Want to Save Money on Groceries? Cut Down on Waste
Nobody sets out to waste food by thinking “Let me just buy this head of broccoli so I can throw it out, covered in mold, a week later.” But the reality is that food waste happens a staggering amount. The average American tosses about 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. That adds up to 20 pounds of wasted food per person every month. The end result: $28 to $43 spent on food that doesn’t get eaten. But there’s a way to change that. Here’s how to reduce how much food—and money—you’re wasting:
Make a grocery list. Plan out the food you’ll actually eat for the week, then stick to your list while at the store. That way you won’t impulse-buy extra items that will likely end up going to waste.
Be careful when buying high-spoilage items. Two-thirds of food waste is due to foods that spoil before you use them. The most commonly thrown-out ingredients include produce (especially greens, citrus fruits and cherries), fresh fish, eggs and milk. Make sure you buy less of these items—and whichever ones you tend to find yourself throwing out before using them. If you need more by mid-week, make a quick grocery run.
Skip buying in bulk. Stores that bundle together massive amounts of food are great if you’re hosting a big party, but for most people, buying more can lead to wasting more. You may think you’re saving money, but you’re not actually getting a deal if you end up spending more money overall at the store and then throwing out more.
Instead, buy a la carte. It’s best to buy only what you think you’ll realistically use, especially with produce. That may mean buying individual carrots instead of a whole bag, or using tongs to help yourself to the amount of spinach you need instead of buying a big plastic container. Same goes for the meat and deli items. Buy a few slices of cheese and enough meat for a couple of sandwiches rather than buying an entire package if you know you won’t use it.
Make a soup. If you have produce that’s almost past its prime, make a “fridge sweep soup.” Throw a bunch of veggies, herbs and otherwise-unusable bits like the tops of onions into a pot to simmer with water to make your own delicious vegetable stock. You can also look up recipes for any odd foods you might have in the fridge at lovefoodhatewaste.com.
Use your freezer. Many leftovers, plus fresh produce like berries, stay good for a long time in the freezer. With meals like soup or lasagna, the trick is to separate them into individual servings before you freeze, so you’re only thawing out what you need.
Compost. If you absolutely must waste food, try to compost it. It makes a big difference because approximately two-thirds of household waste can be composted. Compost in your yard, or bring it to a local community garden that can turn the leftover food scraps into useful fertilizer. There’s an organization in Detroit called Detroit Dirt that can help, or find a place to bring compost elsewhere in Michigan here.
Interested in other ways to save money when eating well? Check out these other blogs:
- The Budget-Friendly Way to Stick to a Healthy Diet in 2015
- Is It Possible to Eat Healthy Food on a Low Income?
- Cook an Easy, Budget-Friendly Dinner Tonight With These 3 Healthy Recipes
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture