.
5. Don’t Sweat The Sell-By Dates
Aitor Diago via Getty Images
Food date labels are confusing as hell ― which means a lot of people end up throwing out food that’s actually still good to eat.

Here’s the real deal on those “sell-by,” “use-by” and “best before” labels: None of them are regulated by the federal government, and few of them actually tell you when eating or drinking an item would pose a threat to your health. The fact is, most foods are safe to eat on or after the date on the package, according to experts.

If you want proof, a HuffPost writer ate expired food for a week and lived to tell the tale.

So when it comes to expired items, avoid obvious health hazards, like sour milk or rancid meat, but beyond that, if it smells alright and doesn’t taste awful, eat up.

More stories like this:

Support HuffPost

Before You Go

Roasted Blueberry Coconut Quinoa Parfaits With Coconut Granola

5 Healthy Recipes For Food Waste

Popular in the Community