Tuesday you learned that the average family of four throws away $600 of food each year. What can you do to save some of that money and avoid wasting food? The answers are not always easy. Sometimes, the yogurt carton bursts open in my children's lunch bag and spills out. That is an accident. But when your child simply doesn't eat what is in their lunch, that is wasteful.
Children waste an enormous amount of food. Try to teach them the importance of saving money by not throwing away food. Instead of saying there are starving children in Africa, say that the money saved can be used to take the family to the movies. Buy drinks in the smallest possible cans and bottles as they often can't finish the larger sizes. Serve their meals on small plates and give them small portions. It is better to give seconds than to throw away uneaten food. Don't feed them large snacks too close to dinner and then expect them to eat a large meal.
Here are some other ways to cut back on the food we throw out.
1. To find out if a food is still safe to eat, or whether it should be tossed out, use the website stilltasty.com. This is a great resource and breaks food down into all kinds of categories.
2. Plan out your meals for several days, make a grocery list and stick to it. Impulse purchases are most likely to be thrown out.
3. Serve smaller portions. Just like children, our eyes are sometimes bigger than our stomach, plus it's a great way to control the waistline.
4. Save and use leftovers. My family often has leftover night which means I don't have to cook. Saves time and money and people can eat at different times if schedules are conflicting.
5. If you try a new cereal for example, and find you don't like it, give it to a friend or neighbor. You could also share some of your meals with a neighbor who is single or elderly and might appreciate the thought. Just make sure to take it over right away and not 5 days later.
6. Be sure you will use what you buy. If you always wanted to try Meyer lemons and suddenly find some in your local store, be sure you know how you will use them so they don't spoil before you find a recipe.
7. Buy just the amount needed at bulk food stores instead of how much the regular store decides you need.
8. If you find you can't use something before it spoils, freeze it. Just make sure you wrap it properly.
9. Shop more frequently. Food bought on Saturday might spoil before Thursday's dinner.
10. Clean out and organize your refrigerator. If you can't see it easily, it might go bad.
11. At restaurants, skip the extra bread basket or fries if you won't eat it. I don't like potato chips so I will ask that they not be put on my plate with a sandwich.
12. Don't fall for bargains. Studies from Harvard Business School show that stocking up on certain items leads to overspending and waste. Sam's Club is a great example. If you do shop there, you might want to split some things with a friend or neighbor. The bread is always packaged as two loaves and my family can't eat it all before it is stale so I skip it. Same with many of the vegetables and fruits there. I can't use 5 or 6 avocados.
The important thing is to be aware and make an effort to save food. If you keep your pocket book in mind, it is easier to do. On the other hand, don't beat yourself up if you do need to toss something. Just try to do better next time.