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Food Waste

The Biggest Secret to Wasting Less Food

How many times have you bought a bag of lettuce at the store, fully intending to have some salads during the week, but end up completely forgetting about it? So it just sits there in that crisper drawer, getting brown and slimy from neglect. Sound familiar?

Friends, family, fellow readers—we can be SO much smarter about food waste. In one year, Americans will throw out 160 billion pounds of food on average. In a single day, an average American will throw away 4-5 pounds of waste. 20 percent of what goes into landfills is discarded food…which will cause methane gases to release when rotting with plastic and other materials in landfill. It’s jarring to look at the numbers, but I do believe with a few lifestyle changes we can make a significant difference in reducing these numbers to almost zero.

As you guys know, I am a meal plan fiend. I plan out every single little meal and snack for my entire week, all in an effort to save money and waste less food. I will always say planning is the key to success, but“the biggest secret” to wasting less food actually gets a lot more technical than just planning meals. 


In order to waste less food in the kitchen, you need to plan meals that will use food more than once.

Our world is all about getting rid of single-use plastics at the moment, but what about those single use food items? That bunch of cilantro? That container of cherry tomatoes? Maybe even that bag of lettuce for that ONE salad you made? Guys, let’s get smarter about this. Instead of buying items for single use, plan out your meals knowing that you’ll use the complete contents of that item during that week (or at least the week after).

Now this doesn’t exactly apply to sauces, spices, or dressings, since those store dine in the cupboard fridge. I’m specifically referencing the perishable items such as meats, produce, dairy products, breads, and even our frozen items (which, yes, can go bad after a long time in your freezer). 


My big secret to wasting less in the kitchen is to USE IT ALL UP. Here’s how I make a plan to ensure that I’m using the entire item.

Start with a meal you want to cook

If you work from a grocery list before planning meals, things are going to get complicated REALLY fast. I usually start by adding a meal (or two) that I know I want to make that week. This could be meatballs, stir-fry, stuffed peppers, maybe even some tacos! Make a grocery list with a meal or two to start.

Evaluate your list & what will need to be used

Alright let’s say that you decided to make a stir-fry and some meatballs for the week. This could result in some leftover vegetables if you didn’t use them all, maybe some leftover tomato sauce, and certainly some leftover meat. 

Plan meals based on those leftover items

In my opinion, this is where meal planning gets fun. With these items, what can you make for your other dinners? Or lunches? With the leftovers listed above, you could make mini meatloafs or marinated chicken  with a side of steamed or sautéed veggies, maybe even a pizza with that red sauce (just add tomato paste to make it thick enough for pizza).

Consider snacking on leftovers

Looking for something to snack on? Another great way is to use your leftover items to make snacks. Produce is easy to snack on—just slice up and serve. Meat could turn into a yummy dish of nachos. Have a slice of that extra bread with some peanut butter & fruit on top.

Whatever you don’t use, consider that your base for the following week.

If you still find yourself with some ingredients you haven’t used, try to plan the following week’s meals around it. That way you can ensure to use the product while it’s still good, instead of letting it rot in the fridge. Plus, it will help you narrow down your recipe choices when planning meals out!

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