Saving Money on a Healthy Diet: Tips to Reduce Food Waste

You spent good money on that broccoli. Here’s how to save it before it spoils.

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In many homes, it’s common to throw away food every once in a while. Maybe you forgot something was in the back of your fridge, or maybe you bought spinach on a whim but then didn’t know what to make with it. The thing is, you could save a lot of money by finding ways to reduce food waste.

What Is Food Waste?

Food waste refers to the food humans throw away. The food was originally good quality, but it either spoiled, expired, or became “unwanted.” Examples of food waste include:

  • Spoiled food in your refrigerator
  • Expired yogurt at the grocery store that can't be sold to customers
  • Uneaten food at a restaurant that gets thrown away (if the customer doesn’t ask to take the leftovers home)
  • Unwanted yet edible parts of food, such as carrot tops and bread crusts

There are a few problems with food waste. First, as the name suggests, it “wastes” food. This is important because millions of Americans suffer from hunger. Some face something called food insecurity, meaning they don’t have money or access to nutritious food on a regular basis. Learn more about food insecurity here.

Second of all, producing food uses a lot of resources. Each food product at the grocery store is the result of land, water, fuel, and labor. When food is wasted, these resources are also wasted. This is harmful to the environment in the long run.

The third reason affects you and your family directly: Food waste is money waste. If you’re trying to buy healthy foods, you know that they can sometimes cost more money. By reducing food waste in your home, you’ll be saving money, and the food you buy will be nourishing your family instead of going in the trash.

Tips to Save Food at Home

Here are specific and concrete ways you can reduce food waste at home:

  1. Freeze leftovers, such as casseroles and creamy soups. If you have a lot of leftovers in the fridge and you don’t think you’ll finish them fast enough, consider freezing them. Foods stay safe in the fridge for about five to seven days, but they last up to three months in the freezer. Make sure to label the container with the date you put it in the freezer.
  2. Prep and freeze veggies. To avoid wasting pricey fresh vegetables, try freezing them. You can easily dice and freeze veggies like onions, celery, and bell peppers. For some veggies, you may want to parboil them before freezing. That means boiling them for just a couple minutes, and then “shocking” them in ice water to stop the cooking process. This is a good trick for freezing potatoes, carrots, snap peas, and zucchini.
  3. Use all of your greens, including the tops of carrots and beets. To save money on fresh greens, look in unconventional places. The leafy greens attached to carrots, beets, and turnips are edible and can make a great side dish.
  4. Save food scraps to make homemade veggie broth. Keep a bag in the freezer to store food scraps. When you cut veggies, store the scraps (onion peels, celery tops, and broccoli stalks) in the bag. Once you’ve gathered enough, you can sim the scraps in water for a broth that’s practically free.
  5. Focus on produce that lasts longer. If you struggle to finish produce in time, you might want to avoid fruits and vegetables that spoil quickly (like berries, arugula, tomatoes, and avocado). Instead, look for heartier, long-lasting produce, like sweet potatoes, apples, cabbage, and beets.

These tips can help you save some cash, while also saving your nutritious food from going in the trash. Want more tips to save money on a healthy diet?