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Meal planning to reduce food waste

By (view all posts by AleaMilham)
at 9:00AM Friday March 8, 2013
under Money Saving Tips

Are you ever frustrated by the amount of food that goes to waste in your home? Have you resolved to reduce the amount of food you toss out, but aren't sure where to start? The good news is it only takes a little bit of planning to help you with your goal.

Meal planning is an essential element in reducing food waste. Making a menu plan ensures that you efficiently use the ingredients you have on hand and enables you to make a plan to use leftovers in future meals so they don't spoil. This not only creates a greener, less wasteful kitchen, but saves you time and money.

Plan meals to minimize waste and save money.

Look at your schedule and determine how many people will be home and decide how many meals you will need to prepare. Planning fast and easy meals on busy nights ensures that you actually cook the food you bought rather than letting it sit in the refrigerator while you order pizza.

Inventory your freezer, refrigerator, and the pantry to see what you already have on hand. Identify what items need to be used up soon. One of the best ways to avoid food waste is to eat the food you have, so try to come up with as many recipes as you can using the food that is already on hand.

Decide what meals you have most of the ingredients for and start a shopping list for the ingredients you will need. It is important that you make your shopping list after you have already inventoried your pantry so you don't buy duplicates which can result in waste.

Find new ways to repurpose your leftovers. When you use up leftovers in an encore meal, you save time by reducing the amount of prep time involved in creating the second meal. If you can't find a creative way to repurpose your leftovers, make a plan to use them for lunches.

Plan the meals that go at the beginning of the week based on how many of the ingredients you already have on hand, how fresh those items are, and if you plan to use the leftovers for another meal.

A carefully planned shopping trip reduces food waste.

Bring your list to the store and stick to it. Shopping from memory will cause you to buy too much of one item and not enough of another, which results in wasted food and wasted time going back to pick up the items you forgot.

Buying individual fruits and vegetables instead of bulk packaged produce ensures that you buy only what you need. It also gives you better control over the quality, so you are less likely to find a badly bruised apple or a mushy peach that ends up being tossed.

Avoid succumbing to grocery marketing that encourage you to buy more than you need. Items that are marked 5 items for $5 are, in most cases, on sale for $1.00 each. If you were only planning on buying two, stick to your plan; you will save money and reduce the chances that the extras spoil and end up in the trash.

Prep food to reduce waste and save time.

The more work you have to do to cook dinner after a hectic day; the less likely you are to follow through with your plans. Prepping the ingredients when you get home from the store will save you time throughout the week and make it easier for you to actually cook and eat the food you bought.

As you put away your groceries, put the new item in the back and pull the older items to the front. This ensures you don't let perfectly good food go to waste because you missed the use by date.

Once you've unloaded the groceries, wash, dry, chop, and dice any produce you are planning on using in meals or snacks. Store the items in clear containers, near the front of the refrigerator so they actually get used.

Batch cook perishable items to use throughout the week. You can brown hamburger and batch broil chicken and freeze them for future use. This will save you prep time on busy nights and it reduces the chance that uncooked meat is forgotten and left to spoil.

More ways to prevent food waste.

Create a space in the refrigerator where you place food that needs to be eaten soon. Encourage your family to go to that spot first when looking for a snack.

When you have to throw away food, analyze what went wrong so you don't repeat the mistake. If you need extra motivation to fix the problem, add up the cost of the food that you have thrown out.

As the price of food increases, throwing food away has a greater impact on your budget. It makes more sense than ever to create a meal plan, only buy the food you need, and cook the food you planned.

Alea Milham shares her tips for saving money and time while reducing waste in her home at Premeditated Leftovers. She also shares the latest deals and coupons at Saving in Nevada. Her favorite hobby, gardening, is a frugal source of organic produce for her recipes.