Personal Finance 

How to Avoid Wasting Food

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Whenever my lovely wife and I first moved in together, one of our struggles had to do with spoiling food. We were cooking a lot more (and we’re cooking even more now) and sometimes a dish would get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten. I hated it because I hate waste. I don’t mind cooking something I don’t like eating and being forced to eat it, I’d rather eat it than let it go to waste because being wasteful is being irresponsible. It’s also expensive. I don’t throw away dollar bills because I can’t be bothered to remember to put it in my wallet, so why would I throw away grilled chicken?

So today, I’ll present to you my simple solution to eliminating, or at least significantly reducing, this money leak.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks.

The solution is simple – use a leftover calendar. A leftover calendar is simply a calendar that lists what you’ve cooked and when. As you eat all of a dish, cross it out on your list. This helps you remember what you cooked, when, and what is still left in your fridge.

This will help you save money on what goes to waste but it’ll also have the side benefit of saving on your electricity. Since you have a good idea of what’s in your fridge, you don’t need to keep the door open as long to find what you need.

Do you have a trick you use to reduce how much food you waste?

{ 12 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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12 Responses to “How to Avoid Wasting Food”

  1. DJ Wetzel says:

    I like the idea of a food calendar, but to be honest with myself, I think I would remember to check a food calendar even less than I would remember to throw out old food, or remember to eat food before it goes bad. We have a separate shelf in our fridge strictly for leftovers. Typically we try to keep the oldest leftover container on top, and then get newer as the pile gets down. Our leftovers usually go fairly quick though, so spoiling is not usually a big issue!

  2. Frugal says:

    Weekdays leftover = Weekend treat – Wife gets a break and we take care of leftovers in one day.

    We still end up with some waste from perishables (fruit etc) but it is very little.

  3. Courtney says:

    We don’t do this for leftovers, but we did start keeping a produce list on a little whiteboard so we don’t forget about produce from our CSA bag!

  4. scdavid says:

    Jim – great idea about the leftover calendar. I’m going to give it a try.

  5. Brad C says:

    When putting new leftovers in the fridge… put them in the back, and pull the older stuff to the front. Kind of like DJ Wetzel’s “oldest container on top” strategy.

  6. Omnomnivore says:

    Leftovers = lunch at work the next day for me and my husband. We rarely have more food leftover than that, so it gets eaten very quickly.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I use leftovers for lunch for myself. I try to get my husband to take them to work, but most times that doesn’t work.

  8. My husband and I are the king & queen (unfortunately) of spoiling food. It’s so ridiculous. A leftover calendar is a great idea. I want to start cooking where there’s just enough because we hardly ever eat leftovers.

  9. zapeta says:

    We plan our cooking to provide us with leftovers, but we will freeze them. For example, if we make tacos, we will prepare the meat, save half of it and make our current meal with the rest. In a couple weeks when we want to have tacos again, we will get the meat out of the freezer and reheat it. This way our leftovers don’t spoil in the fridge and we don’t get sick of eating something two nights in a row.

  10. Shirley says:

    Having always had plenty of kids around (our own and their friends) I have always cooked in larger than needed amounts. Leftovers usually ended up in teenage boys sometime later that night or for lunch the next day. If they didn’t, they went into a casserole or soup or salad within two days and no one even realized (or would have cared)that they were eating leftovers.

    That said, I’m pretty sure a leftover calendar is a lot more frugal than keeping several teenaged boys around! 😉

  11. skylog says:

    i find this is something that i have been dealing with and as much as i try, i still can not get on top of it. i do not waste great deals of food, but there always ends up being more than i would like.

    i like the idea of the calendar…

  12. Dragontongue says:

    Leftovers? What leftovers? I have a household of 4 adults (our daughter and SIL moved back in–in tight financial times, that saved 2 households’ finances!), and after many years of cooking for 2 adults, I’m doubling on recipes I used to have enough leftovers for one or two lunches, and have NOTHING leftover. (sigh)

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